Oceano California is a small town that is included in the Five Cities region of the Central Coast of California. Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Shell Beach, and Grover Beach make up the other four towns. Oceano is a beautiful area to take a day trip, go camping, fishing, shopping, or a vacation.
Many people make the trip to Oceano for one reason, the dunes. This is the only place in California where it is legal to drive your vehicle on the beach. At one time, you could drive for miles along the beach from Pismo Pier to Oceano and even further. Today the drivable area is much smaller.
There are two entrance points to the beach one at the end of Grand Avenue in Grover Beach and the other on Pier Avenue in Oceano.
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 vehicle you must put the pedal to the metal to get to the hard sand along the water’s edge.
Four wheel drive should not have any problem driving on the soft sand. Be warned people do get stuck, and it will cost you a couple of hundred dollars to get towed out of the sand.
During the summer and holiday weekends, thousands of people converge on the Oceano dunes to drive dune buggy’s up and down the sand dunes. Groups of people circle their vehicles like the wagon trains of the old west and set up camps along the beach. Other times of the year the beach can be a peaceful place to take a walk or try your luck at surf fishing.
Weekend Activities Guide
The first known inhabitants of Oceano were the Native Americans who were seen by explorers in the early 1700’s. 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 30’s and 40’s. 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.
People are no longer allowed to live on the land permanently, but camping is allowed in specified areas. The 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 Oceano.
Pismo dunes are a very popular destination for ATVs and dune buggies. There are multiple places where you can rent one of these vehicles. Another fun activity is to take the biplane.
Most days this little plane can be seen giving people the rare opportunity to ride the open air in a plane and take a unique tour of the Five Cities area. The cost is not outrageous and the ride is unforgettable.
One more unforgettable experience and one for when you want to go indoors are the Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville. Sit and enjoy some dinner while watching a great performance on the stage.
The shows are normally themed around the season of the year and are always enjoyable for all ages.
The Pacific Dunes Riding Center 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.
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.
Oceano Dunes SVRA 928 Pacific Avenue Oceano CA 93445. Ocean Dune State Vehicular Recreation Area has 1,500 acres, featuring beach and sand dune riding.
Thousands of off-highway vehicle enthusiasts enjoy the beach dunes of this SVRA most weekends during the summer.
If you’re not sure your vehicle can make it don’t try it. Rent an ATV or take a guided tour.