One of my guiding principles is that “travel” need not take one far to be interesting. If one pays attention and occasionally asks a question, there are sights and stories worth showing and telling just steps away from you.
I can prove it.
Although this blog gets hits from people around the world for my blog posts about travels around the American west, the rest of the U.S., Europe, China and anywhere else I describe, two of my pieces that’ve garnered the most attention are local ones. One, “The Nuke Next Door,” shows an abandoned Cold War-era nuclear missile site just a couple of miles from my house. It still gets a steady stream of clicks several years after I posted it.
I shot all the photos for another post, “The Blue Trees,” within a few blocks of my house. The post gets a lot of traffic, probably from people wondering what those trees are with the startling blue/purple blooms (they’re Jacarandas).
The counselor and I once lived within a few hundred yards of today’s site of local interest. We could see it from the window of our condo, and we still visit it, but I’ve never written about it: Redondo Beach Pier.
Today we live a few miles away, but there’s nothing better on a sunny February Sunday with the temperature in the 70s than to get in a few miles along the Strand with the pier as the turning point for the walk.
By my count there are about 26 extant piers along the California coast (not counting all the piers in commercial harbors of San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.). They were built for a number of purposes, including cargo handling, fishing and recreation. You’re probably most familiar with pictures of Santa Monica Pier, because it has an amusement park, including a ferris wheel. I’ve visited my share of the piers, but only written about one, Malibu, HERE.
Some of the California piers are rather simple structures — decks with railings — that simply stretch out over the water, typically with some sort of building at the end. Redondo Beach (officially “Municipal”) Pier has an unusual pattern. Three arms thrust away from the shore and are joined by a long walk across them on the ocean side.
There’s a lot to see on Redondo’s pier. There are shops, restaurants and fishing; it can be lively at any time, especially on weekends.
You’ll almost certainly see seabirds of some variety, looking for any snacks that might hit the deck, including gulls, maybe an egret or heron, and the mainstay of our coast, the California Brown Pelican.
That means that in addition to sightseeing, there are silly souvenirs of every variety, cotton candy, ice cream, pizza, and, of course, seafood.
Most venerable (if pier dining merits the term) is Old Tony’s, a fixture on the Pier since 1952.
Inside? Welcome to, if not the 50s, the 60s at the latest.
At the north end of the pier is Seaport Village, once an ambitious development of shops and restaurants tucked around part of Redondo’s King Harbor. Today, it’s still an active place, although it’s waiting for one of a succession of revitalization plans to succeed.
There are whale watching tour boats, glass bottom boats, fishing boats, and a variety of restaurants, not too upscale, centered either around drinking beer or eating fresh seafood, or both.
There’s even an arcade, although it’s showing its age. However, where else do you find an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl?
The pier has a history dating to a series of docks and wharves that grew like Topsy during the 19th Century, then were steadily interconnected. When I first moved to California in the early 90s, the pier was closed due to heavy storm damage and a subsequent fire that gutted it. It reopened in 1995 after extensive reegineering. It’s not a day-long destination, but if you’re in the beach cities of the South Bay of L.A., worth a look.
Have a favorite pier somewhere in the world? Let us know by leaving a comment.
© Brad Nixon 2016