Lancelin Sand Dunes are both a stunning landscape and an amazing place to visit. Even with the great fishing, amazing beaches and Wedge Island, Lancelin Sand Dunes are still the number one attractant to this small coastal town. The Dunes are popular for four wheel driving, sand boarding, motorbike riding and driving buggies around.
They are far from the largest in the world, but they are big enough to have a lot of fun. Photographers love visiting the dunes because of the stunning photos that can be taken with Lancelin Island in the background and the shadow effect of sunset and sunrise.
The dunes themselves usually have a large number of people in them, especially on weekends. On long weekends and in school holidays there can be literally hundreds of people enjoying the sand. This is all good, except when people are not careful or considerate of one another.
There have been a number of deaths in the dunes over the last few years, and most of them are motorbike riders. Dunes are dangerous for those that are inexperienced, and other people are regularly put at risk by drivers who just want to hoon around. In saying this, if you are careful, logical and considerate of other people then you will have a lot of fun. The dunes are very wide and long; I have never tried to drive to the end of them.
The local Ranger visits the dunes fairly regularly and will hand out fines to people doing the wrong thing, unregistered vehicles and those that are in the wrong area. The vehicle you drive in the dunes doesn’t have to be road registered, but it should be off-road registered. Many tours go on the Lancelin Sand Dunes, and as a result you can expect a huge School Bus (bright yellow) and many off-road trucks to pass through.
Where are the Lancelin Sand Dunes?
To get to the Dunes, you just head up the Gingin Road (the main road that follows the coast north) from the Lancelin shops. It goes around a sharp bend to the right, and then comes to a T junction. Turn left, and then on the right there is an entrance to the dunes only 50 metres or so further. You can drive a two wheel drive car in here, and park it on the rocks. Be careful what you drive over though; avoid any sand if at all possible. It is quite easy to get stuck in a 2wd car in the soft sand at the base of the dunes! Also, if your car has exceptionally low clearance you might be better off leaving it outside of the entrance, as some of the rocks stick up a little bit!
4WDing in Lancelin Sand Dunes
This is probably the most popular form of recreation in the Dunes. The dunes themselves are the closest place to Perth to really give your car a good test in sand, and they are a lot of fun! It only takes an hour and a half to get to Lancelin, which means that you can be in the dunes in less than 2 hours! There are a number of important steps to driving safely in the dunes, and the number one starts with letting your tyres down. As a minimum, go down to 18PSI. If you find yourself struggling then let them down even more. This is a tip that so many people ignore, and as a result they work their cars so much harder, and then wonder why they got bogged in the first place. Please take a look at the post I wrote on Beach Driving.
If you have a sand flag, it’s highly advisable to throw it on. This will help warn other vehicles that you are around, because it’s hard to see over the top of dunes. Take it slowly, and check out the dunes before you drive over the top. People roll their cars all the time because they just think that the other side is flat, when in fact it might be a steep drop on a big side angle. It is difficult to predict what the terrain is going to be like, so you need to take it slowly and check it out first. The dunes change from week to week, so don’t expect them to be anything like they were last time you went up. I would also highly recommend getting a set of Maxtrax; they will get you unstuck with the least amount of effort!
There are no real set tracks in the dunes, but you can follow where others have been (if it seems safe). Be aware that you will likely encounter several cars that just want to tear the place up and hoon around; just stay well clear. Trying to jump dunes, drift down dunes, drive quickly through dunes and spray sand around can be very dangerous, especially when most of the people doing it have never been to any dunes before.
Last visit, we saw a new Land Cruiser with alloy rims drive through the salt water, and then later on jump a dune and crack both of his rims. The result was a long night waiting for someone to drop more rims off, and no doubt a car that will rust incredibly quickly. Other hoons were drifting sideways down steep dunes and just being idiots in general. It’s truly not worth it, given what you can cost yourself by rolling a vehicle, and potentially killing people in the process.
Momentum is the key to driving up dunes, but be very aware of what is on the other side, and how steep the start of the dune is. If it is a sharp jolt, then your car may bottom out and you can do serious damage. Try the dunes slowly at first and then build up speed when you are sure it’s safe. When descending down a dune, try to avoid heavy breaking as it will often make your car slide sideways. Avoid side angles at all possible. In sand, it’s so easy for a vehicle to dig in and tip over, and rolling 50 odd metres to the bottom is something we would all rather avoid.
Motorbike Riding in the Dunes
We all know motorbike riding in dunes is great fun. If you don’t, then you should give it a go! The only thing is that it can also be dangerous too. If you haven’t done it before, get some serious advice and take it slowly whilst you are learning. Motorbikes weigh considerably less than a car and have much less protection, and as a result when the two collide it’s always the bike rider that comes off worse. They are also considerably more manoeuvrable and quicker, which can make it hard to see. Ultimately if you want to have some fun I would suggest driving away a little bit from where everyone is.
If you are going to jump any of the Lancelin Dunes, then make sure the landing is the right angle and the ramp is not too steep. Ensure you have a spotter directing the riders around a small circle to avoid any other vehicles. All these things are just common sense, but if a few people forget or ignore them then there can be some serious accidents. I believe you can also hire bikes out, but it depends on whether the trailer is set up at the base of the dunes to do this.
Sand Boarding in the Dunes
Sand Boarding is great fun, if you pick the right dune and board. Sometimes when it is wet the sand boarding is made more difficult, so avoid going there for sand boarding after it’s rained. Many people just sand board on the first dune that you can see as you drive in, but there are better dunes further back if you can get there. Just pay attention to where other cars and motorbikes are, and pick a dune that doesn’t have rocks at the bottom (some do). Pick a dune that is as steep as you are confident on and nothing more. There are some dunes that are incredibly steep and dangerous for a new rider. I believe you can hire the boards from the surf store in town, so ask around.
Lancelin Sand Dunes are well worth the visit, not to mention Lancelin as a town is a great place to spend the day or even a few weeks. It’s relaxed, great weather and right on the beach.