If you have a beach holiday on your horizon but your idyllic vista isn’t going to be quite as close to your vacation apartment as expected, then this can cast a bit of a shadow. Will there be parking at the seafront? Will it be painful walking from car to sand? Will you have to sell your soul and possibly also your motorbike to leave your car there for a few hours each day? That prospect becomes even more alarming if it’s a rental.
Having to carry several bags’ worth of stuff (and possibly your own folded loungers and ice box) to and from your beach spot on every visit can really take the shine off things. What you want is to be able to travel fast, unload quickly, and load up just as fast. Particularly if you’re hanging out somewhere with a fast tide.
If only you had something on wheels to pull or push from your apartment to the beach. Like a wagon. Or a cart.
To leave you more time to figure out the rest of your packing list, we’ve gone through a broad field of options recommended by tour experts, ocean-front dwellers and happy owners alike and filtered the list down to the five best.
If you’re the type to weigh up the pros and cons on paper before investing in something which may detract from your events and entertainment budget, then you might want to read on to our buyer’s guide for a handy list of things to take into account when choosing the best cart for you.
In a hurry? Here are our favorite products.
Best Beach Wagon for Soft Sand
OUR TOP PICK
This wagon was built with beach days in mind, but it’s incredibly tough, multifunctional, and roomy: you can get a lot of gear into an enclosure which is 31.5” long, 21.4” wide and 9.6” deep. This wagon isn’t designed for transporting children, but don’t be shocked if you find a small, cozy stowaway sitting inside in the hopes of avoiding a walk home.
It earns its name as a heavy-duty wagon although it’s compact and light when not in use. The steel frame folds up neatly and easily to join your flight luggage, and yet it weighs in at a comparatively feather-like 22lb. If that doesn’t sound very feather-like, then bear in mind that this wagon can carry up to 150lb when unfolded and all set up.
The smooth-glide wheels can ease transition over beach paths of dubious quality, scree, gravel, compacted sand, and, of course, the soft sand drifts which seems to add 50lb to whatever you’re trying to carry along with you.
It’s a good friend to add to your social life, too, with a cheeky little built-in table for those plates you’re trying to keep out of the grit, and two extra cup holders.
In terms of long-term storage, the frame’s fabric is 600-denier polyester, which is mercifully easy to clean and highly resistant to mildew.
Another great benefit is its versatility. You can haul heavy items from the store to your car, and then fold the wagon in neatly alongside them. Got a big garden? This’ll transport your 50lb bags of topsoil and mulch without you hurting your back. It can handle the slightly rougher terrain you get with hiking trips, and it’s large enough to accommodate a folded tent, couple of chairs, and a modest cool box.
There’s a curious differential in the pricing on this wagon. If you want it in a shade of intimidating black, then it’s going to set you back upwards of $240. The wagons with the more cheerful fabrics (startling rainbow, stars and stripes, or red-and-white stripes) will be a little gentler on your wallet. Great for family holidays. Perhaps not quite so easy to blend in on a fishing trip with the guys, though.
Overall, this is a sturdy and maneuverable wagon which copes well on the sand drifts, is easy to clean out, and which you can use in so many other areas of life other than the beach.
- Durable and good value for money
- Helps to free up your hands
- Deep enough to take tall items (umbrellas, folded chairs) without bungee straps
- Watch the weight distribution. The greater proximity of the front wheels makes this buggy vulnerable to tipping on uneven surfaces
- There is no brake on this cart. You will always have to hold onto it if hiking uphill
The Rio cart is a nicely basic budget clutter-carrier. If you’re just hauling a couple of bags, a rug, and some chairs from apartment to beachside, then it could well be that this is all you need.
It doesn’t look like the most robust cart around, but it’ll carry 100lb of beach gear. It also has some particularly convenient features, such as the side umbrella holder and the forward rail over which you can drape the frames of up to 4 folding chairs. There is also a handy mesh tote which hangs between the handle and cargo net which you can detach and keep close to hand. It’s just a little extra nugget of convenience for carrying your smaller bits and pieces like shades, snacks or sunscreen.
The mesh cargo holder is a nice design feature in itself: gentle friction against the fabric does help to rub the sand off your beach toys while you’re walking home at the end of the day.
The rear wheels are broad and beach-friendly. The front wheels spin through 360° for easier maneuverability. Trying to corner a loaded cart off the sand and onto a path at the end of a hot day is no joke, but Rio has taken this into consideration: the handle grip is neoprene-covered, which keeps it cool and makes it easier to grip (even when you’re sweaty and covered in sunscreen).
- Good carrying capacity for cumbersome items (umbrellas and chairs)
- Convenient and detachable tote bag
- foldable and exceptionally lightweight (17lb)
- Front wheels have a tendency to plough through sand instead of over it: you have to pull this cart in reverse over sand
- The red catch that holds the cart together when folded has a tendency to unlatch itself after a year or so
This is hands-down the best kid-oriented wagon in the mid-budget band. What makes this a 3-in-1 wagon? Well, first off, it makes a pretty sound seat-belted stroller for two little ones. When they can face each other and chatter away, then a walking journey passes a great deal faster for everyone.
We say ‘little’, but this wagon can take 150lb of excitable human passenger or standard beach cargo. As you would expect from a wagon that can take two kids facing each other, the interior is pretty spacious at 39” long, 18.5” wide, and 32.7” tall at the rear backrests.
The third configuration of this wagon is that the side can be unfastened and brought down to the ground to provide… a beach couch! It makes for a way more peaceful day if your kids can lunch in comfort, their food away from the sand. Even better, they can do so in the shade. The canopy can fold away into a pouch in the backrest, but when it gets hot you simply pull up the telescoping supports from all four corners and you have a little awning for them to hang out in. It’s easy enough to hang a picnic blanket across the back if one of your little ones needs to take a nap or stay completely out of the sun while it's at its zenith.
For inflight comfort, there are also a couple of water bottle holders.
The wheels on the Radio Flyer are not particularly large, but they do have the good traction that comes with a rubber exterior.
- Day-long chirpy kids with no tired legs
- Great shade and napping opportunities
- Great space for cargo when the kids are walking
- cheerful, bright design
- Safety-conscious design with seatbelts and significant distance down to the wheels
- Folds quickly and easily with one hand
- Good for destinations which need to be reached by plane
- Someone needs to carry the awkward items while the kids are riding like tiny pharaohs
- Even though this is the “off-road” version of this wagon, you will still want to lighten the load a little as soon as you reach soft sand.
The Timber Ridge cart has a lot in common with the Mac heavy duty wagon. It’s less spacious (by five inches in the width and an inch or so in enclosure height) but that lesser capacity comes with a price which is more vacation-friendly.
The design is definitely vacation-friendly. There are external drink bottle holders and a zippered inner storage bag inside to keep your smaller items from being bashed around. There is also a mesh base over which you can lay a padded protective layer. Being able to rinse that off and brush sand straight through the bottom of the cart means that you don’t have to take the beach home with you.
It’s great to handle on multiple terrains with its telescoping handle and huge plastic wheels. The front two rotate through a full 360° while the back ones remain fixed. Like the Mac heavy duty, it’ll take 150lb on dry land and 110lb on sand.
Empty and folded it weighs in at 24lb, which makes it easy enough to check in with flight luggage. The frame of the cart is robust steel and the fabric 600-denier polyester which comes in dark shades of blue, green or red.
- Nice aesthetics and pocket arrangement for convenience
- Good handling and ease of maneuvering
- Great value for money at a good price point
- Convenient arrangement with mesh base and removable padding.
- Not so easy to get a cooler in this cart compared to the wider options
- Rubber wheels with a deeper tread would help more on softer, dry sand
Last on our list is a completely different kind of beast. This is essentially a two-wheeled wheelbarrow with a tall handle, a kickstand, and holes at the side for the bungee ropes to restrain the larger items you’ll want to carry around with you.
This barrow will make you shrug when you see a sand dune instead of whining inwardly. The balloon wheels are a huge 16.5 inches in diameter and 7.9 inches wide. There will be no need to fear uneven surfaces again. It’s more spacious than both the Mac heavy duty and the Timber Ridge folding carts, with a rim length of 36” and 24” in the base. it’s also 22” wide.
Best of all - this cart can transport up to 220lb—the greatest weight with the greatest ease in this collection.
If you pack your bag with all the smaller items at the base, along with towels and blankets, you can then stack your other possessions to an impressive height while still keeping perfect control of the cart. The great thing about the design is that the kids can help. For many happy owners, the fact that they are no longer the pack mule on every beach holiday makes it well worth every cent.
There are a lot of cents involved in buying this cart. It is the most expensive option on this list. That said, it is extremely tough and durable—an investment cart.
For storage in the rear of an SUV, fold the handle forward and remove the wheels, which are held in place with a cotter pin system. The assembly and disassembly are straightforward.
It’s a shade of green which you can probably see from two miles out to sea, and there is no confusing this with anyone else’s cart. Sometimes it’s reassuring for kids to have a clear landmark on a busy beach.
- Tough and durable material
- The best wheels for soft sand: easy to maneuver
- A spacious option
- Unique design
- Kickstand acts as a brake
- The cost
- You may need to buy bungee ropes
- Not suitable for vacations involving a flight
Best Beach Wagon for Soft Sand Buying Guide
So, that’s a quick canter through some very different cart/wagon options. In this section, we’d like to set out a little purchase checklist which we hope will answer frequently asked questions about buying the right kind of cart or wagon for your needs.
What are you going to be doing?
There are quite a few things to think about here. It is hard to have one section called ‘functionality’ because this crosses over into several areas.
- Will you be spending time at a private pool as well as the beach? If so, then you will want to be able to collapse the cart and tuck it away easily and quickly. An easy-clean design which helps you to knock out any sand away from the poolside is also a plus.
- Will you be hiking? If so, look for a wagon with a braking system so that you don’t have to sustain constant vigilance about its stability.
- Will you be doing water sports? If so, pick one of the wider wagons which can take one or two body boards and potentially a heavy load of diving or snorkelling gear. A wagon or cart with a mesh button is best if you’re going to be exposed to wet sand a lot.
- Will you be fishing or camping? If so, you will appreciate the pocket space to separate your important gear out into organized, discrete spaces.
Where will you be going?
- If you’re driving, you have the full range of cart options. If you’re traveling by plane, then check your upper luggage limit and figure out whether your folded cart will fit into your allowance on the return journey, when you might have extra items and gifts.
- If you are going to a theme park then check their rules about stroller size and stroller parking before you hit the ‘buy’ button.
- Think about the terrain you’ll be covering the most. Balloon or rubber tires are the most sand-compatible. However, if the bulk of the journey is from your vacation place of residence to the beach itself, then an investment in a wagon to get you that far on foot may be worth every penny, even if the wagon wheels are not optimal in soft sand.
Know what presses your buttons
Going on vacation should be about time out for the whole family. This means emotional time out as well as absence of actual work. So, if you have kids, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how they react to walking various distances in different conditions.
If it’s easier to carry awkward items while your partner pulls the wagon along, that’s cool; there are only so many times you can hear “it’s miles away” when you’ve only moved about 200 yards down the road. If your kids have a low tolerance for walking, then investing in a spacious wagon which can also take all your smaller items (bags, towels and blankets) may be worth every cent. If your kids are happy to walk until they’re tired at the end of the day, then you might be better off buying a heavy duty wagon which can accommodate small passengers in terms of weight. This way, they can walk to the beach but get a lift back to the apartment at the end of the day.
How much do you want to spend?
If you’re going to be using that wagon year on year, then it is worth building extra funds into your budget and going full-out on something which is truly multi-purpose. To make you feel less anxious about the expense, just consider all the areas of day to day life in which that wagon will be useful. If you’re a team coach or parent for a busy sports team, then a heavy-duty all-bells-and-whistles wagon is going to make you spectacularly popular.
If you just want something to last you a couple of vacations before the family’s taste in perfect holiday changes, then check out the ‘lower cost options’ which Amazon will suggest for each of the models featured here.
Most importantly of all, don’t forget to have fun.