The Hawalder family, Safeenah, and Ray, Carley Kevin and Richie sit outside...

The Hawalder family, Safeenah, and Ray, Carley Kevin and Richie sit outside their camper at Theodore Roosevelt County Park in Montauk. Credit: Linda Rosier

Are you ready to hit the beach — in your SUV?

Off-roading on Long Island beaches is the favorite summer pastime of Klaus "Cooky" Rondinella of Williston Park. He used to walk "miles and miles" on the beach to get to his favorite surf-casting spots. These days, he loads his gear onto his Dynamax Isata 5 RV and drives over the sand to Democrat Point at Fire Island’s Robert Moses State Park. There, he spends the weekend camping surrounded by dunes and roaring surf, side by side with other off-roaders.

"It’s a great mini vacation, and a great sense of camaraderie," said Rondinella, president of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association (LIBBA), the Island’s largest off-roading club, which grew from 1,500 to 1,685 members during the past year. "We wake up at 6 in the morning, catch fish and make fresh sushi on the beach," Rondinella said.

DRIVING ON THE SAND

You don’t have to join a club to take your SUV or Jeep for a beach ride to a day of fishing, camping, swimming or tailgate partying with the Atlantic surf at your doorstep. All you need is a four-wheel-drive vehicle, an adventurous spirit and a special permit to reach the playland beyond the dunes.

Bea Noguier of Babylon Village drives her 2008 Chevy TrailBlazer SUV to fish on beaches from Democrat Point to Montauk. "As a fishing woman, the adrenaline just goes," she said of experiences like catching a 30-pound striped bass on one off-road trip.

In addition to the fishing, Noguier prizes "the quietness, the serenity of the surroundings … it’s like another world; it calms you."

The 5-mile outer beach at Smith Point County Park in Shirley, where off-roaders pitch tents in front of their vehicles for a cabana ambience, is among the most popular off-road destinations in Suffolk County, according to Hilary Hoffman of the county Department of Parks.

Long Island Beach Buggy Association president Klaus Rondinella and member...

Long Island Beach Buggy Association president Klaus Rondinella and member Brian Clarke at Robert Moses State Park in Babylon. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Farther east, Rondinella said, “the 4x4 beach-driving community” is monitoring an ongoing court battle over access to supporters call “Truck Beach,” a 4,000-foot stretch in Amagansett west of Napeague State Park. Last year, a state court sided with local property owners’ claims that the beach is private property. “For the time being, the court has ordered the beach closed to all vehicular traffic, including any vehicle with a town beach driving permit,” according to a statement from the East Hampton Town Supervisor’s office.

LI BEACHES THAT ALLOW OFF-ROADING

Suffolk County Parks outer beach access

631-854-4949, suffolkcountyny.gov

Off-roaders can explore eight county beaches — Smith Point, Cupsogue, Cedar Point and others — with an annual recreational vehicle use permit ($100 for Suffolk residents with the Green Key pass, which is $30/three years) and $33 vehicle day-use fee. 

Members of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association camp on the...

Members of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association camp on the beach at Robert Moses State Park. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Robert Moses and Gilgo state parks

631-669-1000

Four-wheel-drive beach vehicle fishing permits ($80) for Democrat Point and Sore Thumb Beach in Robert Moses State Park and Gilgo State Park in Babylon are sold by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation from the Tuesday after Labor Day to Dec. 31, and then from Jan. 1 to March 31. 

Fire Island National Seashore

Recreational driving permits for anglers and hunters are available for the beach west of the Fire Island Wilderness Visitor Center to the breach at Old Inlet. They cost $50 and can be purchased beginning Sept. 1 for use between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31.

Robert Moses State Park is one of several Long Island...

Robert Moses State Park is one of several Long Island beaches that permit offroaders to drive on the sand. Credit: Morgan Campbell

CLUBS

Long Island Beach Buggy Association (LIBBA), 516-859-5266, libba.com

Long Island Off-Road, 631-433-3661, liorclub.org