by Lisa Cavanaugh

Photographs by Matt Gardner

One pleasant afternoon earlier this fall, I joined a group of off-road enthusiasts on a favorite local activity: oversanding on a Cape Cod beach. With a light breeze in the air and at least two hours before the sun was due to set, it proved to be the perfect time for a Sandy Neck four-wheel-drive adventure.

 Located in West Barnstable, close to the Sandwich town line, Sandy Neck Beach is a six-mile-long natural treasure, with numerous opportunities for swimming, strolling, fishing, and birdwatching. It is also one of a handful of beaches on Cape Cod that allow recreational beach driving, which gives all-terrain vehicle owners a chance to explore the far reaches of the strand in a singular way. 

With our Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) permit secured, we arrived at the gatehouse in a new GMC Canyon AT4 pick-up truck. The friendly attendant directed us to the ORV access road, where we joined a handful of other vehicles in the process of airing down their tires. Reducing your tire pressure creates a wider base for driving over sand and lessens the potential for creating ruts or getting stuck. (In addition to a tire gauge, all ORV drivers must also pack a shovel, tow straps, a jack, a spare tire, and a support board.)


Once our tires were aired down to 18 psi, we proceeded at the mandatory five miles per hour towards the shoreline. As we inched along through low dunes, a group on horseback ambled past, having explored the beach in their own distinctive manner. Turning east onto the sand, we first came upon a row of RVs, lined up perpendicular to the waves, and then the open expanse of Sandy Neck lay before us.

 The Canyon AT4’s suspension handled the sand beautifully, and it also maneuvered over the rocks that formed our parking spot on a berm above the shore. I was surprised to see only a smattering of other four-wheel-drive vehicles around us. My guides explained that the fall and winter are the best times to explore Cape Cod beaches in an ATV, as you are more likely to find a secluded spot. We settled in with beach chairs and fishing rods, and began preparations for a sunset campfire. 

 We were soon joined by the President/Dealer Principal of Robertson’s GMC in Wareham, Ali Robertson, and her son Andrew, who drove up in an Acadia AT4, GMC’s mid-size SUV. Although she lives off-Cape, Robertson has a personal familiarity with Sandy Neck Beach. “It is fun being back because I grew up coming down here to camp with my family,” says Robertson. “It was awesome. We used to stay for a whole week in our camper, which my dad called the white whale. There were three of us kids, and we always found lots to do. I loved it!”  

Robertson was happy to share today’s experience with Andrew, who works in the sales department at Robertson’s GMC. He is the third generation of Robertsons at the company (her father Howie is the founder of the dealership). “I was just telling my son he should get a camper like we had!” she says. 

 For shorter visits, she noted that driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle like the Canyon or the Acadia is a great way for people to spend a day on the beach. “The AT4 trim package has special suspension and tires meant just for this kind of driving,” she says. Although Robertson is more equipped than most coming from a background that includes a stint as a cross-country truck driver, the AT4 certainly makes it easy for everyone to oversand. “Anybody can do it,” she says. “It’s really simple to switch over to four-wheel drive with just a press of a button.”

 “Everyone is always looking for a fun day trip,” she continued, “with the right vehicle you can come down here and have a wonderful time.” All of the GMC AT4s have room for bikes, tents, and even kayaks, and the Acadia can accommodate up to seven passengers, making it ideal for a family outing. “The AT4 is a popular configuration for people and their active lifestyles,” says Robertson. “It is absolutely perfect for this kind of adventure.”

Dusk was falling, the fire was lit, and everyone savored the quiet beauty of Sandy Neck. “I love it here in the fall,” remarked Robertson. “It has a different feel than the summer. Everyone is gone, the light is gorgeous.  It’s a hidden gem.” 

Robertson’s GMC
SALES: (508) 322-7348
SERVICE: (508) 322-7351

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