The three, who are students from Tokyo, set out to drive to North Stradbroke Island on the Australian coast Thursday morning, and mapped out their path on their GPS system.
The road looked clear, at low tide - but the map forgot to show the 9 miles of water and mud between the island and the mainland.
As the three drove their rented Hyundai Getz into Moreton Bay, they found the GPS device guiding them from a gravel road into thick mud. They tried to get back to solid ground, but as the tide rose they were forced to abandon their car. Passengers on passing ferries watched in amazement.
"It told us we could drive down there," Yuzu Noda, 21, told the local Bayside Bulletin. "It kept saying it would navigate us to a road. We got stuck . . . there's lots of mud."
Noda and her friends made it about 50 yards offshore before they realized they were stranded. A tow truck driver eventually gave them a lift back to the mainland. The students decided not to have the car repaired because of the damage. The car was insured, though Noda will still have to pay about $1,500 that was not covered.
The students will fly back home to Tokyo this weekend, but they said they plan to try a trip to the island again some time in the future.
"We want to come back to Australia again," Noda told the Times. "Everyone is very nice, even today."