Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex / Courtesy Dunes CenterAfter feasting on Santa Maria Style Barbecue at the Hitching Post, Jocko’s, Far Western Tavern or another local restaurant, you might feel an urge to get outside and burn a few calories, and there’s no better place to do it than the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex.

Indeed, as detailed in this story by Lora Finnegan, a former senior editor at Sunset Magazine and the founder of CaliforniaTravelGirl, the dunes are one of California’s true natural treasures.

She writes: “I’m thrilled to learn that the 18-mile-long Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex, on the Santa Barbara / San Luis Obispo county coastline, is more accessible than ever…Open to visitors, the Dunes Center in Guadalupe, California (in the Santa Maria Valley) has just launched a new web site, new tour map, and enhanced educational exhibits to help visitors get the most out of their experience at the Dunes Complex. That’s good, because though the dunes are easily accessible from Highway 1 in the Santa Maria Valley, this place is so big, you need good intel to get the most out of it.”

Thank you, Lora, for turning the spotlight on this remarkable sanctuary!

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Complex is one of the most ecologically significant and largest intact coastal dune ecosystems on earth. A major portion of the nearly 22,000 acres is under public management and open for recreation. More than 1,400 species of animals call the dunes home.

The three most popular dunes destinations are all easily accessible from the Dunes Center. Visitors wishing to drive straight to the oceanfront can take Main Street west into the heart of the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. Nearby Oso Flaco Lake Road leads to a convenient parking area, from where visitors can take a 30-minute stroll along a boardwalk through the dunes and to the beach. And those feeling even more adventurous can hike across the dunes into the heart of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

So the next time you come to the Santa Maria Valley for a taste of Santa Maria Style Barbecue, you may want to take a little extra time to experience another one of our region’s unique treasures.