UPDATE: There have been a number of changes to this great location. Please read Changes to Wedge Island for more information.
As mentioned in a previous blog post, Lancelin is a great place to travel. However, if you want somewhere a little more secluded then Wedge Island is a great place to visit. I often enjoy just driving there for the day, having a bit of a fish and playing in the dunes. You will come across Wedge Island when you Travel Western Australia (there are a few other ones, but I am referring to the one in Western Australia!) just north of Lancelin. This island has gotten itself a name because of the little settlement that has been built just behind the first dunes. It was built mainly by those living in Lancelin who wanted a place to get away for the weekend. This has been a popular place now for several years, but there is talk again of the settlement being pulled down because none of the people who live or visit at the settlement actually own the land. Personally I think it’s the perfect place for people to enjoy a bit of seclusion without spending a huge amount of money, but you try to convince the government that!
4x4 only along the beach!
Within the last few months Indian Ocean Drive has been opened, meaning that you can actually get to Wedge Island with a 2wd car. I have never done this, but I believe you just turn left off the Indian Ocean Highway onto a track to Wedge, just after Lancelin. Other than that road you really need a 4x4 to get to Wedge Island, because there is a fair amount of sand driving. I would highly recommend reading about Beach Driving before attempting the beach run as it can be very soft!
How to get to Wedge Island
To get to Wedge Island now you either need to take the new highway and turn off, or drive along the beach. You can take the inland track, but it is difficult to follow as there are many different tracks. You can phone (08) 9311 2772 to check if it is open. You can actually drive to Wedge Island from Moore River way, but I have been lost in the farms up there, and it’s not good fun! You are best to ask locals for some maps before you attempt it.
The beach to Wedge Island
If you are a confident driver, the tide is down and the beach isn't too chopped up, I would suggest take the beach track. I will emphasise the confident driver part however, because I have recovered at least 10 vehicles who have taken the beach and gotten stuck. The beach changes from week to week; sometimes its rock hard and flat as can be, but other times it is very soft and the waves have eaten away the sand. Not long ago we helped a Nissan Patrol out of a very close situation after it slid off the top of the beach part, and almost toppled over.
Do I need to let my tyres down?
Yes! Letting your tyres down is a necessity if you are going to be doing any sand driving. If you take the inland track, you can probably get away with only letting your 4x4 Tyres down to 25 PSI. If you take the beach, you may have to drop your tyres down to 15 PSI to float a little. The sand can be very soft, and even My Hilux sinks a lot (and that weighs much less than most 4x4). If you do get very stuck, you can let your tyres down to 10 PSI, but make sure you pump them back up a little, as they are prone to rolling off the rim at low pressures. Have a look at some of the Tyre Deflators on the market - they are money well spent!
What should I take with me?
Before you even consider going four wheel driving, you should take a few basic pieces of gear. The most important is a shovel; these work wonders if you are stuck on your own and you have little other gear. I would advise you go with a second vehicle, because it makes recoveries much easier. Taking a rated snatch strap is a smart move, because they are great in the sand. Make sure you know how to use them properly (the right recovery points, and not just hooked over tow balls) otherwise you risk serious damage to your car and bystanders. They are not toys, and people have been seriously injured because they haven’t been used right. Other helpful things to carry are a UHF Radio, fishing rods and plenty of water and food. Also, a GPS can be very handy because there are a lot of tracks that run along the coast and it’s easy to get lost! Of course, if you are any good with tools, bring your box and plenty of spares. Carrying at least some spare belts and hoses can be a life saver.
Where can I stay?
Unless you own a shack or house at Wedge Island, you will also need to bring a tent or camper trailer. You have a lot of choice in regards to Camping, but check with the ranger first in regards to where you can actually stay. There are quite a few protected places along the way, usually in an enclosed area (to reduce the wind). Take a rod and enjoy some fishing too! Make sure you are well prepared though; camping can be quite uncomfortable if you are not set up well.
UPDATE: The people who own shacks at Wedge Island have been told their shacks will not be removed, which is great news!
Recently I purchased a set of MaxTrax, which are basically very hard, light weight plastic boards which are placed on an angle under the wheels of a car if you get stuck. Two work fine, and four are even better. You can use them as shovels to remove the bulk of the sand, and then place them correctly. With slow acceleration you will drive out almost 100 % of the time. Sure, they are expensive, but they are worth every dollar. I have used mine about 10 times now (mostly on my mates!) and they are truly the best piece of recovery gear you can carry. They are great for snow, mud, sand and even boat launching.
Can I take my motorbike?
Lets face it. One of the main reason's people visit Wedge Island is for the four wheel driving or motorbike riding. However, in the last few years unregistered vehicles (only road vehicles are allowed) have been banned from the island. This doesn’t mean you can’t take it, it just means you need to be careful where you ride it. The ranger is reasonable and will usually give you a warning, but it’s best not to take the chance – you never know what mood he might be in! There are big dunes at the back of Wedge Island, but I am not sure if you are allowed to drive off-road vehicles there. You can sure have some fun in road registered four wheel drives though, but be careful.
What is the coast like?
The coast in between Lancelin and Wedge Island is much like the coast along all of Western Australia. There is only one rocky head which you have to drive around (inland) but the rest is just white, beautiful sand. There are good spots for surfing and body boarding, as well as quite a few spots that you can fish at (actually you have a lot of choice in where you fish, snorkel, surf or relax!). Just make sure that you park up enough so that you allow other vehicles to drive passed; nothing makes the locals madder than someone parked in the middle of the main track!
Wedge Island itself
The actual island can be swam to or walked to (depending on the tides). It can be anywhere between a hundred metres and three hundred metres, depending on what time of year you go. It’s amazing to see how the water moves sand over the course of the year! You can walk around a part of the island (some of it is fenced off) and there is quite a bit of wild life to see. Many people tow boats up to Wedge Island and launch off the beach to go fishing. In fact, often there is Rock Lobster boats moored near the island as well.
Take your Rubbish with you!
I'd like to quickly mention how important it is to leave nothing behind when you visit this great spot. Thousands of people enjoy Wedge Island throughout the year, and it ruins the spot for everyone if you have to dodge broken bottles and rubbish left behind. If you are caught doing this you can expect a heavy fine from the ranger. It takes 5 minutes at the end of your holiday to clean up; don't be selfish to the many others that love this spot too. If you really appreciate this spot, take any rubbish you see away, regardless of who dropped it.
If you like 4x4 and visiting places on the coast, be sure to take a look at Wedge Island. It’s only about a 30 minute drive from Lancelin, and is quite impressive. Make sure you take it easy though!