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Long walks on the beach are nice, but how about a drive on the beach? After all, it’s much easier to unload your beach chairs, umbrella and cooler full of drinks when you can pull right up to the sand. Make sure you have the the proper permits and equipment, then prepare to explore the shore on four wheels.

RELATED: 5 best beaches for shelling in America

New Smyrna Beach | Flickr CC: John

Daytona Beach, FL

Before there was Daytona International Speedway, there was the Daytona Beach Road Course—a waterfront motorway that early automobile owners used to test out and race their new contraptions. Today, beach driving is a hallmark at both Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach, where hard-packed sand makes cruising and bicycling a breeze.

Silver Lake State Park, MI

There’s only one beach in the Midwest that officially allows off-road vehicles, and that’s this four-mile stretch along Lake Michigan. Watch visitors from across the globe riding the dunes, or reserve a seat on Mac Wood’s Dune Rides and let someone else do the driving. While you’re in the area, climb 115 feet to the top of Little Sable Point Lighthouse for unparalleled views.

Long Beach Peninsula, WA

Pedestrians, equestrians, bicyclists and motorists coexist on this beach that’s actually an official Washington State highway. Cruise up to 25 miles per hour and steer clear of clam beds as you search for the perfect fishing spot. Some sections of the beach are open to cars year round, while other areas are closed to traffic from April 15 until the day after Labor Day. For your chance to spot a bald eagle, head to the viewing platform at Cape Disappointment State Park; despite the name, the vista won’t disappoint.

Outer Banks, NC

Cruising in an off-road or 4×4 vehicle is one of the most fun ways to explore Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles and sunbathers as you explore the Atlantic coastline, and when you’re ready for a break, pull over at the Buxton Woods Picnic Area to enjoy lunch with a view of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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Island Beach State Park, NJ

The Jersey Shore may conjure up images of tacky casinos and fake tans, but this park brings 10 miles of unspoiled barrier islands. Buy a three-day permit, and you’ll not only be able to drive a four-wheel drive vehicle on the white sand, but you’ll be cleared for surf-fishing. Be on the lookout for foxes, who call the beach home.

Oceano Dunes, CA

The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, is the only beach in California that allows driving. BYO motorcycle, dune buggy or ATV; or rent a four-wheel drive vehicle from one of the shops on Pier Avenue. Equestrians, bonfires, beach camping and wildlife are all common sights on the beach; also watch for wildflowers, pelicans and red-tailed hawks.

Tire tracks in the sand at South Padre Island, Texas USA

South Padre Island, TX

SPI has long been a hub for partying college students. But away from the glare of the spring break spotlight, the choicest parts of Padre Island National Seashore are accessible only by 4-wheel drive vehicles. Travel down-island, where a whopping 60 miles of beach are available to motorists in search of solitude along the Gulf of Mexico shores.


Tagged: California, Florida, Michigan, Midwest, Texas

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Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.

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