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Sitting just south of Pismo Beach and just north of Santa Maria, is one of California's only beaches that are open for vehicular use. Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area stretches for more than five miles and is also backed by rolling dunes that just so happen to be open to vehicles as well. The best bit about this western gem is that it's not just four-wheeled drive vehicles that can enjoy a bit of off-terrain driving. On a typical day, your 2WD RV rental should have no problem tackling the northern areas of the beach, home to packed sand, and stable ground. If you want to experience your own little adventure and head a bit further afield, you'll need a 4WD rental RV. This will put you in an excellent position to access the remote camping area too!
Off-roading isn't the only activity to be enjoyed when you book an RV in San Luis Obispo County. Fishing, surfing, hiking, and even horseback riding are all fantastic ways to spend your time on this small part of The Sunshine State's magnificent coast. So, what are you waiting for, start planning your adventure today!
No Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area camping trip would be complete without a drive along the beach. Which parts of the beach you can access depends entirely on the type of vehicle that you're traveling in. Passenger cars are restricted to the northern section of the beach, whereas four-wheel drives and OHV's have the freedom to explore a little further south. Anyone motorhome camping with their own OHV in tow will need to head about a mile down the beach to Post 2, where OHV's are allowed to be unloaded and used. Just remember to look out for signposts while out adventuring, as private land and vulnerable habitats are off-limits for everyone.
Camping near Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area presents a fantastic opportunity for keen anglers to try their hand at a new type of fishing – surf fishing. For those who have never done this before, this is simply casting your line into the beach's calm surf. This can be done from the sand, or, if you bring your waders, from a little deeper into the water. Perch is the main species up for grabs in the area, with sandworms proving to be one of the best types of bait to lure them in. Just be aware that vehicles will still be coming along the beach, so make sure you and your rod are visible to them.
Hikers camping with an RV nearby will be glad to know that there is a portion of the dunes that are prohibited to vehicles and make for a great day exploring on foot. Known as the Ocean Dunes Preserve or Nipomo Dunes, walkers can wander for more than 18 miles, with little to interrupt them apart from the odd tuft of dune grass, magenta sand verbena during spring or even a daisy or two in the summer.
As you're traveling in a 4WD RV camping at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is possible, but only in the open dune area, just south of Post 2. Amenities here are basic, with vault toilets, water tanks, and nearby dump station. Open all year round; reservations must be made 48 hours in advance and come highly recommended if you're visiting at the weekend or during the holidays. Sometimes, high tides, unpredictable rainfall, and flooding of the nearby creeks can affect the campground's accessibility. So, it's always worth having a backup campsite.
Having a Plan B is easy as there are more than enough fully-equipped campsites within a 20-minute drive of the Oceano Dunes. The Pismo Beach Holiday RV Park is one of the closest to the dunes and provides everything campers would need for a comfortable stay. Visitors have the choice of more than 200 pitches, many of which have electric, water and sewage hook-ups. Additional facilities include a communal swimming pool, free WiFi, modern restrooms, coin-operated laundry services, and even a hot tub!
The small but charming town of Santa Maria is worth popping into when you have an RV rental near Ocean Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Just a thirty-minute drive away, Santa Maria is perfect for a quick bite out or an afternoon of cultural enrichment.
The Santa Maria Valley Children's Museum is an excellent choice for anyone traveling with little ones. Home to a plethora of interactive exhibits, children of all ages will love discovering the Creation Station, Brain Builders, or Discovery Reading Corner. As well as the permanent displays, the museum offers a series of educational sessions that run six days of the week and aim to get the whole family involved in learning!
Aviation buffs might want to consider visiting the Santa Maria Museum of Flight. Open in 1983; this one-of-its-kind museum has been dedicated to preserving the local aviation history for more than thirty years. The museum itself comprises of several hangars, filled with different historic aircraft replicas and originals, surrounded by photographs, informative displays, and short documentary films to provide context into the industry.
For a broader glimpse into the area's history, don't miss the chance to visit Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. Though it's just a small museum, it successfully conveys the town's fascinating past, from when the Chumash Indians settled to the Pioneer Period. Entry is free, but operating hours are limited, so don't forget to check out opening times on their website before you visit.