It’s that time of the year when the number of visitors to Thompson Beach picks up. So too do the number of vehicles seriously bogged on the town’s beaches and tidal flats.
Some 4WD owners may believe their vehicles can go practically anywhere. While they may have extended capabilities compared to 2WD vehicles, the terrain that can be successfully navigated will greatly depend on the skill of the driver and his/her knowledge of an area.
Conditions can change rapidly in beach/tidal area, with terrain continually being reshaped by natural forces. What may not have been a problem to navigate one week could well be the next.
Inexperienced And Experienced Become Victims
Beach driving is currently permitted at Thompson Beach, but just because you can do something it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Many drivers, both inexperienced and experienced, have discovered the wisdom in this saying the hard way.
In a recent one-week period and at just one end of the town, at least 4 vehicles – all four-wheel drives – had to be retrieved with the assistance of a towing service; even though in a couple of instances the vehicle owners had self-recovery gear.
In two instances, the incoming tide came up as high as the bottom of the vehicles’ doors and in one other case, the vehicle was inundated. Extended exposure to salt water and vehicles really doesn’t mix, so those owners may be battling rust and other issues with their vehicles in the time ahead.
Vehicle Recovery Delays
In all cases, it was some time before recovery could be carried out. This resulted in one couple staying in their vehicle overnight while watching the incoming tide surround them in the dark, which would have been an unsettling experience.
In another two instances, the drivers abandoned their vehicles overnight. Luckily for them the vehicles were still in one piece the next day (aside from any bogging-related damage). This hasn’t always been the case.
A Potentially Expensive Trip
Currently, there’s no towing service at Thompson Beach and some of the town’s residents have grown weary of the bogging situation, so don’t expect locals will race out to assist. Drivers finding themselves bogged may need to call in a professional tow service from elsewhere. This can cost upwards of $1,000 and RAA membership will be of no help in this regard.
Vehicle recovery can also be a messy business, leaving scars behind – and not just on the vehicle. It’s not a good look when visitors arrive to experience the natural beauty of the area and encounter gouges and other damage related to vehicle recovery efforts.
Think Twice About Beach Driving
Before venturing out onto the sand and tidal flats at Thompson Beach in your vehicle, consider what you are going to do if you find yourself bogged or your vehicle is otherwise incapacitated. If you don’t have the means to get your vehicle out of a tricky situation or to pay for towing costs, then think again as it could be a disastrous trip for you.
If you don’t have a 4WD and are considering driving on the beach in your two-wheel drive, the best piece of advice is: just don’t do it.
Whether you’re in a 4WD or 2WD, if you decide to take the risk you should bear in mind the speed limit on the beach is 25 kmh and the area is in the midst of a bird sanctuary/national park.
Thompson Beach is an important conservation area, not a recreational park for vehicles. Respect the area and those that call it home – the people, fauna and flora.