Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 8, 2016

On the Pier: Redondo Beach

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.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3044 (640x414)

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.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3048 (640x472)

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 about a handful, including Malibu, HERE, Cayucos, HERE, and the mysterious, never-to-be-explained Cape Zeno Infinite Pier (with tongue in cheek).

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.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3055 (640x480)

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.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3050 (640x466)

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.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3053 (640x480)

That means that in addition to sightseeing, there are silly souvenirs of every variety, cotton candy, ice cream, pizza, and, of course, seafood.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3060 (640x480)

Most venerable (if pier dining merits the term) is Old Tony’s, a fixture on the Pier since 1952.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 3064 (640x480)

Inside? Welcome to, if not the 50s, the 60s at the latest.

Redondo Beach Pier Brad Nixon 8303 (640x480)


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.

King Harbor Brad Nixon 3059 (640x480)

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.

King Harbor Brad Nixon 3061 (640x472)

There’s even an arcade, although it’s showing its age. However, where else do you find an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl?

Tilt a Whirl Brad Nixon 3057 (640x480)

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 me know by leaving a comment.

© Brad Nixon 2016, 2017


  1. Your post about piers got me thinking about beaches. It occurred to me that I’ve been to a lot of them over the years. Then it occurred to me how odd that this should have been the case, as I’m not a beach person. I don’t surf or swim in the ocean. I don’t like to lie on the beach and get a tan. I don’t play beach volley ball, or any of the other beach sports.

    Somehow, I just seem to have to gone to beaches over the years. As I live in Southern California not far from the coast, that may explain some of it. I’ve been up and down the California coast from San Diego to San Francisco for a variety of reasons, and that will add to the total pretty fast. And people I’m with on my travels, or out of town visitors who come to stay with us, like to go there. Before I came to California, I lived on the East Coast, so, again, I ended up going to beaches — in Virginia and Florida.

    Then, there’s overseas travel, particularly France. In 1994, I went to Normandy beaches and memorials for historical and family reasons, rather than for the scenery. In WW II, some 50 years earlier, my dad’s older brother Phil fought there. He survived Normandy, but not the Battle of the Bulge. I’ve been to Nice on the Cote d’Azur twice, and this was for the scenery.

    To compare California beaches and those of the French Riviera, I would say that we have the better beaches. Our beaches have vast stretches of comfortable sand you can walk or lie down on. And they’re usually well maintained and have a pleasant off-white color. But if you decide to put out a towel and lie down on a Nice beach, you will be in for a rather jarring experience: NO sand; just rocks and pebbles. Ouuuueeee! That said, I have never seen such spectacular and striking colors of sparkling blue and green water anywhere else as I saw just off the Promenade des Anglais — every possible variation of those hues was in evidence. Unforgettable.


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