Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, CA

by Gabrielle Antonette

Anna, Chelsea, and I were driving down the coast enjoying some car-aoke, each jumping in at our favorite Jagged Little Pill moments. We had spent the weekend in San Luis Obispo and were on our way home when we realized we didn’t want to let the magic go so quickly. We did some quick passenger seat research about nearby attractions. We discovered a place we had never heard of, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes. I was in charge of navigation, and somehow directed us to a trailer park of a similar name. After a few minutes of overwhelming embarrassment, I had us on our way for real. We made it to our destination and were met with a breathtaking view—redemption! 

The dunes cover a huge area. (It’s the second largest dune system in California!) We went specifically to the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, where there’s beach access and, supposedly, 120 species of animals and plants. This proved to be a perfect way to delay the impending workweek. We spent an hour or two walking through the dunes, letting the ocean waves wash over our feet, and commenting endlessly on the beauty all around us.

The only downside to this section of the dune system is that you’re really not supposed to touch anything except the sand, as you may disturb the ecosystem. Other areas are privately owned and used for camping or romping around in off-road vehicles. Plan ahead for meals, as we didn’t find much in the area. Luckily we had plenty of leftover cake from the Madonna Inn to keep us comfortable until we hit Santa Barbara. Drive times generally look like this: the reserve is about 45 minutes south of San Luis Obispo, an hour and a half northwest of Santa Barbara, and three hours northwest of Los Angeles.

Posted on December 7, 2015 .