Stockton Sand Dunes - 8/9/10 June 2002

Also Check out Klub VW Offroads story on the Stockton trip by going to , then going to past events.

Every year Klub VW Offroad have 1 or 2 trips to Stockton Sand Dunes for a long weekend. I had seen their pictures and stories from previous years and had always wanted to go. But every year something seemed to come up,  preventing me from making it down. It's a trip that requires a bit of planning, as Stockton is 900km from Brisbane. But this year I decided I was going no matter what. 

Stockton Sand Dunes are just over the river north of Newcastle. A good overview of the Stockton experience can be found on the NRMA website. They extend all the way up to Anna's Bay / Nelson Bay. They are 32km long and up to 1km wide covering an area of 2,500 hectares. The are the largest mobile sand dunes on the east coast of Australia. But the best part is, your allowed to drive all over them!!! Don't get me wrong, we have some nice sand islands up here in Queensland, but they're no fun because your not allowed on the dunes. So being allowed to drive over almost everything and anything  was somewhat of a novelty.

I left work around midday on Friday, and drove the 6 hr trip down to Nambucca Heads and stayed there the night. Woke up early Saturday morning and started the final 4 hr leg of our journey. I started pouring rain with about 2hrs to go, but luckily stopped raining with about 1/2hr to go. I pulled up at the big servo (possibly Metro) at the start of Lavis Lane to fill the Baja with fuel and purchase the essential beach permit ($5.00 for two days). Mike Sharp and Kevin Jones happened to be driving past and pulled in to say hello and tell me where the group was. 

I stopped before the beach entrance at the end of Lavis Lane and put air filter outers and my home-made buggy whip/flag on the car. The purpose of the flag is to allow other vehicles on the other side of the steep crested dunes to see you and avoid a potential crash. I then set-out along the dune entrance track. The sand was still wet so it was easier than normal to drive on. When I got out in the clearing I was stuned. I pulled up beside the others, got out of the car and stood there in amazement just looking at how big this place was. Pictures don't do it justice. You just can't capture such a 3D place on a 2D photo. 

On Saturday we played around a little here and there, and slowly made our way up to the north end of the dunes. Mike managed to get grass in the bead of one of his front tyres, hence it went flat. About 2 minutes after fixing that he bent his long tie-rod trying to go up a dune with a sharp angle at the bottom. I'm sure Mike will have his normal beefed up tie-rod next time, and not the week stock tie-rod. 

On our way up the beach, we came to a few interesting things. One of them were Tank Traps. Weird pyramid bits of concrete sticking up out of the sand about 1 metre. Could be buggy traps too if you weren't careful. The next interesting thing was "tin town" or "silver city", which the NRMA website describes as "jumbled collection of squatters' huts that looks like a Mad Max film set". It definitely did look like something from a Mad Max film, lots of weird corrugated iron huts with people living in them.

Saturday night was spent talking vw stuff at a BBQ at the Stockton beach caravan park. Sunday was spent driving up and jumping dunes. There was also a quick trip down to the Sygna shipwreck, an old coal ship which ran aground during a cyclone about 30yrs ago. Part of Sunday was also spent trying to find and meet-up with Bronze. Bronze and his family decided to walk out onto the dunes, which proved to be a big walk. Eventually we sent a rescue party off to pick him up at the Sygna, and with spare seats in a few of the cars we managed to take his family of 4 with us for the arvo.  

On Sunday I also got to go for a ride in the Tow'd with Kevin, and also Mike's GS Limo. Things you notice about the Tow'd when in the passenger seat; (1) it must be light because it goes quite fast, (2) it must be light because the suspension feels stiff and bounces you all over the place, (3) you can hit a bank of sand head on, put the front of the car through it and not break anything. Yes the Tow'd is quite a wild ride. The worst part of the fact that you get absolutely covered in sand. I can see why Kevin wears large goggles when he's driving.  Mike's car also goes quite fast, but the suspension is a bit smoother probably due to the extra weight of the car. It was similar to the baja just lower, and you get more sand in your ears. Thanks to Mike and Kevin for the joy rides. 

The view looking north
And the view looking south
These photos don't do the dunes justice. In the distance is Newcastle. 
Taking Bronze for a ride
Unfortunately Bronze (Steve) couldn't get his Baja ready in time for this trip. But we had a few spare seats in among the group and managed to give his family a lift. Here I am about to take Bronze and one of his kids for a ride up a big dune.
Up we go!
The technique I used for the big dunes was to hit them at about 5,000rpm in 2nd gear (about 80kph) and keep it flat. You can see sand flying off the back wheels. 
Top of the hill.
The Baja is the spec in the middle.  
Cruizin round the dunes
My Baja and Nathan's street buggy.
The run-up to this good jumping dune got rutted pretty quick

Sunday arvo part line-up

Some people left a bit early, and some were busy irritating 4wd's (yes that's you Stu). Left to Right -

Kevin, Mark H., Mike, Me, Nathan, Brian, Mark R.

Emergency Repairs
Here's Mike fixing his flat tyre at the bottom of a very steep dune. I had to crawl hands and knees up this dune to get this photo. Mike was in the same spot a short time later fixing his bent tie-rod, after attempting to climb this dune.

Too sharp
The bottom of this dune was too sharp to keep any speed. It proved unclimbable, even for the tow'd. 
Kevin's attempt from a different angle.
Veering left
The sharp angle at the bottom of the dune bent Mike's long tie-rod and caused him to veer left.

Don't brake hard on the sand
Heavy braking causes a lump of sand to build in front of the wheels, making it difficult to get moving again. Kevin didn't seem to care though. 

Sunday Morning 
Here we are waiting for everyone to get their cars ready for the trip out. 

What the?
If you look in the background you can see a 4wd with a car trailer with a 4wd on it. I guess it must've broke.

Burning Rubber

The yellow supasports was Nathan's. The purple Astrum was Kyle's. Nathan's 1inch tyre to guard clearance caused some burning rubber smells along the bumpy beach entrance track.

Mike Sharp's GS Limo
If you don't wanna get stuck in the sand, buy back tyres like that. They were huge 15x15 rims. I was jealous. 

Mark H's J&S
I was amazed how well street style buggies went on the dunes. 

Steven Vanes street buggy.
Apparently it was "one of the two buggies that were made for Schick razors as part of a promotional campaign". 

Brian's GS Limo
Brian is Kevin's brother, Brian is the somewhat tamer of the two brothers. Only because Kevin is a nut-bar. In a good way of course. 

Most of us, sunday morning 
This is after Nathan found out he needed to let more air out of his tyres, or he'll get bogged.

Maybe I won't go up this dune.
Mike crabbing sideways across a dune with the back wheels spinning away.

Mark R's (MR930) Supasports
His son just wanted to keep playing toy trucks and boats on the dunes.

The wind even blew my flag the right way.

The Sygna
Apparently it is an old coal ship that was told to go far out to sea, over the continental shelf, during a cyclone. The captain didn't listen and anchored not far enough out. The anchor didn't hold and the ship got blown into it's current position. 

This is a popular spot for visitors.  
Sunday Lunch
This is where we stopped to eat lunch on Sunday. What's that rail looking buggy to my right? 
Everyone seems interested in it!
A V8 Buggy!!!
Yep, V8 jammed in the back. Kombi 6-rib gearbox, Porsche CV's, 4 wheel discs. Very nice. When he went up a dune he started slowing half way up like he was getting bogged, then he decided to use the throttle, and off it went, sand roosting for miles. It was insane. 
A nice pic of the Baja.
Peaky Dunes
Sometimes you have to get out of the car to see what's on the other side of the dune. I did a few sweeping turning passes on this dune and still couldn't see what was on the other side.
Doing what VW's do best
Jumping! Judging by how far I am past the top of the dune (on the very right) I figure I am on my way back down in this shot. However the lovely camera-woman Sally is convinced her lightning reflexes have caught me at the highest point of my jump.
Crazy Kevin
Although Kevin was probably the oldest guy there, he was also the craziest guy there. He had no respect for his machinery and had no hesitations about showing us what a real jump looks like.
Here's what a tow'd would look like lowered.
(landing the previous jump)
A bit of competitive spirit
Mike being a Qld'er didn't want a NSW car doing the biggest jump. I think Kevin went higher though.
My attempt at the same jump.
Although since I was 900km from home, I didn't want to jump too high and break something, so I let off the throttle before the top.
And the camera lost focus anyway.
We have lift off
Stuart launching the poor little Manx. 
Stuart didn't have the power of me, Kevin or Mike's cars, so it took him a few runs to get enough speed to do a jump, but he eventually got there.
...and landing.
Brian Jumping
Brian also took a few goes to do a good jump, but I think it was more a mental thing than a lack of power.
Another embarrassed 4wd
Here's Brian showing a 4wd how to go up a dune. I can't remember seeing and 4wd's getting up any of the real big dunes.
Stu and his Manx.
Cold and Windy
Bronze took a nice photo of me and Meegan sitting in the baja. As you can see by how we're dressed, it was very cold and windy on the dunes.  

You can check out a couple of video clips on the video page - Videos