What’s better than lying on the beach soaking up the sun? How about driving on the beach near the water’s edge, darting the waves as they crash down? If you have a 4×4, there are beaches around the country where it’s legal to drive on them. Consequently, we’ve identified the five best beaches for off-roading.
Driving on the beach in Florida is a tradition that goes back to the early days of the automobile. Both Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County, Florida, permit beach traffic, including two-wheel drive models.
With a daily fee and designated parking areas, drivers can leave their cars and go swimming to cool down. Marine life is in abundance and includes such threatened species as the piping plover and the loggerhead sea turtle.
2. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina is a 67-mile stretch of islands beginning at Bodie Island and ending at Ocracoke Island. The seashore in this area is part of what is commonly known as the Outer Banks.
Composed of Bodie, Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, each of the three feature soft sandy beaches, coastal lighthouses, excellent fishing and surfing, and in some areas wild horses. The rules are easy to follow as designated off-road vehicle (ORV) routes are clearly marked and required permits are sold as seven-day or annual passes.
3. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Like Cape Hatteras, the Padre Island National Seashore is run by the National Park Service. Located on North Padre Island, the seashore is composed of more than 65 miles of Gulf beach.
The area is famous for windsurfing, bird-watching and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. It also features Laguna Madre, one of just a few hypersaline lagoons anywhere. No permits are required to drive on Padre Island but 4x4s are recommended. Avoid the dunes, mudflats and grasslands; no private ATVs are allowed.
4. Ocean Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA), Pismo Dunes, California
If you want to drive on a beach in Southern California, you’re out of luck. Instead, you’ll need to head further north to find beaches where 4x4s are welcome. One such location is the Ocean Dunes SVRA in San Luis Obispo County, known for its butterflies, clams and birds.
California issues an OHV vehicle day use annual pass, charging a fee for this service. The recreation area offers 5.5 miles of drivable beach. You can also camp south of Post Two and in the open dunes area; an additional fee is charged.
5. Fort Stevens State Park, Oregon
Historic Fort Stevens State Park was the location for an earthen fort completed in 1865 to protect the Columbia River from Confederate gun boats and the British Navy during the Civil War. Today, the beach is a popular place for whale watching, wading in tidal pools and admiring the towering capes emerging from the sea.
Vehicles are permitted to drive on the beach from Gearhart to the South Jetty at the Columbia River, covering nearly three miles. The sand is firm and flat, but only 4x4s are recommended. Along the way, check out the wreck of the Peter Iredale, a four-masted steel barque sailing vessel that ran ashore in 1906. There’s no charge for driving on the beach, however, a separate fee is assessed for parking lot access.
Before you head out, ensure your 4×4 is properly prepared.
Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the best beaches, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.