Lessons on 4×4 Beach Driving

Here are some personal and researched suggestions for 4×4 Beach Driving here on the Outer Banks and in Currituck County. These tips could be applied to any 4WD adventures you might embark on!

  • Fill up with gas / diesel before driving onto the beach.
  • When arriving at the beach, try to check out the entrance and exit areas on foot before actually entering an area you’re not certain of (this means arriving before the sun sets). Navigating an unknown beach at night could have dire consequences.
  • Have a tire pressure gauge handy so that you can lower your 4 wheel drive vehicle’s tire pressure to between 15-20 psi — we used 20 psi for our Dodge 2500 (this allows a tire to have more surface area for gaining traction; the deflated tire is not as rigid as it is when fully inflated, thereby cutting in to the sand).
  • Find a closely source for inflating your tires after exiting the beach, or bring your own compressor (we used a combination of both. Our tiny compressor was enough to top up the tires after filling up at the local store).
  • Check the tide levels before arriving. We checked the day of, and were lucky to arrive at a good time. Low tide is ideal, as there is more hard packed surface area to drive on (fewer potential obstacles to avoid with the wider berth of travel).
  • Try to avoid driving through the surf, as the salt water and sand are extremely corrosive. If you come from a place which salts their roads in the winter, you’ll understand this principal fully.
  • If you do drive through the surf, find yourself a car / truck wash to rinse off any excess salt water and/or sand.
  • 4×4 vehicles are recommended due to the tendency of All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles to have low clearance levels.
  • There are speed limits posted for a reason (35 or 15 mph, dependant on whether there are beachgoers or animals in the vicinity). During the high season, lots of people (on foot or in a motored vehicle) make full use of the beach. Such that the beach in Currituck County is a State recognized ‘road’. Can you think of a major highway where pedestrians are allowed? I can’t remember any personally. Lucky for us today, the beach was almost uninhabited by vehicle or pedestrian. One of the bonuses for coming so late in the season!
  • Be mindful and vigilant around wildlife, be that Wild Horses or boondocked Sea Turtles.
  • Vehicles are to drive either on the shoreline (the hard-packed sand) or in the upper dune areas.  The areas in between are considered parking and pedestrian areas.
  • CAA / AAA does NOT tow vehicles stranded in a 4×4 area (i.e. on the beach).
  • The ramp entrance / exit area and the first ½ mile of the beach are illegal places to stop or park. These vehicles WILL be towed.
  • Only registered, insured and licensed vehicles are allowed on the beach and dunes (driver must be 16 years of age). No ATVs allowed.
  • Towing and getting stuck with an RV would be a NIGHTMARE. Thankfully, we were smart enough to have left our heavy tri-axle Airstream behind at the RV park.
  • By driving slow, one can enjoy the view, the smells and the sounds of the Outer Banks. It’s a truly thrilling experience meant to be savoured and enjoyed. No rush necessary!

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