Mayor hits out at 'unprepared' drivers causing chaos at Aussie 4WD beach

Drivers at Goolwa Beach were left pointing fingers after a chaotic start to the summer.

Mayhem at one of Australia's most popular 4WD beaches over the summer period was caused by ill-equipped vehicles and one local mayor has called for more to be done by the council in charge of the busy passage.

Holidaymakers were dismayed by the ‘chaos’ at Goolwa Beach, one of the busiest in South Australia, with huge queues of cars waiting to get onto the beach. The popular area is only accessible by a council-controlled track through dunes made of thick soft sand.

Unprepared drivers were caught out and requiring rescuing after becoming bogged in the sand. Heavy machinery was brought in to shift and pack down sand as cars sat idle waiting to get through. Many were left pointing fingers at who was to blame for the chaos.

“I believe Council needs to look at alternative solutions to manage vehicle access during these peak times, but we would need to talk to all stakeholders including SA Police and the Government of South Australia which controls our beaches,” Alexandrina Mayor Keith Parkes told Yahoo News Australia last month.

Left: Long queues of cars waiting to drive onto the beach. Right: Heavy machinery and tools required to dig bogged cars out of the sand.
Drivers "not prepared" for the beach environment caused chaos over the festive period. Source: Facebook

While the council has clear signage that the track is fit for 4WD vehicles only, images showed other types of cars, attempting the track and getting stuck. Now, Mayor Parkes is calling on the council to do more to manage traffic at the beach.

“Goolwa has a population of nearly 8,000 people which swells by many thousands over summer," explained the mayor. "Long queues to enter Goolwa Beach do occur on occasion at peak times such as New Year’s Day and Australia Day where, pre-COVID restrictions, I have seen upwards of 700 cars on the beach.

“Goolwa Beach is not like other beaches that allow vehicle access such as Sellicks and Aldinga near Adelaide where visitors don’t necessarily need a 4WD. Unfortunately, some visitors are not prepared or they try to enter using AWD vehicles not 4WDs set up for the conditions."

New rule for drivers at popular beach

The mayor's words came just weeks after a new rule came into force following irresponsible four-wheel driving at Goolwa Beach on Christmas Day in 2022 that left sand dunes severely damaged. In the wake of the incident, local mayor Keith Parks said that it would take "years" for the beach to recover.

The acts resulted in new speed limit rules for beaches being introduced across the state with a default 40km/h limit for drivers on the sand, and a 25km/h limit when travelling within 50 metres of a person. Previously a 100km/h speed limit applied on beaches.

"Goolwa Beach is still recovering from the damage inflicted by irresponsible 4WD activities in the sensitive dune areas over the 2022 Christmas period," Parkes told Yahoo last month.

"We want the community and visitors to enjoy the area, but people need to take care, stick to the new speed limits and stay off the sensitive dune areas."

Aerial image of a line of cars on the sand at Goolwa beach.
Cars lined up on Goolwa beach. Source: Facebook

The new rule came into effect on December 1, 2023, with drivers facing demerit points and fines for doing the wrong thing.

"Beaches present a unique driving environment that is very different and less predictable to driving on the road," the South Australian government says on its website explaining the change. "A reduction in the speed limit is a viable way to improve beach safety."

Over five years to 2021, there were 29 reported crashes on South Australian beaches resulting in the loss of one life and 28 injuries.

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