OCEANO DUNES STATE VEHICULAR RECREATION AREA
This off road area is among the most popular and unique of California State Parks. The 5 ? miles of beach open for vehicle use and the sand dunes available for off highway motor vehicle recreation are attractions for visitors from throughout the United States.
Oceano Dunes is the only California State Park where vehicles may be driven on the beach. Passenger cars can easily drive on the northern portion of the beach.
Four wheel drive vehicles are recommended for driving to the camping and off highway vehicle use areas in the park.
Beach wheelchairs are available for loan at the Pier and Grand Avenue entrances to the beach.
Surfing, swimming, surf fishing, horseback riding and bird watching are popular activities.
The Oceano Dunes area is home to a surprisingly wide range of plant and animal life. Those who take the time to explore will see wildflowers, the tracks of countless small mammals and insects, a variety of small birds at the water's edge, and hawks, owls, pelicans, or gulls flying overhead.
Many kinds of shorebirds can be found on the beach, while other small birds such as the Audubon warbler, or the long-billed marsh wren, as well as red-tailed hawks and American kestrels are often sighted among the sand dunes. Both the threatened snowy plover and the endangered California least tern nest within the SVRA.
During the March 1 - September 30 breeding season, small fenced enclosures are constructed around the nests to protect these birds and their offspring from the surrounding recreational use. With ongoing support from OHVers, this nesting program has been a huge success.
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.
Indian and Indian settlements were noticed by the early Spanish maritime explorers who sailed up the California coast, but the first European explorers to actually travel through the dunes area were members of Don Gaspar de Portola's overland expedition of 1769. In September of that year, just after crossing the Santa Maria River, Portola's men killed "un oso flaco" ? a skinny bear. The lake at the southern end of the park takes its name from this incident.
During the 1930s and 40s, the dunes were the home of a group of free thinking people including mystics, nudists, artists, writers, and hermits who identified themselves collectively as the "Dunites." Among other activities, the group published a magazine, which they called The Dune Forum. The Dunites believed that Oceano Dunes was one of the centers of creative energy in California. Seek out the solitude of the dunes and perhaps you too, will feel these creative forces that the Dunites talked about.
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 recommended for 4- wheel drive vehicles only. A dump station, located on Le Sage Drive, 1/10 miles North of Grand Ave. on Hwy 1, is available to campers.