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Oceano Dunes

Oceano Dunes State Park in California

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The Oceano Dunes Are an Excellent Place to Frolic

  • Sep 1, 2009
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Last weekend I explored the Oceano Dunes. They were stunning. I can’t believe I’ve lived on the Central Coast this long without having wandered among the sandy shifting hills of white.

Perhaps it’s because I’d pretty much avoided Oceano, considering it the exclusive territory of off-road vehicles. Oceano is a village of off-road enthusiasts. To get to the dunes, I walked parallel to the beachfront highway of RVs, pickup trucks loaded with quads, ATVs and dirt bikes, and brave sedans hoping to ford the Arroyo Grande Creek without getting stuck.

But if you can get past that, and the horse droppings and the snowy plover preserve, and if you wander two rows of dunes away from the beach, you’ll find an entirely different landscape. Note: Only hike in the area where vehicles are not allowed. Duh.

Footprints at Oceano Dunes

Footprints at Oceano Dunes

If you find yourself at the dunes with no engine other than your heart and no 4-wheel drive, here are some ways to entertain yourself.

  • Jump off the edge of a tall dune and see how far out you can get and how deep into the sand you sink.
  • Pick a target and play horseshoes with your sandals.
  • Race up the face of a steep dune.
  • Find a spot where you’re surrounded by nothing by white sand and see if your camera will focus on anything at all.
  • Head back toward the beach and look for funny bumper stickers on the RVs and pickup trucks.
Beach Highway at Oceano Dunes

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September 05, 2009
That's a great review, if I was close enough I would check it out! I love the footprint photo. I don't know how much fun it would be with an infant though! Baby + lots of sand = disaster ;) She would try to eat it, she puts everything in her mouth now. On the Central Coast I have actually been to Monterey before, such a beautiful beach town.
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The Oceano sand dune area is recognized by scientists, conservationists, government agencies, and the public as the finest, most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California.

Most of the wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses that can be found on the dunes are fragile and easily destroyed. Plants that are native to the area include the arroyo willow, California sagebrush, sand verbena, and bush lupine. European beach grass is an introduced species, brought in around the turn of the century to stabilize the dunes. Rare plants that may be seen here include surf thistle and giant coreopsis.

Camping is allowed south of Post 2 on the beach and in the open dune area. Vault toilets and chemical toilets are provided, and water-delivery and holding-tank pump-out services are available on the beach. Campsite reservation information can be obtained by calling 1-800-444-7275. Campsites are available by reservation year-round and can be made from 10 days to six months in advance. Reservations are highly recommended (especially for holiday periods) and must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Note: Reservations can be made up to seven months in advance. 

High tides, heavy rains, and blowing sand determine whether or not you can drive down the beach without getting stuck. Access to the OHV and camping area may be restricted periodically by Arroyo Grande Creek which is subject to water releases at Lopez Dam and increased flow during winter storms.

Beach camping is ...
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