Category Archives: Coastal Dunes

Driving on the Beach

beach sunset

Driving on the Beach in California

Gone are the days of ‘beach blanket bingo’ where film crews glamorized California – the beautiful people, the nice vehicles, the sport of surfing and the glorious beaches. There are very few places left on the California coast that you can actually drive a vehicle on the sand, right next to the ocean. The military bases, oil corporations and the utility companies have the front row seats to the Pacific genocide, and the rest of the population is restricted with extreme limited access.

Baja California has minimal regulations on coastal access with a car. No pavement, no signs, no cell phone signal, and no help for miles – something to consider if you get stuck south of the border in Mexico. Baja has numerous places to explore below Ensenada, but asking locals is always a favored approach. Pay attention to private property signs and always close the cattle gate (if you found it closed).


Southern California, no beaches allow vehicle traffic. San Diego offers a sliver of sand @ Silver Strand SB, which is a developed campground for motorhomes and car campers, located right on the beach south of Coronado, CA. Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego allows driving on sand and a favorite among active dogs, but not camping is allowed. In Los Angeles you can park a motorhome at a sandy, paved campground for a hefty overnight fee. Dockweiler Beach, right near the Chevron plant and LA sewage treatment facility. Sounds delightful, not.

Ventura & Santa Barbara Coastal Regions have many awesome State Beaches, but none allow vehicles on the sand.

AWD on the sand

Central Coast California:

  • Oceano SVRA – off road sand dunes and open camping on the beach. Day use or overnight camp fee required; near Pismo Beach, CA
  • Red, White and Blue Beach – nude beach w/ campground (now closed); north of Santa Cruz, CA

Northern California:
Lost Coast

  • Usal Beach Campground – redwood creeks and forests meets coast and cliffs. Camp fee for overnight use. Long dirt road access. No RVs!
  • Black Sands Beach (OHV 4×4 trail, now closed to all vehicles) near Shelter Cove, CA

chico couple

after-the-fun maintenance tip:

Salt water and sand is very corrosive to metal – which will rust your truck or car badly. Now that you’ve had fun on the beach, we remind you to clean the underneath of your vehicle ASAP. Spraying powerful hose in your wheel wells and all underneath the vehicle. You might need to lay on the ground and get wet to do this job properly. Some car wash places might be able to do this service for you, but it will cost ya.

Sonoma Beach Camping

Sonoma Coast Campgrounds

Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point
Gerstle Cove @ Salt Point SP

tent camp RV camps

Sonoma Coast State Park  State Park

  • Bodega Dunes Campground
  • Wrights Beach Campground


Salt Point State Park Camping State Park

  • Woodside Campground
  • Gerstle Cove Campground

Fort Ross State Historic Park 
(a Russian fur trading fort from 1812)

  • Reef Campground – 21 camp spots
    No RV hookups. No reservations
    [2018 CLOSED for repairs]


Sonoma County Parks Campgrounds

Private campgrounds @ Sonoma Coast –

Sonoma coastal towns –

Woodside Campground
Woodside Campground @ Salt Point State Park

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Park

Guadalupe Dunes / Rancho Guadalupe Dunes County Park

Gualupe Dunes Park

Beach sand dunes on the Central California coastline, located in between Point Sal and Pismo Beach. Three different wildlife preserves (and one oil refinery) make up this sandy beach strand W of Guadalupe, CA

From the north

  • Oceano Dunes SVRA – also known as Pismo Dunes this is where all the yahoos can get their thrills riding quads and driving on the beach dunes. One of the few spots in ca, where you can drive your vehicle on the beach, right at the tideline.
  • OSO FLACO LAKE – estuary with boardwalk on the California Central Coast, surrounded by sand dunes and farm lands. Birdwatch right from the middle of the lagoon. Bring a picnic too!
  • Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge – the refuge is situated between Oso Flaco Lake & Ranch Guadalupe Dunes. The main office is located along Highway 1, at 1045 Guadalupe Street, Guadalupe, CA
  • Rancho Guadalupe Dunes County Park – just north of Point Sal is this public access beach. Well known for miles of pristine sand dunes. This is a place to truly enjoy nature and solitude. Near to Pismo Dunes, Rancho Guadalupe is a county park in the Santa Barbara County Parks system. This protected wildlife area is north of Lompoc & south of Pismo Beach CA.  The refuge was established to protect breeding habitat for the endangered species.

All this located west of Santa Maria & Nipomo CA. The Santa Maria River meet the Pacific ocean here at this estuary and sand dune area. From Coast Hwy 101, exit Main Street in Santa Maria; follow Hwy 166 west, past the small town of Guadalupe, CA & past the farmlands – straight to the coast.

6999 W Main St
Guadalupe, CA 93434

View Larger Map

Horses & dogs are not allowed in the preserve. Off-road vehicle play area is to the north of Oso Flaco Lake. The fence line is visible from the beach hike and engine noises can be heard from Oso Flaco. Enter the Ocean Dunes SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area), further up Hwy 1 at Oceano CA

more info
Some photos