Can you tow a trailer on the beach, and what do you need to know?

One of our favourite 4WD destinations is the beach, and once you are familiar with the techniques and gear needed, its entirely possible to tow a trailer there too. Just know its significantly more difficult!

Whether its a small box trailer, a camper trailer, boat, jet ski or even a Caravan, beach driving is not out of the question, but it does make it much harder than just driving a 4WD on the beach, so be aware!

Dmax and Reconn on the beach
Beach driving with a trailer is entirely possible

It’s all about pressures

The single most critical thing about beach driving is your tyre pressures. The less air in your tyres, the more the tyres spread out on the ground and the more flotation that you have. A drop of just a few PSI can result in a significant footprint increase, which makes all the difference on a soft beach. 

Your tyre footprint grows in both width and length, but the latter is what makes all the difference. 

Now, its important to note that you don’t just need to let the tyres down on your 4WD, but also on the trailer you are towing. The number of people that I’ve seen jump on a beach with just their 4WD’s tyres deflated, and not touching the trailer is astounding. It often doesn’t end well.

Beach driving with a boat
You need to deflate all tyres for beach driving

Take a Jet ski trailer for example, which is fairly light, but runs small tyres. If you are on a soft beach and you don’t drop them down they behave exactly like their description; cheese cutter tyres. They’ll dig down and you will be basically dragging a dead weight up the beach.

I’ve literally seen these style trailers stop turning the wheels because they were just digging into the sand as a pose to floating on top. Drop the tyres down to a suitable pressure and you’ll make your vehicle much happier, and won’t get stuck in front of everyone and look like an amateur. Even better, you’ll have a much lower chance of breaking something, and wrecking the day for your pride, and wallet.

Broken axle with Variety WA
Incorrect tyre pressures can easily result in a breakage

Vehicle preparation

Beach driving is one of the hardest jobs a 4WD can do, and that’s without towing anything behind you. There’s a few things you need to do before you head onto a beach with a trailer:

Ensure you have the right gear

As a minimum, you should have rated recovery points on the front and rear of the vehicle, a shovel, traction boards, snatch strap, tyre pressure gauge and a way of communicating with others if you need to.

Check your cooling system

The cooling system on your 4WD works overtime on the beach, and if its not in peak condition you’ll get your motor hot, and potentially do nasty damage. The viscous fan is the most critical thing that needs to work, along with having a radiator that isn’t blocked with mud, and so on and so forth.

It’s important that you consider your automatic transmission too, as a lot of them rely on the cooling system to stay cool as well. If you haven’t got an aftermarket automatic transmission cooler then its probably worth investing in one!

Viscous Fan hub not working
How’s your cooling system?

Have a backup plan

If it doesn’t work well, what are your options? Do you have someone else with you to pull you out? If you are both towing heavy vans and you both get stuck, then what? Know who you can call for help, and have a backup plan.

Snatch straps
When you do get stuck, how are you getting out of it?

Can you tow a caravan on the beach?

Yes, you can, but the level of difficulty will vary considerably. Beaches in Australia range from almost being like concrete (as in you could ride a push bike down them) to so soft you struggle to drive a 4WD on them.

Beyond that, the heavier your caravan is, and the less wheels it has (single axle vs dual axle) the harder it will be to tow on the beach. Your tow vehicle also plays a huge role in how well you will be able to pick speed up and maintain it. A Y62 Patrol for example is going to have a far easier time than our Isuzu Dmax would towing a 2 tonne + caravan down the beach. This is purely because it has far more power to do so, and it can build momentum up much easier.

Ultimately, it comes down to your vehicle, the tyre pressures you are able to run on all wheels and then how soft the beach is. When we visited Barred Creek in Broome there were a heap of Caravans towed in by 4WD’s, kicking back and enjoying the area. 

You wouldn’t see anyone tow a Caravan from Lancelin to Wedge Island though, as its just too soft (and too narrow/sloping) in many sections.

Barred creek access
Barred Creek had a heap of Caravans set up

Launching a boat on the beach

We built a small off road boat trailer several years ago with the intention of taking it anywhere we could take our 4WD, including beaches, the Gibb River Road and so on and so forth. We regularly launch the boat off the beach, and have a heap of fun doing so.

Fortunately for you, we’ve written a post that covers How to launch a boat off the beach, so we don’t have to go into huge detail here.

Boat retrieval at Lucky Bay
Retrieving our small boat at Lucky Bay in Esperance

Towing a trailer on the beach is hard work

Please don’t read this, hook your 2.5 tonne caravan up and drive onto the local beach with it, thinking you’ll have no issues. I would say your chances of getting stuck towing a trailer more than 700kg go up at least double, and far more once you are towing something heavier. 

Albany 4WDing
Beach driving can be extremely difficult even without towing

It is doable, but it is not easy, and its not something you should do without others to help. Avoid going down any entrances to a beach that mean you need to climb back up them on the way out, as this is when the going gets even harder.

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