The best things in life are free, and so is one of the few off-roading beaches within a stones throw of Brisbane.
The Motorama 4X4XMORE team travelled down to the Northern Rivers of New South Wales to check out South Ballina Beach.
Ballina is a coastal town around 20 minutes drive south of Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of the Gold Coast and just over a 2-hour drive from Brisbane.
South Ballina Beach stretches on the NSW north coast down from South Ballina – across the Richmond River from the main town of Ballina – becoming Patchs Beach and ending at Evans Head about 30kms away.
The quickest way from the north is via the Pacific Highway straight down to Ballina, then driving onto the ferry from Burns Point in West Ballina across the Richmond River to Keith Hall on the South Ballina peninsula.
Another option is to drive past Ballina to Wardell where you can drive over a bridge across the river, then enter at Patchs Beach. If you’re looping back north, you can catch the ferry back from South Ballina as it runs until half past midnight.
Because it’s so close to Ballina, you don’t really have to bring anything of convenience – but take note of public holidays and opening hours (especially during Daylight Savings) that may be different in New South Wales, compared Queensland.
South Ballina, Patchs Beach and Evans Head aren’t particularly difficult to drive on – but it is important to bring basic recovery gear just in case – even if it’s to help other drivers stranded. MaxTrax or similar recovery tracks if you get stuck, snatch straps for towing and a jack with a solid base plate to lift your car up if you’re really dug in.
Also throw in a tyre pressure gauge and an air compressor to deflate and reinflate your tyres, when getting onto the beach, and a shovel to clear out sand for your recovery tracks, just in case.
Entry directly onto the beach, either at South Ballina or down further at Wardell and Evans Head is via well formed, well maintained all-weather tracks that provide easy access for 4WDs – though the Patchs Beach entry track is better suited to high clearance vehicles, small 4WDs may find it a little tough.
Speed limits apply to the entire stretch of the beach. 30km/h limits apply to the beach, while you must dip down to at least 15km/h when you’re within 50m of any other beach user – although the conditions may require a lower speed than this, so just keep your eye out for any other beachgoers (or their pets!) when you’re cruising down the shore.
If you’re planning on setting up for lunch on the beach, you can set up a day camp back away from the surf, Patchs Beach is even dog friendly – so you can let your pooch off the leash to run around after being cooped up in the car.
Swimming is recommended between the flags at South Ballina or Evans Head, as these beaches are patrolled during summer holidays. The waters in between are open beaches and tend to have strong rips, so it’s best not to venture in for a swim – besides, it’s more suited to casting a line for whiting than doing the butterfly.
If you don’t have any luck fishing, you can go for a hike in nearby Broadwater National Park, and picnic on the beach, where, in spring and winter, you might be able to spot whales or dolphins frolicking off the shoreline.
And to see the shoreline from a different perspective than the drivers seat, tour operators offer horseback riding along South Ballina Beach, as well as other beaches around Ballina.
Evans Heads, about 30 km to the south of South Ballina Beach, is a great spot for lunch or an extended stay. There is a patrolled beach and access to even more beach driving options on other beaches from here. Just be careful of the tides, as depending on the day, there can be coffee rock exposed on the beach, making the beach trip to Evans Head impossible.
Lennox Head, just north of Ballina, is a surfers dream, and you can also take your 4WD straight onto a section of Seven Mile Beach – although you do have to purchase a permit, unlike the beaches in South Ballina. (These permits are available from an electronic ticket kiosk opposite the Lennox Head Surf Club.)
Remember, the expert team at Motorama 4x4xMore can help you find the perfect vehicle for your next off-road adventure, and give helpful tips and tricks on how to make the most of your four-wheel drive.
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