We’re sure you’ve played in, on and around the water, but have you ever played over the water? So many of these piers have fun activities you can do above the ocean. Restaurants at the end of the pier make for a fun place to eat, while fishing, catching sunsets and even sleeping over the ocean make for some unique must-do San Diego experiences. Read on to find out which piers have the fun!

Oceanside Pier

Walk down this iconic pier that’s been around since 1888! At the end of all 1,942 feet of it, you’ll find a restaurant to grab a bite to eat* while watching the surfers catch some waves below. As you walk back, you can either peek into the buckets to see what the fishermen have caught or stop by the bait shop halfway down to rent a rod and some fishing gear. Fishing permits are not required so try your luck and drop a line of your own. 

(*Longstanding Ruby’s restaurant used to be at the end of this pier but recently closed Feb. 2021. Another restaurant is signed on to take over the space later this year.)

Oceanside Pier
10 Oceanside Pier, Oceanside
800-350-7873
Online: visitoceanside.org

Crystal Pier

Let the ocean waves lull you to sleep as you lay in a bed on this pier. The Crystal Pier Hotel has 28 cottages on the pier, but plan ahead because they’re usually booked about a year out. Fishing, watching surfers and sunset views are abundant on this pier. When you get back on land, you’ll have plenty of walkable restaurants to choose from.

Crystal Pier
4500 Ocean Blvd., Pacific Beach
800-748-5894
Online: crystalpier.com

Ocean Beach Pier

Stroll down the longest concrete pier on the West Coast at 1,971 feet. You’ll be rewarded with some tasty food at the end when you reach the Ocean Beach Pier Café. Originally built for fishermen, it has become a popular tourist and locals spot to hang out. When the tide is out, go under the pier to find some fun tide pooling creatures.

Ocean Beach Pier
1850 Ocean Front St., Ocean Beach
Online: californiabeaches.com

Imperial Beach Pier

Catch more than just fish off this pier. The sunsets from this “most southwesterly point in the continental United States” are spectacular! Grab some fish & chips for dinner from Tin Fish at the end of the pier before you head back to land. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, stop in at Cow-A-Bunga Ice Cream and then walk a half-mile north to Dunes Park where you’ll find a fun playground for the kiddos.

Imperial Beach Pier
940 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach
Online: imperialbeachca.gov

Shelter Island Fisherman’s Pier

As the name implies, people come here to fish! It’s the first fishing pier as the ocean water comes into the big bay, bringing with it an abundance of fresh fish. Visit Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle on the pier for fishing gear, fish food and people food; including 6 kinds of hot dogs, sausages, sandwiches, burgers, beer and weekend brunch.

Shelter Island Fisherman’s Pier
1776 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego
619-686-6200
Online: portofsandiego.org

Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Wake up early on Saturday morning to get here when the fishing boats arrive with their fresh catch. You can’t get any fresher fish than this! This open-air seafood market sells fresh whole tunas, crab, urchins, lobster, prawns and more every Saturday from 8 am-1 pm. There’s a guy that will even filet your fish for just $5. Some food vendors have freshly prepared seafood to buy and eat, so go hungry.

Tuna Harbor Dockside Market
598 Harbor Ln.
619-957-7121
Online: thdocksidemarket.com

Portside Pier

While not technically a long oceanfront pier, this new restaurant pier just opened in July 2020 and has become a hot spot for kids and date nights. There are four restaurants here serving up fresh seafood, craft beer, Mexican and a kid’s and mom’s favorite at Portside Coffee & Gelato. Anyone can walk up to the second-floor public viewing deck with tables, benches and the best views of the San Diego Bay.

Portside Pier
1360 N Harbor Dr., Embarcadero
619-719-4960
Online: portofsandiego.org

Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier

Famous for its under-the-pier photo shoots, most people don’t know that you can actually walk on top of this private Scripps-owned research pier. Before 2020, they offered exclusive Full Moon Pier Tours where you can help with research projects like collecting plankton, learn about bioluminescent organisms and explore the research labs. Kids must be 9 years old to participate. While they don’t currently offer these tours, put this on your list for the future to check back on. They're worth it!

Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier
8650 Kennel Way, La Jolla
858-534-3474
Online: aquarium.ucsd.edu

—Bonnie Taylor

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