Guide to beach camping

Michael Borg — 21 December 2016

When it comes to camping in summer, relaxing on a nice beach is hands down the place to be. Yep, nodding off to sleep with the sounds of a few waves gently rolling in is enough to put anyone into a relaxing mood; chuck in a gentle breeze and the smell of snags cooking on the hotplate and you’ve pretty much got the ultimate getaway.

But in saying that, there are a lot of campers out there who make an absolute mess out of beach camping because, believe it or not, there actually quite a few things that can go wrong for the unsuspecting camper. That’s right; it’s not always flowers and candy when you’re camping on the coast, with everything from the weather, location, access and setup coming into play.

The good news is with a few little pointers here and there you can make your next coastal camping experience memorable for all the right reasons. So let’s sink our teeth into a few helpful hints for a positive coastal camping session.


Driving on sand can be a heap of fun in a 4WD, but add a camper trailer to the mix and it can turn into a bit of a mission. We’ve all seen pictures floating around of some poor mate using his 4WD’s roof as an island while the tide practically swallows his pride and joy whole. And don’t overload your 4WD and camper trailer. The more gear you stack on, the harder your vehicle has to work on the sand. That’s why it’s important to start with a bit of a plan.


When it comes to recovering a bogged vehicle on sand, there’s a lot of extra weight to consider. That 1500kg worth of camper trailer on the back is more like 3t in a nasty recovery situation, so it’s definitely worth having your wits about you.

If possible, your first resort should be to pull out the traction aids like MaxTrax or similar. The reason being there’s no big nasty loads involved in the recovery. In fact, these should also be used during a snatch or winch recovery to help reduce the strain on recovery gear.

If you do have to winch, double things up with a double line pull; it’s not as fast as usual but it’s definitely a much safer method.


First things first, take the time to research the beach you’re about to drive on. Find out what the tides are doing and when the safest time is to dip your wheels in a bit of sand. Remember, high tide on some stretches can consume the entire beach, so you don’t want to get bogged while the tide’s on its way in, do you? Don’t be afraid to call ahead to a local shop, servo or pub to get a few pointers from the locals.

Find out if the beach is camper-trailer friendly, and if there are any particular spots to look out for. Be wary of camping at the base of dunes that get driven over. You’ll be hard to see, especially at night. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’, and when it comes to conquering a brand new stretch of sand, the more knowledge the better!


Camping on sand can make things a bit tricky around camp. In fact, in most cases, it’s literally easier to set up back from the beach where the ground is harder and there’s less sand to fill up your sleeping bag. If you do decide to set up on sand, though, you’ll want to have a few things handy. The first is a few planks of hardwood – one to go under the jockey wheel, and a few others to go under the tyres. You can use them to level the camper up, but the real advantage is that they allow you to move the camper just enough to make hitching up much easier.

When it comes to keeping the guy ropes secure, ordinary pegs aren’t going to cut it. Sand pegs are the way to go, and the bigger they are the better the chance of them holding tension if the wind picks up. A neat trick is to bury the peg in the sand horizontally, which offers a much more secure anchoring point. If you don’t have a peg you can simply attach the guy rope to a bag full of sand, and bury that, too – works every time!


Wind is an integral part of the coastal experience but that doesn’t mean you need to face it head on at camp. Here are a few smart tricks to prepare you at camp:

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Find yourself a bit of real estate that’s protected from the wind. A bit of shrubbery, or being up behind the main dunes (away from the traffic) can be a Godsend when the wind picks up.

Even a few trees can be enough to break up the wind. Oh, and try and face your camper in the opposite direction of the forecoasted winds to save it from filling up like a hot air balloon.

FIRE IN THE HOLE: Dig a fire-pit to help protect your fire, and have a think about moving your vehicle and/or camper trailer into a position to help form a wind break.

PORTABLE FIRE-PITS: These not only help protect your fire, but allow you to move it into a better position should the wind change. Plus, it means you don’t have to leave big clumps of charcoal scattered around the campsite when you’re done. Bring your own firewood as most of the trees including dead ones help anchor everything like dunes and foreshores together. And never, ever cover your fire with sand to put it out – it will retain heat for a long time.

AWNINGS AND TARPS: Always position the camper trailer so the awning is on the opposite side of the wind’s direction. This not only helps block the wind but prevents it from getting up and under the awning. It’s also a good idea to lower the awning just slightly, which improves the aerodynamics, to minimise the strain placed on securing ropes.


Sand flies and midges can be troublesome if you’re camping on the coast, so here are a few handy hints to help manage them.

LESS ATTRACTIVE LIGHTING: Most bugs are attracted to white lights, so it’s a good idea to carry a green LED light. It’s not as bright as white, but offers you nice and gentle lighting without being swarmed.

STOP THE ITCH: If you do get bitten by mozzies, try wiping the bite area with some hand sanitiser to help reduce the itch. It’ll sting at first, but it will help in the long run.


Well, that just about sums up our guide to coastal camping. All that’s left to do now is get out there and enjoy everything this brilliant country of ours has to offer, and in this case it’s the endless stretches of spectacular coast.

We’re in one heck of a country, so  prep-up the 4WD and camper, and make the most of it, campers!

Check out the full feature in issue #108 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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