Travel

The South’s Best Boardwalks

Ten of our favorite piers and boardwalks to explore this summer

The boardwalks and piers of the South make us nostalgic for shag music and night crabbing, summer days spent fishing along the Gulf and warm nights in a Ferris wheel over the Atlantic. While piers, by definition, stretch out over bodies of water, and boardwalks extend along marsh or sand, the two often go hand in hand. Stroll down memory lane with this collection of the best piers and boardwalks in each Southern state.

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North Carolina: Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, Outer Banks

Hurricane Isabel nearly destroyed this circa-1939 Nags Head pier in 2003, but repairs and renovations transformed the fishing spot into a destination for anglers and travelers alike. Now, the facilities are complete with aquariums, interactive exhibits, and a pier shop. But don’t worry—the fishing remains top-notch.

photo: courtesy of outerbanks.org

Mississippi: Pascagoula Beach Park Pier

This 1,000-foot wooden pier in Pascagoula is an ideal spot for both fishing and birding: Depending on the season, one might see northern gannets, magnificent frigatebirds, or American oystercatchers along the water and nearby jetty. The pier and the adjoining park include a beach, nature trails, and a Hurricane Katrina memorial erected by the city in 2006.

photo: William Lee

South Carolina: Myrtle Beach Boardwalk

The birthplace of Carolina beach music and the capital of South Carolina’s Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach and its boardwalk are iconic. From the SkyWheel to arcades to a plethora of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!–style attractions, Myrtle Beach’s boardwalk has been entertaining tourists since the 1940s, although the current rendition opened in 2010.

photo: courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach

Georgia: St. Simons Island Pier

Where the charming shops and cafes of St. Simons’s Pier Village meet the lighthouse and adjoining community park lies the St. Simons Island Pier, which has been a social hub for crabbers, fishermen, and sightseers since its construction in the late nineteenth century. Take an after-dinner amble past the ever-busy fishermen reeling in trout, redfish, and often the accidental shark, to gaze out across St. Simons Sound toward Jekyll Island.

photo: courtesy of Explore St. Simons Island

Florida: Cocoa Beach Pier

This colorful pier has seen a lot in its nearly six decades of existence: space ship launches from nearby Cape Canaveral, the birth of East Coast surfing and the original Ron Jon Surf Shop, and concerts by the likes of Edgar Winter and the Beach Boys. Now, the pier area is home to four restaurants (and five bars), three shops, an art gallery, an arcade, and volleyball courts on the white sand beside it.

photo: courtesy of Westgate Resorts

Alabama: Gulf State Park Pier in Gulf Shores

More than 1,500 feet long and open all hours of the day and night, Gulf State Park Pier has some of the best saltwater fishing in Alabama. The original wooden pier, which had been built in the 1960s and survived many storms, was finally destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan and then rebuilt into the concrete structure seen today.

 

photo: Billy Pope, Courtesy of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Louisiana: Grand Isle State Park Pier

Off the coast of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Grand Isle State Park sits on a breakwater island between the Gulf and the tributaries of the Mississippi River. It’s the only pier in the state that extends into the Gulf and roughly 280 species of fish can be found in the waters, drawing flocks of fishermen to this peaceful natural haven.

photo: Jody Crochetière, courtesy of Grand Isle State Park

Texas: Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

In the same vein as the Santa Monica Pier in California or Coney Island in New York, Galveston’s pier has long been an entertainment destination. In the 1940s, the pier, then used for recreation by the Navy, transformed into the Galveston Pleasure Pier. After two demolitions-by-hurricane and a stint as a hotel, the site opened again as a world-class amusement park in 2012.

photo: courtesy of Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

Maryland: Ocean City Boardwalk

Constructed in 1902, the Ocean City Boardwalk was originally a wooden walkway that could be rolled up during high tide. A permanent structure was built in 1910, and in the intervening century, hotels, gift shops, and amusement activities have transformed the locale into a tourist destination. At the intersection of the boardwalk and the fishing pier—where no license is required to cast a line into the Atlantic—lies the iconic Jolly Roger at the Pier amusement park.

photo: Bill Price III, courtesy of Fish in OC

Virginia: Virginia Beach Boardwalk and Fishing Pier

Presided over by a twenty-four-foot, twelve-ton bronze statue of King Neptune, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk boasts three miles of recreation space, dotted with stages that host live music performances nightly in the summer. The pier is nearly seventy years old and offers great fishing and even better views.

photo: courtesy of the Neptune Festival

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