Driving on the beach

Play your part, stay safe and help us protect our dunes, beaches and wildlife

Watch out for beach hazards - Conditions can change quickly on the coast

Check the tides - Identify your exit route before you go on the beach

Take extreme care when crossing streams - Soft sands are dangerous

Drive slowly and carefully - Especially near children and other beach users and watch for reduced speed areas

Follow all road rules - Standard New Zealand rules apply on the beach

Use only signposted vehicle accessways to the beach

Keep off the dunes - Vehicles are prohibited from most dunes. Drive on harder sand below the high tide mark

Be aware of wildlife - Especially shorebirds and their nesting areas

Look out for vehicle prohibited areas and follow the rules or you may be fined.

Protect sand dunes

Sand dunes are narrow but important bands of sand between the land and sea. They act as buffer areas to help protect the land, people and houses from storm surges, cyclones and even tsunami. Many dunes also contain archaeological sites such as midden and koiwi (human bones).

The 'building blocks' of a dune system are its grasses, which keep the sand from drying out and being carried away by the wind. These native plants give us our distinctive coastline and are crucial to the survival of the birds, lizards and insects that live, eat and nest in them.

Sand dunes are very sensitive to vehicles driving over them. All motor vehicles and bikes can kill plants with a single pass - even the wide flotation tyres of quad bikes or the small wheels of kids' motorbikes can crush and kill plants and the creatures that live in them. Vehicles are prohibited from most dunes and should only use authorised access tracks to reach the beach.

Be aware of wildlife

The beach is home to rare birds which nest in the soft sand on the beach and lower dunes. Shorebird nests are often well camouflaged, making them vulnerable to being run over by vehicles whose drivers do not see them. Each year many eggs and chicks are unintentionally crushed by vehicles.

  • Stay on the harder sand between the waterline and the high tide mark.
  • Stay clear of nesting birds.
  • Drive around flocks of birds - they are often resting after long periods of flying.

Safety of other beach users

The increasing number of vehicles on Northland beaches is causing problems for other beach users. People using popular beaches for activities such as swimming, sunbathing, fishing and playing sports are encountering vehicles driving at unsafe speeds and too close to children and other beachgoers.

Respect the rights of others for quiet enjoyment of our coastline – keep well away from other beach users.

Take care around people when driving on the beach.

Note: The rules that apply to vehicles on the road also apply to vehicle use on the beach!

30km/h speed limits

Whangārei district

Three beaches in Whangārei district have a 30km/h speed limit in place:

For more information: Bylaws section: www.wdc.govt.nz to find - Control of Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw

Kaipara district

There are also 30km/h speed limits on sections of Ripiro beach, either side of the Baylys Beach and Glinks Gully beach entrances.

For more information: Speed limits on beaches information on Kaipara District Council's website.

Which agency is responsible for monitoring driver behaviour?

The following organisations all share some responsibility for managing vehicles on beaches:


The Police regulate dangerous behaviour and illegal vehicle use like speeding, drink driving and licences on beaches as well as on roads. Police can prosecute for criminal behaviour and bylaw breaches.

Northland's three District Councils - Kaipara, Whangārei and Far North

These are responsible for the management and use of vehicle access routes to beaches within their respective districts and on their reserves. District councils can set bylaws relating to the use of vehicles on beaches which can include vehicle exclusion areas.  
Find contact details for the district councils

Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation sets national policies on coastal management, manages its local coastal reserves Public Conservation Land and Wildlife Refuges and protects native birds and animals that are threatened or endangered.

Northland Regional Council

We set regional rules for the use of the tidal section of beaches and also have a role in setting policies for managing the wider coastal environment.

Agency responsibility for Bream Bay beaches

Download the 'Agency responsibility for Bream Bay beaches' flyer with contact details (PDF, 274KB)

Agency responsibility for Bream Bay beaches graphic.

Making a complaint

If you wish to make a complaint about a vehicle on the beach, please get as many details as possible without putting your own safety at risk. Try to record:

  • the date, time and length of time the incident has taken place
  • the make, model and registration of the vehicle involved (OR the registration of a trailer if it is being used to transport off-road bikes)
  • a house address if the vehicles are coming from a property
  • a description of the driver (or their name if possible)
  • the effects (actual or potential) that you saw or experienced personally, and 
  • photographs.

Who to contact

Public safety

  • Public safety and enforcement of road rules - Police
  • Driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol - Police
  • Damage to district council reserves, including dune areas – Local district council
  • Driving on a section of beach where prohibited by a council – Local district council
  • Damage to shellfish by vehicles - Northland Regional Council
  • Vehicle destroying vegetation / damaging sand dunes – Northland Regional Council
  • Vehicle endangering marine life – Department of Conservation
  • Disturbance of birds/ wildlife – Department of Conservation
  • Damage to Public Conservation Land– Department of Conservation

Whangarei District Council

0800 932 463 (24/7)

Kaipara District Council

0800 727 059 (24/7)

Far North District Council

0800 920 029 (24/7)

Department of Conservation (DOC)

(0800 362 468)

General enquiries - contact the local office


In an emergency dial 111
To report unsafe driving dial *555

Northland Regional Council

HOTLINE 0800 504 639

General enquiries 0800 002 004

Further information

If you have questions about the planning process to review management of vehicles on beaches, contact Northland Regional Council on 0800 002 004 or email [email protected]