Complete guide to four-wheel drive friendly beaches in NSW

By Todd Hore 21 Min Read

Christmas Holiday beach driving


We all know how hard it to find a spot to yourself in the holiday months. Christmas holidays are no exception. So we put together this guide for you, the ultimate tool for researching beaches in NSW you can take your family four-wheel driving on. What beaches can you four-wheel drive on in NSW?

What’s the story?

Summer is here, and nearly every four-wheel driver in NSW is looking for a beach to take our four wheel drives on. Trouble is how do you find out which beaches you can drive on and whether permits or access fees are required? It can get seriously confusing sifting through various council and national parks websites and getting caught out is a real possibility. Well fear not, we’ve compiled all those confusing resources in this single, easy to understand guide.

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Some housekeeping

For this guide we will begin with the south-most beach you can drive on in NSW and work our way north. 

Couple of things to get out of the way straight up. First beaches you are allowed to drive on are considered roads. That means normal licensing and registration requirements apply, as do normal road rules. Drive on the left, stick to speed limits, don’t drink and drive etc.

Secondly beaches are fragile environments that are home to various wildlife and areas of cultural significance. Only drive where advised, keep an eye out for wildlife like turtles, shore birds kangaroos and even snakes and don’t drive over aboriginal middens (typically these will look like piles of shells).

Boat Harbour Beach

Located between Cronulla and Kurnell, this beach presents a simple drive on relatively hard sand that is the closest place to Sydney you can drive on sand and park up for a day of beach activities. Gets crazy busy on public holidays and in summer, to the point there is a ballot system for busy periods. If getting Insta shots is your aim, then skip this one. Still and video photography is prohibited. 

Beach Driving Permit required – Yes

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  • One Day pass, Monday to Saturday: $40 per car
  • One Day pass, Sundays and Public Holidays (April to September only):  $50 per car
  • 6mth Season pass, January to June: $185 per car (not transferable between vehicles)
  • 6mth Season pass, July to December: $185 per car (not transferable between vehicles)

National Parks Pass Required – No

https://www.holtestate.com.au/bhp1

https://maps.app.goo.gl/o2hLQDLKgARtEJuW6

Belmont Wetlands State Park

Located at Belmont on the upper Central Coast, this beach goes by several names including Nine Mile, Redhead and Blacksmiths. The sand here can be very soft and tyre pressure in the vicinity of 12-15psi are recommended. Permits are required and rangers do patrol regularly and can issue a $220 on the spot fines. There’s three access points along the beach between Awabakal Avenue and Kalaroo Road.

Beach Driving Permit required – Yes

Permits must be purchased online and cost the following:

  • Weekly $33 valid for 7 days from date of purchase.
  • Monthly $44 from date of purchase
  • Annual $88 valid for 12 months from date of purchase 
  • Concession/Pensioner Annual $44 valid for 12 months from date of purchase. Submitted with proof of eligibility – Pension Concession, Disability Support Pension, Department Veterans Affairs

National Parks Pass Required – No

https://www.belmontwetlands.com.au/beach-4wd-permits.html

https://maps.app.goo.gl/iitRuxadegNWTRVm6

Stockton Beach/Worimi Conservation Lands

Located north of Newcastle and including some of the best (and only) dune driving in the state, Stockton Beach is one of the best spots in the state to cut your sand driving teeth. With more than 19 km of Stockton beach front and 350 hectares of dunes in the Recreational Vehicle Area (RVA) there’s plenty to explore. Be sure to check out Tin City while your there. Camping is also permitted in designated areas for an additional fee. Access is available at the north (Anna Bay) and south (Stockton) ends of the beach, but the best access point for the RVA is Lavis Lane.

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Beach Driving Permit required – Yes

Permits can be purchased from the following outlets:

  • BP Service Station (Anna Bay) – 135 Gan Gan Road, ANNA BAY
  • BP Service Station (Salt Ash) – Corner Richardson and Nelson Bay Road, SALT ASH
  • Port Stephens Visitor Centre (Nelson Bay) – 60 Victoria Parade, NELSON BAY
  • Metro Service Station (Williamtown) – Corner Nelson Bay Road and Lavis Lane, WILLIAMTOWN
  • NPWS Hunter Coast Area Office (Nelson Bay) – 12B Teramby Road, NELSON BAY

And cost the following:

  • 3-day permit $33
  • Annual permit $88
  • Annual Pensioner permit $44
  • Annual RVA permit $88 (for conditionally registered quads & motorbikes)

National Parks Pass Required – No

https://worimiconservationlands.com/beach-driving/

https://maps.app.goo.gl/weVfs2L8epUGQrzW9

Samurai Beach

Not far north of Stockton, in the tiny town of One Mile, is a small beach known as One Mile Beach or Samurai Beach. This one is a little different being a designated nudist beach. Camping in designated areas is available for a fee. 

Beach Driving Permit required – No

National Parks Pass Required – Yes

https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/surfing-spots/samurai-beach

https://maps.app.goo.gl/3j6EyergUiu1zvFV9

Mid-Coast Council Beaches

A permit is required to drive on Mid Coast Council beaches but with access to the following seven beaches, it’s pretty good value:

  • Bennet Beach at Hawks Nest (National Park Permit required) is a nearly 4km section of beach that is also referred to as Mungo Brush. The south section of Bennet Beach and Jimmys Beach, which is on the bay side of the beach, are also available via a separate permit for those with access limitations. A doctor’s certificate is required to obtain this extra “restricted access” permit (https://maps.app.goo.gl/jv7UriuNEuNUw7k3A);
  • Sandbar Beach, which is a short stretch of sand accessed via Sandbar Caravan Park (https://maps.app.goo.gl/MXrnMSgt8GmwBM8L8);
  • Nine Mile Beach (which is around 10.5km long) and access from Tuncurry in the south or from Black Head in the north (https://maps.app.goo.gl/KTT4vb9LDb8jXxBw6); 
  • Old Bar Beach (south) is a short stretch between Old Bar and the Manning River South Channel, accessed from Mudbishops Point Road that is a great little option for fishos (https://maps.app.goo.gl/8BjvRSK5zGxBEcYT7);
  • Old Bar Beach (north) is accessed from the north end at Manning Point and driving the full 10km length south will provide access to Farquhar Campground (bookings recommended and check for closures) (https://maps.app.goo.gl/BMd3fNrp9NgodCas5);
  • Harrington Beach is a 5km stretch between Harrington Breakwall in the south and Crowdy Head in the north. Watch the king tides, especially after storms, as this beach can completely disappear at times (https://maps.app.goo.gl/BRTcRffBUK2uijXu8); and
  • Kylies Beach is the longest in this group at 14km and extends from Crowdy Head in the south to Kylies Beach Campground in the north. A National Parks pass is required if accessing the beach via the campground. The beach run is an excellent alternative to the rough back track that heads north from Crowdy Head to either Kylies Beach Campground or Diamond Head Campground (https://maps.app.goo.gl/zMePKS8M1cgVVBgz9).

For details on where to buy permits and other details click the link.

https://www.midcoast.nsw.gov.au/Community/Sport-and-recreation/Beaches-and-public-pools/Driving-on-beaches

Permit fees:

  • Annual Permit (12 months from date of purchase) – Cost $100.00 ($50.00 for pensioners and seniors card holders)
  • Annual Professional Fishermen Permit (12 months from date of purchase) – Cost $100.00
  • Annual ‘Restricted’ Permit (12 months from date of purchase) – $100.00 ($50.00 for pensioners). This permit allows access to Restricted beaches at Southern Bennetts Beach (Hawks Nest) and sections of Jimmys Beach.

Mid-North Coast

This one is the big one. Three council areas combined creating a massive 11 beaches that can be driven on under the one permit. Let’s start with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council that includes the following beaches:

  • Dunbogan Beach accessed from Diamond Head Campground in the south and running 10km up to Camden Head. Another great option over the rough track to access Diamond Head from the north. National Park pass will be required for access via Diamond Head (https://maps.app.goo.gl/HCGBqzMdoLQv5Hcr9);
  • Grants Beach located north of North Haven is a 2km out and back section of beach that runs up to Grants Head. Beware the final section as even a moderate tide can cut off access. Also beware the very north end sometimes gets used by nudists (https://maps.app.goo.gl/XzPfemd1qV4vAFPc8);
  • Rainbow Beach accessed from Lake Cathie is another 2km out and back section that provides access down to Bonny Hills (https://maps.app.goo.gl/wbbbi5xa2gfYGFVn6);
  • Lighthouse Beach start just north of Lake Cathie and extends up to Tacking Point and the famous lighthouse. At certain times you will need to watch out for camels walking down the beach. It’s not as insta famous as Cable Beach in Broome but if sitting on a camel is more your speed than burning fuel, it’s a worthwhile option (https://maps.app.goo.gl/uGSBVk6PueSJdPA4A); and
  • North Shore Beach requires a bit of effort to get to from the south. You will need to cross the Hastings River on the Settlement Point Ferry which costs $8 or take the long detour around. The beach drive runs for 10km up to Point Plomer and there is an alternate inland track but it’s rough and slow. The beach drive is the far more scenic and actually quicker option (https://maps.app.goo.gl/jx1XyyaCf68A8pUG8).

https://www.pmhc.nsw.gov.au/Places/Sport-Recreation/Beaches-and-public-pools/Beach-driving-permits

The next council area is Kempsey Shire:

  • Killick Beach runs from just north of Cresent Head to just south of Hat Head. You will recognise Hat Head as it looks like a giant sombrero. There’s a freshwater lagoon around halfway up, which is a great option for a swim if it’s a hot day and you want to wash off some salt. Keep out of the dunes here as it’s habitat for the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog (https://maps.app.goo.gl/CYrajBpvmWhUNPoB8);
  • At 14.5km South Smoky Beach is the longest stretch in this area and run from Hat Head up to Smoky Cape and another famous lighthouse. A National Parks Pass will be required to access this one (https://maps.app.goo.gl/kfsFu2QUo715XkZ49); and
  • Stuarts Point Beach is a near 9km out and back beach accessed from Grassy Head that runs down to the Macleay River mouth. Another good one for the fishos (https://maps.app.goo.gl/zmChmVzMMnCbX4Qa7).

https://www.kempsey.nsw.gov.au/Your-Valley/Apply-for-permits/Beach-driving-permits

The final council area in this magic permit is Nambucca Valley Council, which includes the following beaches you can drive on:

  • Forsters Beach is accessed at the south end near Scotts Head and runs up and back for around 10km up to near the mouth of the Nambucca River (https://maps.app.goo.gl/X4m9HbD1GrdUrRy26);
  • Swimming Creek Beach is a small out and back run on the north side of Nambucca Heads. As the name suggests there is sometimes a creek here that needs to be crossed to access to beach (https://maps.app.goo.gl/SR3Z2VN667zfnBY78);
  • North Valla Beach is another small out and back run that is accessed from Valla Beach (the suburb) and meets Oyster Creek at the north end of the driveable portion (https://maps.app.goo.gl/n369DeijW86Tiv45A). 

https://www.nambucca.nsw.gov.au/Community/Nambucca-Facilities-Local-Maps/Beaches/4WD-Beach-Permits

The permit system for these beaches is a little odd in that to buy online you use an app called Pay Stay which is designed for paying for parking. Anyway, it works and if you don’t want to download the app you can use the website.

https://www.paystay.com.au/

You will need to use zone codes to purchase permits, which cost the following:

  • Annual permit (365 days – Zone code: 24440365): $72
  • 30-Day visitor permit (Zone code: 24440030): $36
  • Pensioner rate: $36 (valid 365 days)

Coffs Harbour Beaches

Beach Driving Permit required – No

There’s four beaches in the Coffs Harbour area where you can drive your four wheel drive. These include:

  • North Beach out of Mylestom includes small sections of the beach at the north and south ends that can be accessed. These are only small sections and would suit fishos or daytime picnics more than actual sand driving (https://maps.app.goo.gl/JNfZqsrJ18WmuQG69);
  • Boambee Beach is smack in the middle of Coffs Harbour with access from just near the harbour boat ramp and is typically a big wide beach that can be driven at any tide. The south end is Boambee Creek which can be great for a swim or a fish, but just be aware you will have to walk to last couple of hundred metres as you’re not allowed to park next to the creek anymore (https://maps.app.goo.gl/SatUA9LQqFXCYZYC8);
  • Woolgoolga Back Beach is a small 1km section of beach with access from South Street, beyond the sewer treatment works. Another that suits beach visits more than sand driving (https://maps.app.goo.gl/xudFSXipb4FccSjG8); and
  • Station Creek Beach is only around 2km long and offers relatively simple beach driving but this one is about the where that 2km leads more than the actual drive itself. At the north end is a saltwater crossing of Station Creek (only cross and dead low tide) that leads to Pebbly Beach Campground. While you can’t drive on Pebbly Beach, you can camp right at the back of the beach. A National Park pass is required to access this one. https://maps.app.goo.gl/gDQPd6bhhGqWZe3Z8.

Coffs Harbour region also has a bunch of beaches you can launch a boat from but we’re not going to list those here as they don’t really count as beach driving.

Clarence Valley Council

A beach access permit is required to drive on the beaches of Clarence Valey Council area. Unlike others, there’s no online permits so you will have to visit one of the following to grab one:

  • Council offices at 2 Prince St, Grafton, and 50 River St, Maclean
  • The Bait Place, BP Yamba
  • Brooms Head Holiday Park
  • Iluka Riverside Holiday Park
  • Minnie Water Holiday Park
  • Wooli Holiday Park
  • Wooli Post Office

The permit fees are:

  • $100 for 12 months;
  • $50 for six months; or 
  • $35 for 1 month (30 days).

A 20% discount on all permits applies for pensioners.

Beaches available for driving include:

  • Wooli Beach out of the town of Wooli offers around 6km of beach driving between the breakwall along Wooli Wooli River in the south and Wilsons Headland in the north. The southern portion of the beach requires only the council permit but the northern portion also requires a National Parks pass (https://maps.app.goo.gl/NJDzrmVg4Q1EvMRD9);
  • Sandon Beach and Minnie Water Beach are both out of the suburb of Minnie Water. The smaller (0.5km) Minnie Water Beach is accessible outside school holiday periods only. The 8km Sandon Beach offers year round access but you will need a National Park pass (https://maps.app.goo.gl/eFfA8hp5PuqMVENG6);
  • Sandon Beach north includes access from Sandon River Campground at the south end to Brooms Head in the north. The north end in particular is susceptible to storm damage which can ruin the access track. A National Park pass will be required to access this beach (https://maps.app.goo.gl/iKEd1SeyfuBXVoQ38);
  • Iluka Beach has a 2km section of beach that is accessible for driving out of Iluka, north of Yamba, between the breakwall and Iluka Bluff (https://maps.app.goo.gl/3kzJ8oN1VyuoUVKs9);
  • Shark Bay and Ten Mile Beach includes a 12km section of beach driving within Bundjalung National Park (so obviously you need a National Park pass) between Shark Bay in the south and Mibanbah – Black Rocks campground in the north (https://maps.app.goo.gl/eG9wBLFk3B6og8sX9).

Airforce Beach

Located on the north side of Evans Head, a 4.6km stretch of sand along Airforce Beach is the only driveable beach within Richmond Valley Council. All other previous 4wd beaches were closed to vehicles in 2021. Airforce Beach is accessed via Terrace Street and is an up and back drive that extends up to a section of coffee rock at the north end. You may encounter the occasional small creek crossing on drive.

Motorbikes are prohibited on the beach, registered or not.

Beach Driving Permit required – No

National Parks Pass Required – Yes

https://richmondvalley.nsw.gov.au/

https://maps.app.goo.gl/cahk979ZEAoobANA7

Seven Mile Beach

Another council area (Byron Shire) with only one driveable beach, Seven Mile Beach is accessible from Camp Drewe Road, Lennox Head to the north for 3.3km. Although the beach continues further north, the reason for the obscure turnaround point is that the boundary of Byron Shire is reached.

Beach Driving Permit required – Yes

National Parks Pass Required – No

Permits can be purchased from the automated kiosk located along Camp Drewe Road (payment by card only) or through the EasyPark App, although this attracts a surcharge (The code for Seven Mile Beach is 40201). Permits cost the following:

  • 1 day permit $22
  • 30 day permit $58
  • 6 month permit $80
  • Annual Permit $138

Unfortunately access to South Ballina Beach was closed in 2021, so with only 3km of accessible beach, this permit doesn’t really represent great value in comparison to other beaches across the state.

https://ballina.nsw.gov.au/4wds-on-beaches

https://maps.app.goo.gl/JnJD6bCJ5GDdLGcg7

Bryon Shire

We’ve only included this one as a cursory reference, as there are no beaches that Average Joe can drive in Byron Shire (Byron Bay). Commercial fishermen and local aboriginal peoples can apply for permits to drive on beaches and there’s one beach with disability access. If you happen to fall into one of these categories, you can click the link below for further details.

https://www.byron.nsw.gov.au/Council/About-Byron-Shire-Council/Policies/Motor-Vehicles-on-Beaches-Policy

Tweed Shire

Similar to Byron, Tweed Shire only allows access for professional fisherman or to the partner/spouse of disabled person/s on a case by case basis. For further information, click the link below.

https://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/council/policies-plans-reports/policies/beach-vehicles



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