You’ll need to air down your tyres before you wax up…
Since the 1960s surfers and fishermen in Australia have travelled to some pretty out of the way places to get a beach to themselves.
This search for a beach of one’s own has become a deeply rooted aspect of both cultures, and 4WDs have been the means to both ends.
Two of the most famous surf beaches in Australia, Bells Beach and Noosa, were hidden away at the end of nameless dirt roads until fairly recent times.
Surf magazines would keep the lid on spots they ran photos of by mirroring or doctoring the images, such was the overarching importance of keeping a secret spot secret.
By getting a 4WD you’ve entered a brotherhood of seekers, many of whom apply this newfound freedom to a search they’ve spent half their lives on anyway, the search for empty barrels.
Here are a few of the best that you need good wheels to get to.
DOUBLE ISLAND POINT, QLD
This spot is my backyard, and while it’s pretty close to the backpacker hordes of Rainbow Beach, the only time of the year it’s ever busy is between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve. Of course, that’s when most of the swell comes through as well for some reason.
Driving out to the point from Rainbow is beautiful, the painted sands on one side and still, north-facing water on the other.
Coming from the south you get to drive all the way up the Cooloola Coast, past the pirates.
A quick jump-up track brings you to the lee side of the point. As you come around to the tip of the point vast tidal pools accumulate, making warm kiddie pools and whiting traps.
There are several breaks on the point, depending upon what the wind and swell are doing.
The western flank of the point, like Noosa’s, is the smoothest and smallest, protected from the same eastern gales that whip up the surf enough to make it wrap around the point. I’ve caught 400m rights here on a small day. The wave just keeps breaking and breaking over knee to waist-deep water.
On the outside of the point you can find more swell breaking into the rocks and coves here, and this is true bush surfing. No signs of civilization and absolutely no drop-ins. While you can’t camp right on the point, you can drive back down Cooloola and set up in the dunes for the night.
COFFIN BAY PENINSULA, SA
The Southern Ocean is a body of water powered by the massive turbine of Antarctica. They say all of the world’s weather is generated at the poles, and that’s easy to believe if you’ve ever spent much time along Australia’s southern coastlines.
Coffin Bay Peninsula juts out into the Southern Ocean like a hammerhead shark, offering surfers infinite points and coves to explore no matter what the swell is doing, and you definitely need a 4WD to make it through some of the sandy tracks.
The desolate feel of these breaks belies their proximity to Port Lincoln, but some of the waves here are the best reef and point breaks to be found in South Australia. You can camp here too, although it’s a National Park so you need to pay your camping fees and behave.
RED BLUFF, WA
I visited this part of the coast for the first time in issue 2 of the magazine and completely fell in love. I couldn’t explain it now any better than I could now, except to commiserate with others who had lost their hearts to ‘Camp of the Moon’, home of the best looking left in the world.
It’s a brutal wave, though, breaking from deep water onto a very shallow, very sharp reef. Even more interesting, the reef is pocked with ankle-deep holes full of sea urchins with poisonous spines.
The deeper water hides bronze whalers and hammerheads. And yet, feet bleeding from the walk out, I found myself paddling into this maelstrom.
The road in is riddled with deep corrugations, then you turn off at a sign that looks like it hasn’t been repainted since they put it up in the mid 1970s down a sandy track.
The campground is simple but perhaps the most beautiful seaside camp I’ve ever come across. And as for solitude, the nearest real bit of civilization is the banana centre of Carnarvon to the south.
Camping fees are minimal and the choice of accommodation, from beachfront sites to Robinson Crusoe shacks lets you live whatever your dream is.
Gero is the lobster capital of Australia, so I’m told. I have been through this town several times and at no point have I been able to locate either a fresh lobster or one in a restaurant.
North of this west coast port are beaches where some of the best WA beach breaks can be found, and you can drive right up to them.
While Kalbarri boasts some killer reef and beach breaks not much further to the north, their accessibility means that they are always going to be more crowded than the offroad A-frames around Gero.
The road into Coronation Beach is paved, but you’ll need a 4WD to get onto the beach to explore the breaks between here and Port Gregory. You can also camp at Coronation Beach, and there are heaps of caravan parks around here, as it’s considered the windsurfing capital of Australia too.
INDIAN HEAD, FI, QLD
Another Queensland point break, Indian Head is a solid right with enough sharks in the water to keep the crowds away, on top of the fact that it’s a dedicated 4WD trip just to get to this point.
Waddy Point to the north is another point break that is rarely surfed, but I’d love to be here when the swell is from the southeast at 6-8ft. This point has the capacity to look like Double Island Point with even less people to contend with.
I’ve seen people surfing the reef around the Champagne Pools too, which is a harrowing bit of beach with plenty of submerged rocks to dodge. All evidence that surfers will ride almost any wave if there’s a virtual guarantee that they will have it to themselves.