The Volunteer Program at the Dunes Center is crucial to its ability to fulfill its mission. There are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, tailored to people of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds.
Discover a tucked-away Central Coast treasure: The Great American Melodrama is live professional theater at its very best, presenting shows all year long, each followed by a vaudeville revue.
Entertainment ranges from dramatic to uproarious, sentimental to contemporary. The most popular shows include those staged during Halloween (e.g. “Scary Poppins”) and the Holiday Extravaganza with a staging of A Christmas Carol, a signature “fractured fairytale opera,” and of course a holiday vaudeville revue.
The theater includes an upright piano (many shows are accompanied by live music), an old-timey proscenium stage, velvet curtains, cozy round tables and chairs and bench seating along the walls.
Don’t forget the food! Concessions at the Melodrama include simple showtime fare like chili dogs, pretzels, popcorn, beer and soft drinks.
Start your engines: The rolling Oceano Dunes SVRA is one of only a handful of beaches legal to drive on in California. The area is popular with truck and dune buggy enthusiasts, as well as those looking to beat the heat, so reservations are recommended (particularly on holidays).
Campsites are available year-round on the beach and in the open dune area, and include bathroom facilities. Other activities include swimming, surfing, surf fishing, and hiking the dunes to gain spectacular views of the dramatic coastline.
The famous Pismo Clam can be found here, too. Clammers must have a valid fishing license and rigid measuring tool (clams must measure at least 4 1/2” to be harvested), and the bag limit is 10 Pismo clams.
Even without the appropriate vehicle, visitors can still enjoy thrill rides on the Oceano Dunes with touring companies like Pacific Adventure Tours who do all the driving in their fleet of real USMC Humvees.
This charming museum was once the historic Oceano Train Depot, credited with playing an integral role in developing South San Luis Obispo County from 1904 to the 1950s. Retired in 1973, the depot was saved from demolition by volunteers who later revived it as a museum and community center.
Among its collection, the depot includes a Southern Pacific Boxcar and a 1907 wooden caboose first place in service on the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railway.
Photographs, vintage signs and flyers, railroad tools and maps fill the museum, along with remembrances of Oceano’s fallen in World War II, a description of the Oceano School, and other local history. It also houses found objects and a cabin from Oceano’s intriguing Dunite community, a bohemian band of artists, mystics and spiritual outliers that once populated a section of the dunes. Visitors to the community included John Steinbeck, Ansel Adams, Upton Sinclair and composer John Cage.
Pacific Dunes Riding Stables
Ride horseback on the beach.
For those who have always wanted to stay, play and gallop on the beach, Pacific Dunes Riding Stables makes riding horseback a fun and safe bucket-list experience.
The ranch offers one-hour trail rides on the beach and dunes with their own horses and gear, led by an experienced guide.
Overnight boarding is also available for those bringing their own horse, as well as an arena and round pen. Pacific Dunes Riding Stables includes full hookup RV sites for long-term stays, as well as a clubhouse, game room and meeting room.
Why not make a day of it? The Ranch boasts a large barbecue area and picnic tables with magnificent sunset views.
Play a round in three of the country’s finest golf courses, all in one destination.
Hit the links! Each of Nipomo’s three golf resorts boasts world-class courses and amenities.
A high-end golf resort with a laid-back vibe, Blacklake Golf Resort offers 27 holes in three nine-hole layouts for a unique golfing experience that challenges even the best golfer’s game.
Monarch Dunes Golf Club includes a traditional 18-hole course as well as a challenge course comprised of 12 three-par holes.
At Cypress Ridge, enjoy an award-winning championship course (also a Peter Jacobsen Signature Course) voted one of Golf Digest’s “Best Places To Play” (and one of the Central Coast’s most sought-after wedding venues).
All three resorts offer private instruction, while Blacklake and Monarch Dunes each also offer dining options.
A marvel of the natural world, this butterfly sanctuary is home to upwards of 28,000 magnificent Monarch butterflies which hang in massive clusters from the eucalyptus and pine trees in the grove between late October and February,
The Butterfly Grove is free and open to the public during Monarch season, from 10AM to 4PM, and docents provide free educational talks on the Monarch life cycle, patterns, and migration at 11AM and 1PM. The sanctuary also makes interpretive displays and telescopes available to see the Monarchs up close and personal.
To see the Monarchs in action during mating season, visit the grove on (appropriately) Valentine’s Day, which usually falls at the peak of their activity.
Walk beside a rolling creek, a serene lake, and ends at the magnificent Pacific Ocean―all along one scenic trail at San Luis Obispo County’s southernmost end.
Oso Flaco Lake Natural Area is included in the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, a California State Park that permits access from sunrise to sunset year-round. Locals enjoy walking the trail out to the beach for some of the best views of San Luis Bay―and some of the best surf fishing―in all of San Luis Obispo County.
The boardwalk trail passes by an array of native plants, including arroyo willows, wax myrtles, silver dune lupine, deer weed coyote bush, and dunes paintbrush―plus plenty of hanging Spanish moss. Wildlife along the trail can include reptiles, mammals and birds like the charming little snowy plover.
There’s steak and then there’s steak. Eat at Jocko’s and you’ll never confuse the two again.
This historic restaurant started as a saloon in 1886 and has evolved to become a landmark eatery for its authentic Santa Maria-style barbecue over red oak coals from a time when Spanish vaqueros operated ranches across the Central Coast.
Good to know: Jocko’s doesn’t skimp on size or flavor. Be prepared to receive a massive plate of food that includes potatoes, salad, garlic bread, and famous Jocko’s beans, plus a relish tray to start and ice cream and coffee to finish.
The words “Come in an’ monkey around” painted on the exterior of Jocko’s historic dining room refers to the restaurant’s pioneering owner, Jocko Knotts, whose nickname describes a kind of monkey.
Even with a reservation, diners are often asked to wait for a table as Jocko’s is a popular eatery. In such case, head to the dimly lit bar where gossip, shop talk and jokes have been shared for over a century.
Get in touch with Nipomo’s roots at the historic Dana Adobe.
A historic, preserved home with an equally-preserved view, the Dana Adobe was the home of Nipomo’s founder, Captain William Dana.
The home was built on Rancho Nipomo, a 38,000-acre Mexican land grant gifted to Captain Dana by the State of California in 1837. Today, it looks much the same as it did in the 19th century, with a long primary structure and low veranda that looks out over pastures and Nipomo’s rolling hills.
The venue is a popular spot for concerts, weddings, art exhibitions and cultural talks and lectures, as well as kid-friendly activities that highlight Nipomo’s history.
Think luffas come from drugstores? Wrong! They come from plants, and Nipomo’s Luffa Farm welcomes visitors to see how it’s done.
A vine-growing relative of the cucumber, luffas are a fluffy gourd prized as natural sponges.
The Luffa Farm is one of the only of its kind in the U.S. and grows an heirloom variety of luffa.
Free from any chemical treatment, unlike commercially sold luffas, the Luffa Farm’s product is soft and luxurious, perfect for a bath with along with one of their natural bath bombs, bath salts, and bath teas, handmade natural glycerin soaps and lotions, available for purchase on the farm.
Take one of The Luffa Farm’s popular 30-minute educational tours, free and open for drop-ins, open Wednesday through Sunday, year-round.