Oceano Dunes are a great place to camp on the beach and ride or drive around on the dunes. Many people make the trip to Oceano for one reason, the dunes. Oceano is the only place in California where it is legal to drive your vehicle on the beach.
Pismo Beach is one of the only places in the country where you can drive your car out onto the beach, get your tires wet, go camping, take your four-wheel drive out on the dunes, or just have a great day on the beach. At one time, you could drive for miles along the beach. Today the drivable area is restricted to a smaller space.
Driving on Pismo Beach
There are two entrance points to the Oceano Dunes. The first one is at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach. The second entrance is situated on Pier Avenue in Oceano Beach.
Driving on the beach is possible with just about any vehicle, especially at low tide. There is usually soft sand at the bottom of the ramp, so if you’re in a two-wheel-drive car, you must put the pedal to the metal to get to the hard sand along the water’s edge.
A four-wheel drive should not have any problem driving on the soft sand, primarily if you “air down” your tires. Be warned people do get stuck, and it will cost you a couple of hundred dollars to get towed out of the sand.
If you want to drive into the dunes, you will need to have a whip flag attached to your vehicle. If you wish to drive along the beach, no flag is necessary.
Camping on the Beach Oceano Dunes
During the summer and holiday weekends, thousands of people converge on the Oceano dunes to drive dune buggies up and down the dunes. Groups of people circle their vehicles like the wagon trains of the old west and set up camps along the beach.
Camping is allowed on the south side of Arroyo Grande Creek in front of the dune area. Reservations can be made in advance. During summer weekends and holidays, reservations are highly recommended. There are no reserved spaces here. Just find an open spot on the beach and set up camp. Fires are allowed on the beach. Campground Reservations
No ATV No Problem Rent One
Pismo dunes are a top-rated destination for ATVs and dune buggies. There are multiple places where you can rent one of these vehicles. During the summer, it’s possible to rent an ATV or dune buggy in the dune area. They even offer a free tram shuttle to the beach and back if you don’t want to drive on the sand in your vehicle. Sun Buggy Rentals 328 Pier Ave, Oceano, CA 93445
History of Oceano Dunes (Pismo Dunes)
The first known inhabitants of Oceano were the Native Americans who were seen by explorers in the early 1700s. In 1726, the explorer Portola and his men killed “un Oso Flaco,” meaning “skinny bear,” and is now the name of the lake at the southern tip of the Oceano Dunes area. The dunes are so vast that travelers and vagrants made their homes there for decades before this became a controlled area.
An interesting story is of the “Dunites,” a group of mystics, nudists, artists, writers, and hermits who made the dunes their home in the ’30s and ’40s. They believed this area was the center of creative energy in California. As different people “felt” this creative energy and naturalists began to see the many natural wonders of this land, it became a protected area for many birds and species.
Horseback Riding on the Beach
The Pacific Dunes Ranch offers horseback riding with tours for those who want to see the dunes that way. There are many trails to explore as well as some for privately owned horses. Also on site is an RV Campground adjacent to the Oceano Dunes Preserve. Pacific Dunes Ranch 1205 Silver Spur Place Oceano, California 93445. 805-489-7787.
Getting to Oceano Dunes
Enjoy the small-town atmosphere of Oceano and the unbeatable weather that the Central Coast offers. Oceano Dunes are about 12 miles south of San Luis Obispo, three miles south of Pismo Beach. This beautiful area of California’s central coast is perfect for a weekend getaway or an entire vacation.
Oceano Dunes SVRA 928 Pacific Avenue Oceano CA 93445. Ocean Dune State Vehicular Recreation Area has 1,500 acres, featuring beach and dune riding.