Oceano Airport: A Slice of Paradise in the California Central Coast

“OMG,” I gasped!

I could almost feel the strap of my camera tugging precariously, hanging loosely from my neck. Any minute now I am going to hit the crashing waves, I thought.  I could feel the blood rush to my head and could no longer sense, whether we were inverted, or upright. I gripped the edge of my seat with both hands.

Never mind the camera.

We were three thousand feet over the Pacific coast, in an open cockpit Boeing Stearman and if the pilot was telling me anything I was oblivious to it! Once he had started doing the barrel rolls I had stopped attempting to take pictures. I saw the thumbs up in the rear view mirror and responded in kind and we were off again on our aerobatic flight over the coast, a few miles west of Oceano Airport (L52) where Banner Airways Biplane Rides was based. If you think I was crazy so be it! This was my birthday present to myself and I was having a ball!

Oceano airport is a neat little fly-in destination, a slice of paradise,  located on the beautiful California Central Coast. Within walk-in distance to the beach or the Pismo Dunes, it has plenty to offer: ATV rides, horseback riding, golfing, spa, surfing, biplane rides, swimming, wineries or simply walking on the beach. There are many choices for an overnight stay: campground on the field for those wishing to stay close to their aircraft or a host of beach front hotels, motels and vacation rentals within 20 miles from Morro Bay to Arroyo Grande with beach access.

For me the most fun aspect of the beach access is the ability to drive your car or ATV on the beach or better yet ride a horse or simply walk the beach to catch the sunset. The Pacific Dunes Riding Club offers two riding options: dunes or beach riding. The horses are gentle and mature and even the novice rider can venture without fear. For those interested in riding an ATV or 4-wheel drive vehicle BJ’s ATV Rentals offers several options for ATV rentals. For a relaxing weekend of golfing, the Cypress Ridge Golf Club is three miles southeast of Oceano or Avila Beach Golf Resort is nine miles northwest of Oceano.

For a relaxing day at the SPA, the Avila Beach Hot Springs are eight miles north of Oceano.  There is also the Lake Lopez recreation area about eight miles northeast of Oceano. A little known fact, but there are some excellent wineries in San Luis Obispo County such as Edna Valley Vineyard (in San Luis Obispo nine miles north of Oceano), Wild Horse Winery (in Templeton, thirty miles north of Oceano) and best of all my favorite Justin Winery (in Paso Robles, 40 miles north of Oceano).

Like any general aviation airport located on prime real estate, Oceano Airport is fighting its own battle to stay around. If you are looking for something to do this coming weekend consider flying in to Oceano for a fly-in movie night under the stars this coming Saturday (July 10, 2010)  and help support the Friends of Oceano Airport fight this serious threat to Oceano Airport.  From the Friends of Oceano website: Oceano, in addition to perhaps being the closest airport to the Pacific Ocean, is a vital link in emergency services in San Luis Obispo County.  Life-flight, California Highway Patrol, Sheriff Aero Squadron, Civil Air Patrol, Diablo Canyon evacuation, Beach rescues, Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, Angel Flights, and CalStar all make use of Oceano airport. It is also a key training ground for the local flight instructors.

Oceano brings back many fond memories of my own private pilot training days of short field landings and takeoffs. If you are looking for that perfect getaway after cheering your favorite team to victory (or maybe even defeat) in the World Cup Soccer, come visit Oceano airport and help support the cause.

Oceano Airport aerial photograph courtesy Jolie Lucas.

A version of this first appeared on Forbes  Wheels Up blog

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