Rancho Guadalupe Dunes off of Hwy 166 (West Main Street) in Guadalupe is a dunes preserve with an ocean view. To get there you take Hwy 166 towards the ocean until you can't go any further. Take the narrow paved road through the dunes to a small parking lot. "You have reached your destination". Guadalupe is just a short drive from Santa Maria, so it made for a good "spur of the moment" trip for me. Here on the Central California Coast, we have a protected species of birds called the snowy plover. These birds nest in the dunes, so from March 1st to October 1st there's limited accessibility to the dunes itself. They have the dunes roped off so you won't trample the nesting sites, also if you spook a Snowy Plover while they're on the nest they may not return to the nest. They are a very nervous and jittery bird. So the only real access to the park was the beach. I knew about the protected plover but I didn't know about this park be affected by it, so I figured this all out when I got there, but I decided to walk down the coast to see what I could see. Well guess what? There were many of snowy plover down at the water's edge trying to find some food. They would all run with the waves crashing to shore, then when the waves receded, they would run towards the ocean looking for food that the waves might have washed up. It was entertaining to say the least. It looked like some sort of dance these birds were doing. The plovers more or less ignored me so I did end up getting a few shot with them running around.
So the dunes were roped off to protect these birds but all these birds were playing around in the waves not 5 feet away from me. It's like they were taunting me. Never the less, the sun started to set and the clouds / marine layer started to move in so that did add some drama to my sunset pictures. Being it was a high contrast scene the post picture photo is HDR. I normally carry my Lee Neutral Density Graduated filter but left it in the car on this day, so HDR was a good option.
All in all it was an entertaining trip, but I may have to go back again to actually be able to navigate the dunes itself. This is a day use park, so at sunset you will see a park ranger in the parking lot asking people to leave. So if you do stay out way past sunset you may find a citation waiting on your windshield when you get back.
If you are a local it's a good place to visit, but I wouldn't plan a trip around it.
It was a nice quick stop with a pretty sunset.