Monthly Archives: April 2012


Oceano is a special place. The tiny town of Oceano lies near Pismo Beach in Central California.  However to most people, Oceano means sand dunes.

Oceano #2, Oceano, California © Jim Banks

In the early1900s there were grand plans to develop the area as the “Atlantic City of the Pacific.”  The dunes were subdivided and sold.  A boardwalk, Grand Pavilion, and pier were constructed, all of which have been reclaimed by the shifting sands.  In the 1920s and 30s, the dunes were inhabited by the “Dunites”, a loosely formed group of artists, mystics, and misfits who claimed the dunes as their home.  In the 1960s, the area was discovered by dune buggy enthusiasts, who used it without restriction.  That development, along with the passage of time, moved the remaining Dunites out of the dunes, with the last one leaving in 1974.

The State of California has since stepped in, creating an official State Vehicular Recreation Area along the beach and in part of the dunes.  However, a good portion of the dunes, known by the Dunites as the “High Dunes,” has been preserved.

The dunes were photographed extensively by Edward and Brett Weston. A well-known Ansel Adams photograph was made there, and many other photographers have followed.

In February of this year, I decided I’d like to see Oceano for myself.  The area is still a bit quirky, with beautiful dunes surrounded by farms, RVs, a small airport, housing tracts, and the Off-Road Vehicle Recreation Area.  Wilderness it’s not

However, when you get into the high dunes themselves, it is still a beautiful area.  You can see what attracted so many to Oceano.

Even though so many have already photographed the Oceano dunes, it’s a place I’d like to explore more myself.

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