LA tourist Attractions

From the 405 freeway, follow Manhattan Beach Blvd. west and it will terminate at the Manhattan Beach Pier.  The pier is considerably shorter than other piers in Southern California, but it is still extremely popular with tourists, locals, surfers, artists, fishermen and sun lovers.  It is the oldest standing concrete pier on the west coast.

On of the first things you are likely to notice on the beach surrounding the pier are all of the volleyball nets.  Manhattan Beach is big on volleyball.  So much so that  the pier features plaques as part of the “Volleyball Walk of Fame,” featuring past winners of the Manhattan Beach Open beach volleyball tournament.  The beach is also a hotspot for surfers.

Manhattan Beach
Waves crashing under the Manhattan Beach Pier.

The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium is located at the end of the pier, and is free to the public. The Aquarium includes a shark tank, tide pool touch tank with animals common to Southern California, tanks with lobsters, and baby sharks as well as brightly colored, non-native fish and invertebrates. The aquarium is open Saturdays & Sundays 10 a.m. to sunset and Monday through Friday 3 p.m. to sunset. As of April 2018 it is temporarily closed off while renovations are being done, but it should re-open soon.

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The town of Manhattan Beach is one of the most desirable areas in Southern California  Restaurants and shops line Manhattan Beach Blvd and Manhattan Ave near the pier when you want a bite to eat.  Parking is available in smaller lots on either side of the pier right off the beach and in larger lots just up on ocean drive for about $1.50 per hour.

History of Manhattan Beach Pier

As is typical with Southern California’s beach towns, a pier is one of the first features built when the Manhattan Beach community was developed.  There were actually two of them built in 1900.  One at Center Street (now Manhattan Beach Blvd) and one at Marine Avenue called Peck’s Pier and Pavilion.

The Center Street Pier, as it was then known, was 900 feet long and pylons were made by fastening three railroad rails together and driving them into the ocean floor. It supported a narrow wooden deck and was destroyed by a major storm in 1913.  The pier was not rebuilt until 1920.  The new version built was a concrete pier with a rounded end to make it withstand storms better. The Octagonal house that now holds the aquarium a was completed in 1922.

The pier played a significant role in the history of surfing. It was a popular spot for Southern California surfers in the forties, the early days of modern surfing. Dale Velzy, the first commercial surfboard shaper, started his business building and repairing boards under the pier before renting a nearby storefront in 1949, starting what is considered the first surf shop.

The Manhattan Beach Pier has withstood the stresses of weather and time better than other piers along the California coastline, such as the Venice Pier, but by the eighties the pier was in such disrepair that a piece of falling concrete injured a jogger under the pier.  Restoration took place in the early nineties with a focus on retention of the old time appearance.

In 1995, the pier was declared a state historic landmark. It’s the oldest standing concrete pier on the West Coast. It has been featured in at least three major motion pictures and television series.  Keanu Reeves buys a surfboard from a shop on the pier in the 1991 movie, Point Break.  In Starsky and Hutch, Ben Stiller is seen stretching under the pier and Mel Gibson’s character lives in a house near the pier in the 1988 movie, Tequila Sunrise.

Manhattan beach
The shoreline seen from Manhattan Beach Pier

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