Pier Hopping

October 2012
Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw

From fishing to eating to live entertainment, our local piers have it all




For a panoramic view of the resort-lined beaches and sweeping vistas of Long Bay, nothing beats the perspective found at the end of any one of the 10 public piers along the Grand Strand.

Large and small, some jutting out into the Atlantic, others offering access to quiet creeks and marshes, the scenic variety found at our area piers—along with the cool breezes and smaller fall crowds—make this the perfect time of year to experience the magic of pier hopping for yourself.

If you’re tempted to think a pier is a pier is a pier, you’d be wrong. Each offers its own history, flavor and views. Many, but not all, have restaurants and serve cocktails for casual lunches or late-night parties. Some are free to visit, others charge a small admission. The Myrtle Beach-area piers from 14th Avenue North to Springmaid Beach offer unparalleled nighttime views of the Vegas-like resort skyline that is oceanfront Myrtle Beach. The Myrtle Beach State Park and Pawleys Island piers are quieter with nary a high-rise in sight. The pier at the end of the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk and the Sunset Beach pier create unique moods set apart from the larger and more heavily visited piers. Most all of the piers give fishermen easy access to some impressive potential catches. You can use your own gear or rent theirs, and if you pay to fish you don’t need a license.

So whether you’re an avid sportsman, a birder, whale and dolphin watcher, photographer or a casual pier-walker, consider spending an afternoon or weekend of beachcombing—pier-style.

Sunset Beach Pier
101 W. Main St., Sunset Beach, N.C. (910) 579-6630, www.sunsetbeachpier.com

Just north of the N.C./S.C. border, 40 minutes north of Myrtle Beach, Sunset Beach lures travelers off of U.S. 17 to visit the small barrier island community, filled with wide beaches, and yes, beautiful sunsets—the beach faces more southerly than do ours farther south along the Grand Strand. Its pier was first built in 1960, but, like most Atlantic piers, has been rebuilt, this one in 1976. Storms are the primary enemy of piers in this region, and many in our area have been destroyed and rebuilt, sometimes more than once. The Sunset Beach Pier is built over the ruins of a Civil War era blockade runner, The Vestar, scuttled just off shore. The Sunset Pier Bar & Grill offers billiards, restrooms, burgers, fish sandwiches, beer and wine. Fishing and rentals are also available.

Cherry Grove Pier
3500 N. Ocean Blvd., North Myrtle Beach. 249-1625, www.cherrygrovepier.com

The quieter community of Cherry Grove is in many ways a throwback to what all of our beach communities, even Myrtle Beach, once looked like—few tall buildings, lots of mom and pop cottages on the oceanfront, and sandy roads with light traffic, especially in the off-season. Built in the 1950s, the pier was destroyed by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and rebuilt. In 1964 an 1,800-pound record-setting tiger shark was caught from the pier. An observation deck sets this pier apart from others.

Apache Pier
9700 Kings Road at Lake Arrowhead Road, Myrtle Beach. 497-6486, www.apachefamilycampground.com

At 1,206 feet, this is perhaps the longest pier on the East Coast. While several other piers from New Jersey to Florida, claim this title, Apache seems to have the legitimate length to back up its declaration. Croakers at the Pier offers beer and wine, as well as a food menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the fall, closing around Thanksgiving. The fishing pier is open 365 days per year, and church services are also held year round on Sundays. Primarily for campground guests, the pier is open to anyone for a small charge. Fishing rentals are also available.

Pier 14
1306 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, at 14th Avenue North. 448-4314, www.pier14.com

Among the busiest of our pier offerings, Pier 14 was first built in 1926, but has been destroyed and rebuilt at least twice since then, most recently just after 1989’s Hurricane Hugo. It reopened in 1990. The pier is known for its popular Pier 14 Restaurant and close proximity to the downtown Myrtle Beach oceanfront district. This pier benefited greatly from its location as an end cap of the 1.2-mile Boardwalk & Promenade completed in May 2010. It offers gift, bait and tackle shop, fishing rentals and year-round access.

2nd Avenue Pier
110 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, at Second Avenue North. 445-7437, www.secondavenuepier.com

Also benefiting from the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk & Promenade, the Pier House Restaurant and the pier’s fishing business has helped 2nd Avenue Pier become one of the most popular in our line-up. Major renovations and a third-story, open-air modern bar offer million-dollar views and easy access via an adjoining public parking area. The large, enclosed restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows, wood beam interiors, and is a favorite oceanfront dining establishment. Fishermen delight in the catches of flounder in the fall and trout in the winter. Fishing rental packages are available.

Springmaid Beach Pier
Springmaid Beach Resort, 3200 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. 315-7100, www.springmaidbeach.com

Opened first in the 1950s, Springmaid Beach Pier has been rebuilt twice since then, most recently in 1991. A “T” section at the end of the 1,060-foot pier was built in 1993. Popular with resort guests, the pier is open to all for a small admission charge. Full fishing rentals are available, as is a full bar and grill at BARnacles. The pier is open year round. Make a day of it with the kids and enjoy a round of 18-hole miniature golf on the resort grounds.

Myrtle Beach State Park Pier
4401 S. Kings Hwy., Myrtle Beach. 238-5325, www.myrtlebeachsp.com

Myrtle Beach State Park is gloriously uncrowded in this season, except perhaps for Bike Week in early October. The park affords day-trippers and weekend staycationers plenty of outdoor activities, including camping, cabin rentals, beaches free from high-rise condominiums, and a fishing and sightseeing pier known as one of the best since it opened in 1992. Admission is free with a paid park admission, and fishing rentals are available, along with snacks and a gift shop.  

Surfside Pier
11 N. Ocean Blvd., Surfside Beach. 238-0121, www.surfsidepier.com

First opened in 1953, Surfside Pier has been rebuilt three times, most recently in 1993. Surfside Beach residents (with an official pass and I.D.) are offered free admission, while others pay a small fee. In 2011, Clyde Teague reeled in a 98-pound Tarpon, and Steve Jara is credited with catching a 19-pound Spanish mackerel from the pier earlier this year. Needless to say, the fishing is good. After years of political wrangling, The Surf Diner opened in June, replacing Nibils, which had been there for 20 years.   

The Pier at Garden City
110 S. Waccamaw Drive, Garden City Beach. 651-9700, www.pieratgardencity.com

A first-place winner in the “Best Fishing Pier” category for six years running in a local reader’s poll, this pier is also a lively, rollicking nightspot spot all summer long, quieting down after Labor Day. The pier stays open and active for fishermen and sightseers through the end of December, closing for January and February. Like most of our area piers, Hurricane Hugo destroyed it in 1989. It was rebuilt in 1992.

The Veterans Pier
Waterfront, Marsh Walk, Murrells Inlet. 651-3676

Along the waterfront of picturesque Murrells Inlet, the Marsh Walk is well- known as the boardwalk connecting area bars and restaurants. At the south end of the Marsh Walk, The Veterans Pier, dedicated in 2005, stretches out into the estuaries and creeks, affording beautiful views. Connecting Captain Dick’s, Crazy Sister Marina and Spud’s Waterfront Dining with the rest of the Marsh Walk, the pier is a popular spot for shutterbugs, birders and fishermen. Admission is free, but if you plan to fish you’ll need a fishing license and your own gear.

Pawleys Island Pier
320 Myrtle Avenue, at Pawleys Pier Village, Pawleys Island. 237-4220

The only private pier on our list, Pawleys Island Pier is worth noting because of its windswept vistas and relative quiet of the venerable old community halfway between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. The pier is only available to owners and guests of the Pawleys Island Village condominiums, which offer weekly rentals year round. If you prefer a private pier, here’s your option.

Piers offer us easy opportunities to get out over the water without getting into a boat. They sway gently with the breezes and ocean currents, their wooden planks dutifully soaking up the sun as the surf maneuvers through their sturdy pilings, providing a sensory experience that is hard to match. Take time to enjoy these piers as a piece of the best of Grand Strand living.