Piers in California

California Piers shown in the Beach California Photo Gallery include pictures of over 20 piers in California. The history of the California piers begins around the time of the California Gold Rush when commerce was in full swing and ports were needed to transport goods to a growing populace. As the railroad system was developed, California piers either fell into disrepair or became pleasure piers with amusement rides, fun zones and entertainment during the turn of the 20th century. The Great Depression and several world wars the United States was engaged in throughout the early to mid-1900's again caused some piers to fall into disrepair. Interestingly, several piers were taken over by the military and became watch points for enemy attack. But as the nation moved forward, piers again became the pleasurable places where anyone can fish for free without a license, where tourists and locals long to stroll at vantage points above the ocean and where entertainment venues such as restaurants eagerly seek rental space.



Top Five Pleasure Piers for Fun, Food and Entertainment in California


More California Piers & Wharfs : Belmont Shore Pier ; Capitola Wharf ; Cayucos Pier ; Hermosa Beach Pier Imperial Beach Pier ; La Jolla ; Malibu Pier; Oceanside Pier ; Pismo Beach Pier ; San Simeon Pier ; Point Arena Pier ; Venice Pier

Video & Slides: San Clemente Pier Video ; Huntington Beach Pier Slide Show



Ranking the California Piers

Largest commercial public pier venture: Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco is a series of piers open to the public with museums, rides and restaurants

Best attraction: Santa Monica Pier's Pacific Park, its kiosks, shops and restaurants offer an afternoon of fun on a pier that extends into the water.


Most unique: Ocean Beach Pier in San Diego's Ocean Beach neighborhood has a unique T shape. Redondo Beach Pier has a horseshoe shape, but the craziest place is the Seacliff Pier with the Cement Ship at the end.


Best fishing pier: Harford Pier in Avila Beach is one the most authentic fishing piers open to the public in a Pacific Ocean setting.


Best dining: Tie: San Clemente Pier is our top choice for dining experience, while Santa Cruz Wharf offers some outstanding cuisine. San Clemente - Side by side restaurants with north or south and west facing ocean views at Fishermans Restaurant & Bar offer open outdoor seating in addition to indoor dining. An extensive wine selection and generous portions, plus the warm Southern California afternoons with gentle ocean breezes make this a favorite for outdoor pier dining. On Santa Cruz Wharf, you'll find an entire entertainment complex. When you go to the beach in Santa Cruz, you can enjoy authentic fish restaurants that have been in business for decades. More than just dining, Santa Cruz offers the family-friendly vibe but is also great for dates and casual socializing. As you head for your restaurant meal on the pier, you can see sea lions and hear them barking in the water below.


Most beloved: Belmont Pier, though it fell into disrepair, was built as a way for Long Beach to annex Belmont Shore, which is now a neighborhood of Long Beach. The town wanted a pier so desperately that when Long Beach promised them one, they agreed to annexation.


Best place for a date: Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.  Though we like Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, the car traffic is a bit noisy. So we prefer Balboa Pier in Newport Beach with the Ruby's Diner on the end as a great, late night stroll and moonlit cuddle.


Best Cocktails: Ventura Pier has a great vibe. The restaurant and bar is filled with folks who have a "take it easy" attitude. Grab an afternoon cocktail (the rum drinks are a specialty) and watch the sun go down over the Channel Islands.



Today, there are several piers or wharfs that offer amusement rides such as Santa Cruz BoardWalk and Santa Monica Pier. Some piers allow car traffic such as Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica Pier and Harford Pier in San Luis Bay. Some are covered with wooden planks and some are cement reinforced state-of-the-art structures to withstand great waves.


In Newport Beach and San Diego there are two piers. La Jolla in San Diego has two piers as well, though one is private. Avila Beach features three piers with one being privately-owned. Like California beaches (except for Catalina Island's Descanso Beach), public piers are free to enter. Most have hours that they are closed, usually 10 p.m., midnight or 2 a.m. until around 5 a.m. opening. Currently some piers are launch points for boat excursions, fishing trips and rental boats. Many piers do not provide such services, however.


As California grew during a 50 year period from 1850 to 1900, a new, popular form of entertainment was invented in California to entice tourists and settlers to the far reaches of the California beaches. Pleasure piers were created in grand style, complete with amusements, roller coasters and were often connected to additional entertainment popular during the prohibition—rum runner gambling ships off shore.


From San Diego's Belmont Park with The Plunge Pool (still in operation) at the beach to Seal Beach's Scintillator Thrill Ride, Long Beach Pike (re-created recently minus the rides), Santa Monica Pier amusements (refurbished and operating today), the Cement Ship (now in ruins) near Santa Cruz and the most glorious Santa Cruz Board Walk, the finest example of California beach entertainment that's still operating successfully, California pier amusements brought the people to the coast and got them to do what was hoped. They bought land, settled and now make up the largest population of California residents as coastal dwellers.


Pier 39 at San Francisco has long remained an entertainment complex as well. It includes ports for boat tours, restaurants, shops and some museums.  Pier 39 reflects the modern-day approach to pier development. Thrill rides are not prevalent.


The piers tend to provide a few shops, restaurants and what came into being as the Pier Fishing regulation. In the early 1900s, it was determined that while so many regulations were required to fish on the California coast, one exemption was created and remains in place—pier fishing. Unfortunately the fish caught at many of California's piers near cities are not recommended for consumption or not recommended for pregnant women or for eating in small quantities. The one free source of food is not generally a reliable food stuff for those who fish at California piers. California pier fishing is mainly a sport.

photo of beach

Redondo Beach Pier

Ventura Pier

Green Pier Catalina

Santa Cruz Wharf

Crystal Pier San Diego


Cement Ship Pier

San Clemente Pier

Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara

Balboa Piera

Harford Pier Avila Beach


Newport Beach Pier

Santa Monica Pier

Venice Pier

Huntington Beach Pier

Ocean Beach Pier


Seal Beach Pier

Goleta Pier

Malibu Pier

Paradise Cove

Monterey Wharf


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