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Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve

Santa Maria Valley + Santa Lucia/La Panza Mountains, California

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Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve

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  • You can expect an open beach during weekdays in the off season.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Views from Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Views from Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Many species of birds live at the preserve. - Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Great white pelicans.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • These sand dunes are incredible! Some areas are blocked off for snowy plover breeding season between March 1 through October 1, but you can still get to some great spots.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Many fisherman setup in the mornings to catch surf-perch using sand crabs right off the beach! - Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Need some fun, but hard, exercise? Hit up the beach!- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Humpback whale migration! This little guy was spotted in late September.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • Snowy plovers at Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.- Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
  • This little inlet provides a perfect sandbar for thousands of birds. - Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Beautiful open beach. Fishing. Bird watching. Free entry.
Cons: 
Windy. Chilly. No shelter.
Region:
Santa Maria Valley + Santa Lucia/La Panza Mountains, CA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Preferable Season(s):
Summer
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is located in the Santa Maria Valley along the Pacific Coast just 6 miles west of Guadulpe, California. The park is known for its pristine sand dunes, and it is a part of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes system, the largest south of San Francisco. Between 1969 and 1988 the preserve expanded from 26 acres to over 500 acres through the State Coastal Conservancy grant. It's the perfect place for fishing, birdwatching, and picnicking.

Although the soft sandy beaches are an attraction, the highlight of the preserve is its wildlife. Unlike many beaches in the area, you can spot hundreds of birds in a variety of species such as great white pelicans, brown pelicans, turkey vultures, seagulls, egrets, herons, and the protected California least tern and western snowy plover. Between March 1 and October 1 some areas of the beach are restricted to protect California least tern and snowy plover nesting areas. The nests are very fragile and quite exposed, so park rangers are out during breeding season to help protect these delicate habitats. The sanctuary also helps other threatened species in the area such as the Calfornia tiger salamander, the California red-legged frog, the Morro blue butterfly, and the Morro shoulderband dune snail.

Don't let that stop you though! There are plenty of accessible areas, including the whole coastline along the shore; wet sand travel helps provide a wider berth for the nesting habitat of the threatened species. Closer to the ocean you can find flocks of snowy plovers digging for sand crabs as the tides go out, pelicans diving into the thrashing waves for a quick snack, sea lions surfing alongside them, or even humpback whales breaching for mouthfuls of anchovies. 

One of the neatest features about the beach is its ADA accessibility thanks to the California Coastal Commission's Whale Tail Grants Program. If you make arrangements with the Guadalupe Dunes Preserve by calling 805.729,8461, you can get a beach-cruising wheelchair upon request. There are also restrooms and an unsheltered picnic table in the parking lot as well.

Right out of the parking lot is a perfect sandy beach. Whether you're looking for a nice family picnic or some beach jogging in the morning, you'll have immediate, easy access! About 2.5 miles south down the beach is Mussel Point. Heading north you can reach some incredible bird watching areas along the Santa Maria River just within a mile's walk. Just over 20 minutes outside of Santa Maria, the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is a must-see destination for locals and travellers alike!

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(3 within a 30 mile radius)

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Published in collaboration with Santa Maria Valley

In Santa Maria Valley, we have a style all our own. Just like our signature barbecue, the recipe for our way of life requires simplicity, character, soul and a touch of spice. Here you'll find sand dunes, mountain biking, cycling, 13 beaches, 24 hiking trails, 34 tasting rooms and a growing selection of local breweries all within a beautiful 30-minute drive. Santa Maria Valley is the perfect home base for experiencing California's Central Coast. Get out here and explore it all, #SantaMariaStyle. Learn more and start planning your trip here!

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