Orange County, California has five piers. All five were originally built in the early 1900s and have undergone major renovations and rebuilds. A walk on the pier is a popular pastime for many Orange County residents and visitors from all over the world may recognize some of these iconic structures, especially Huntington Beach Pier with the red-roofed restaurant at the end that was once Ruby’s Diner. Here’s everything you need to know about the piers of Orange County.
Balboa Pier is in Newport Beach on the Balboa Peninsula. The original 920-foot long pier was built in 1906 as part of the Balboa Pavilion project and coincided with the opening of the southern terminus of the Pacific Electric Railway’s Red Car Line which traveled to and from Long Beach.
On December 7, 1982, the popular chain Ruby’s Diner opened their first location at the end of the Balboa Pier. It is still open today serving hamburgers, milk shakes, and other popular diner fare with a view.
Balboa Pier is popular for fishing, and mackerel and flounder are a common catch here.
Portions of the pier have been rebuilt due to damage both from time and storms, including 1998’s El Nino.
The Balboa Pier is open from 5AM to Midnight. Free parking can be found in the lot at the Palm Street Entrance, and Peninsula Park offers plenty of greenspace just south of the pier to enjoy a day at the beach without all the sand. You can also access the paved Newport-Balboa Bike Trail here. You can use this path to connect to the Newport Beach pier, just shy of two miles north.
Huntington Beach Pier
Standing at 30 feet above sea level and coming in at 1,850 feet long, the Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest and most recognizable piers on the West Coast. Located at the intersection of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, this landmark is the center of many events and a popular destination for tourists staying at the beachfront resorts.
The original structure was built in 1902, but has been modified and rebuilt a number of times. Once in 1911, again in 1933 and 1939. The pier was declared unsafe and closed to the public after storms severely damaged the structure in 1988. New construction of the 1,850-foot-long pier began in 1990 and was completed in 1992.
Interesting fact, during WW2, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the pier was closed to the public and the US Navy installed a submarine lookout and heavy caliber machine gun for coastal defense. The military equipment was removed after the war and the pier was reopened to the public.
The pier is open daily from 5AM to Midnight and it is a popular spot for fishing, watching the surfers, and strolling. The pier is the epicenter for a number of annual events including the US Open of Surfing and the Pacific Airshow.
Paid parking is available along Main Street and PCH and in the surrounding City parking lots.
Newport Beach Pier
Newport Beach Pier is one of two piers in the city of Newport Beach. Coming in at 1,032 feet long, the structure we see today replaced the original McFadden Wharf. McFadden Wharf was built in 1888 and served as a site to offload lumber, hides, and merchandise. The Wharf was destroyed by a hurricane in 1939.
The current structure was built on the site of the original wharf in 1940 at Oceanfront Boulevard and 21st Place. It is a popular spot for fishing, dining, and of course taking a stroll. Those looking for more of a walk, or a ride, can use the paved Newport-Balboa Bike Trail to connect to Newport’s second pier, Balboa, just under two miles south.
Next to the pier is the Dory Fishing Fleet, founded in 1891. Here you can pick up the fresh catch of the day from local fishermen. The Dory is the last beachside cooperative of its kind in the United States.
Newport Beach Pier is Open from 5AM to Midnight and there is plenty of paid parking available in the surrounding lots.
San Clemente Pier
San Clemente’s 1,200-foot-long pier was originally built in 1928, and like most piers, has been rebuilt several times due to storm damage. Located at the end of Avenida Del Mar, the pier was part of the original village created by the city’s founder Ole Hanson. Those who would like to know more about the city can pay a visit to Casa Romantica, located on the bluff overlooking the pier at 415 Avenida Granada.
The pier is open daily from 4AM to midnight, and is a popular spot for fishing, strolling, and watching surfers. Remember that anyone 16 and over will need a valid fishing license.
Running perpendicular to the pier is the railroad tracks, and the paved San Clemente Beach Trail. This 2.6-mile trail is popular for a beachside stroll or bike ride.
There are several parking lots available to access the beach and the pier, and plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy while you’re visiting.
Seal Beach Pier
Located at Main Street and Ocean Avenue in Seal Beach, the wooden pier is over 1,800 feet long. Originally built in the early 1900s, this pier also has undergone several rebuilds. Most recently, a 2016 fire at the end of the pier destroyed the former Ruby’s Diner. The end of the pier was closed for three years following the event.
Seal Beach was originally known as Bay City, and the first pier here was built in 1904. A second version was erected in 1906. In 1936 the structure was demolished and a new pier opened in 1939. Storms and fire again damaged the pier in 1983 and a renewed version opened in 1985. There have been several other events over the years requiring the pier to undergo renovations.
This is a popular spot for strolling, fishing, and taking in the view. Downtown Seal Beach is a unique spot in Orange County. This small beachside community still retains a hint of small town charm. There are plenty of shops to explore, and there are a variety of dining options along this stretch of Main Street.
On the side of the pier is a small playground in the sand for kids to enjoy, and there is a park at the beginning of the pier where they host fun community events throughout the year including free summer concerts and movies in the park.
The Seal Beach Pier is open from 6AM to 10PM. There is plenty of paid parking available in nearby lots and along Main Street and Ocean.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.