Driving Across Australia’s Epic Sand Dunes

Australia’s known for its alien wild life, severe landscapes and diverse scenery, but it’s hard to top its networks of sand dunes which stretch on for miles at a time. So if you’re interested in a true testosterone-driven off-roading adventure, or maybe just for a fun Priscilla Queen of the Desert themed trip, try hopping in a 4X4 for a sand blasting journey.

Where to Find Them

With both beaches and deserts making up its composition, it’s probably no surprise that there are plenty of places in Australia to find sand dunes. One of the top spots to start your adventure is at the Worimi Conservation Lands, also known as the Stockton Bight Sand Dunes. Located just ten minutes away from Nelson Bay, this is the largest sand dune area in Australia, yes, larger than Heath Ledger and Hugh Jackman. The beach stretches for 32 kilometres, with a series of sand dunes which can climb as high as 40 metres. This area is more than just a scenic stretch of white sandy dunes, however. It holds cultural significance to the Aboriginal Worimi people. As such there are a few rules that need to be followed both in terms of cultural sensitivity and safety, which you can read about here. All drivers most have a permit and register their vehicles.

Image by: Jacqui Barker

The Lancelin sand dunes are another popular area to go driving, and are located to the north of Perth. Lancelin is a small fishing village situated next to 220 hectares of dunes, which shift every due to the strong winds in this area. This means you can spend a few days here and enjoy a different driving experience each time! Both off road bikes and 4WD vehicles are allowed on these dunes. Away from the coast, intrepid travellers can try driving across the Simpson Desert, which boasts the longest series of parallel sand dunes in the world. These are not quite as steep, but the area is more remote and it’s easy to get lost.

Tips to Tackle the Dunes 

Driving on sand is a load of good fun, but it can be a struggle when you’re just learning to get the hang of it. One of the first keys to success is choosing a vehicle that’s well-equipped to handle off-roading on sandy terrain. You can find out more here about off-roading vehicles before choosing a vehicle you’re comfortable with, whether it’s a dirt bike or Range Rover. One tip to remember is that although you want to build momentum, it’s best not to accelerate too fast right from the start. This will just make your wheels spin, and you could get stuck in the sand. If your wheels are spinning but the car’s not moving forward, stop before you dig too deep of a hole.

Sand dunes can be deceiving; although it may look low or flat there could still be a steep drop-off on the other side! Before you start climbing, check what’s on the other side first to avoid an unexpected plummet. You might have to experiment with gears a bit to find what works best for your vehicle, but never change gears during the ascent or you’ll lose your momentum. And don’t forget to bring a shovel in case you get stuck!

Finally, dress for adventure. Quit the idea of dressy lose clothing, unless you’re wouldn’t mind the sand flying up your orifices then go ahead wear the summer dress.

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Australia’s sand dunes can be navigated on foot or even by camel. However, if you’re a fan of challenging drives it’s hard to beat this off-roading experience. For those who are hesitant to try their hand behind the wheel, you can also join a tour group and leave the hard work to a professional.