TRAVEL: Exploring Pismo Beach Dunes with Car & Camera

The Oceano Dunes of Pismo Beach by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Just up the road from the South Bay, about a three hour drive, is the only legal place in the state of California that lets you drive your car on the beach. 

For just $5 entrance fee, you can bring your vehicle, whether that be a jeep, 4×4, SUV, front-wheel drive or even a compact sedan, right onto the sand, and cruise up and down the coast. 

It’s an exhilarating feeling, as long as you planned correctly and checked the tide tables, to make sure the ocean wouldn’t get too close to your tires and wash you away. 

Driving the dunes is fantastic. Even cooler, is going for about a mile or so, then stepping out of the car with your camera and photographing the Dunes. The scene is reminiscent of the Middle East. Long, stretches of sand, that go on for miles and miles. It’s like our Sand Dune Park, just times 100. And no massive hills to climb. 

On the latest edition of #PhotowalksTV, I take you along with me for a drive, and showcase the Dunes. I teamed up with Pismo Beach photographer Amy Joseph from Central Coast Pictures to photograph the Dunes, as she knew all the right spots.

I filmed the episode, as always, with mobile phones, on an iPhone 13 Pro Max and 14 Pro Max, as well as a GoPro Hero 11. All my stills were done on the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Pismo Beach is north of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, and just south of San Luis Obispo, a classic California beach town with some of the longest, most walkable beaches I’ve ever experienced, sea caves, tidepools and beautiful sunsets.

The dunes themselves are about 3 miles down the way in the tiny town of Oceano (on Pismo State Beach.) Enjoy the (driving) while you can, as the California Coastal Commission voted to sunset the driving. However, the issue is tied up currently in a legal battle.

To get to the dunes that you’ll see in the video, drive about a mile from the entrance and walk out to the dunes ‘before’ you get to the off road park area. 

Photo tips: again, start with the tide tables, and plan accordingly. Arrive either in the early morning or around sunset time, when the earth’s position creates luscious shadows that create ridges in the sand.


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