Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier
Overview: This 1,620-foot-long T-shaped concrete pier, built in 1968, is ideal for walking night and day. At the far end, Buoy's at the Pier has a downstairs snack bar with a modest menu of chicken strips and nachos ($5-$7); upstairs is the bait and tackle store.
Background: Old-time pier denizens occasionally call it Devil's Gate, a reference to the location and name of a pier built in 1915 just east of this one.
Notable views: The Long Beach skyline and harbor are to the north; the Seal Beach breakwater and pier are visible to the south. Three of the artificial islands — Chaffee, White, Grissom and Freeman — are designed to disguise oil platforms on each.
Parking: Free lot at the bottom of Termino Avenue off Ocean Boulevard.
Directions: Take Highway 1 to 2nd Street in Long Beach. Turn west and follow it to Livingston Street. Follow Livingston and the signs that direct you to the parking lot at Termino and Ocean.
Shoreline Aquatic Piers (a.k.a. Long Beach Finger Piers)
Overview: Stubby little plank spurs extend into the harbor channel behind the Aquarium of the Pacific. If you are here at noon, the horn from the Queen Mary is capable of making you jump when it sounds.
Notable views: The Queen Mary at berth across the channel.
Parking: The Pierpoint Landing parking lot, which is across the grass and concrete walkway from the piers, has a pay station.
Directions: Take the 710 Freeway south to Long Beach and the Downtown/Aquarium exit. Exit onto Shoreline Drive, and go 1.8 miles to Aquarium Way. The parking lot and piers are on the left.¿
Overview: This 1,200-foot-long concrete pier, which extends out alongside San Pedro Harbor, is more suited for fishing than tourism. It was built in 1969, replacing a pier from the early '30s, and it has no services to speak of, though there is the small Cabrillo Marine Aquarium with an adjacent spot to buy food.
Notable views: To the south, freighters and cranes line the San Pedro waterfront. The Palos Verdes headlands are to the north.
Parking: At Cabrillo Park, the first 20 minutes are free; $1 an hour and $9 for the whole day. Instead of parking in the lot after the pay gate, park near the foot of the pier at Lifeguard Station 4.
Directions: Take the 710 Freeway south to Piers S T/Terminal Island, merging onto West Ocean Boulevard, which becomes California Highway 47. Take the Harbor Boulevard exit toward San Pedro and turn right on North Harbor Boulevard. Take a slight right on West 19th Street, then left on South Pacific Avenue. Turn left on Stephen M. Wright Drive, which will end at the entrance to Cabrillo Park.
Redondo Beach Pier
Overview: One of the most ambitious pier complexes in the state. At 70,000 feet, it rivals Pier 39 in San Francisco, the Monterey Pier, the Santa Cruz Wharf and the Santa Monica Pier for things to do or buy. Besides being very walkable, it has dozens of shops and eateries, an amusement arcade and even a great white shark exhibit. The current complex was unveiled in 1995, with upgrading continually in progress — this year sees final touches being applied to the Redondo Landing, which is the gateway building to the pier.
Background: Technically, there are two piers: One is a sizable U-shape that is mainly for walking and shopping and the other, a 300-foot leg attached to the main pier, is mainly for anglers.
Parking: $1 an hour parking in one of the above-ground or subterranean lots within walking distance of the pier.
Directions: From Highway 1 take Torrance Boulevard to the coast and follow it into the complex and parking.
Hermosa Beach Pier
Overview: A trim but undistinguished stretch of concrete 1,228 feet long. The Walk of Fame, established in 2003, memorializes surfers past and present.
Parking: $1 an hour on adjoining streets; parking in the plaza at the foot of the pier tends to be difficult at peak hours.
Directions: The 405 Freeway south to the Artesia Boulevard exit, right onto Artesia to Aviation Boulevard, and turn left toward the coast, left on Highway 1 and then left on Pier Boulevard.
Overview: This short, 928-foot concrete structure is flat-out endearing, radiating old-time charm. What gives this pier its character is its rounded end and the atmospheric Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab, a kid-friendly two-story aquarium with exhibits as well as live, local fish in tanks. (A $2 donation is requested.)
Background: The design came from an engineer named A.L. Harris, who believed that a rounded end would help the pier withstand the pounding of waves. It was unprecedented for the time, but it was successful, and the pier lasted, largely unchanged, until the late 1980s, when it was rebuilt, a fetching, current-day copy of the original.
Parking: $1 parking is available in the lot near the bottom of the pier, plus there is metered parking on nearby streets. Summertime and weekends can be tough.
Directions: The 405 Freeway to the Inglewood Avenue exit. Turn left on Inglewood, then after a quarter mile, turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it about three miles to the pier, which is near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard.
Overview: This narrow concrete span, 1,310 feet out into Santa Monica Bay, is short on embellishments — no restaurants or shops — but long on vistas. From its end, on a clear day, you can see
Notable views: Besides the surprising inland views, there are splendid vistas of the Santa Monica Pier and Malibu headlands to the north and planes departing
Parking: $6 lot with several hundred spaces at the foot of the pier, plus street parking on Washington Boulevard with 25-cent pay stations.
Directions: The 405 Freeway to the 90 Freeway west to Marina del Rey. Exit and turn right on Lincoln Boulevard, then left on Washington Boulevard to the pier.
Santa Monica Pier
Overview: This is the granddaddy of 'em all in Southern California. Although Santa Cruz Wharf might have more rides, Pier 39 in San Francisco more eateries and the Redondo Beach Pier more businesses, this local pier combines all these things — and adds an aquarium — to secure its reputation as a lifestyle destination that averages 4 million visits a year.
Background: Originally built in 1909, it received the inevitable buffeting by storms and tides. It closed in 1983, was refurbished and reopened in 1990 as a concrete pier, About 2,000 feet long; half the pier is over the beach.
Notable views: This is more about the human parade than any distant vista. The Ferris wheel after dark is worth noting.
Parking: $7 lots below and next to the pier have hundreds of spaces. There also is metered parking on the pier.
Directions: Take the 10 Freeway west to Highway 1 north. Make the first legal U-turn and use Exit 1A to the pier lots.
Malibu Sport Fishing Pier
Overview: A near decade-long $6.2-million pier refurbishment project ended in 2008; with its classic "Malibu Sport Fishing Pier" sign (which apes the design of the Santa Monica and Redondo piers), the Beachcomber Café at the base and Cape Cod-style archway construction at the end, the Malibu pier has a romantic appeal.
Notable views: Catalina Island and the curve of Santa Monica Bay are easy to see. At the pier's base is Surfrider Beach, with its famed three-point break that can lead to rides of up to 300 yards to shore.
Parking: A pay lot on the northern side of the pier can fill up quickly; there also is free parking on Pacific Coast Highway.
Directions: From PCH, it can be approached from south or north.
Paradise Cove Pier
Overview: Interesting destination, but an uninteresting pier. The 220-foot structure starts over the narrow beach but doesn't extend very far over the water. The pier is undergoing repairs and is expected to reopen in time for the Fourth of July holiday.
Background: Paradise Cove in Malibu is a private community and beach, but the road to the beach is public and the area open to the public, largely to get people to eat at the restaurant. Countless movies, TV shows and commercials have been shot at the cove. The pier itself was the star of a Hummer commercial a few years back that showed one of the vehicles roaring off the end and plunging into the ocean.
Notable views: Malibu shoreline north and south.
Parking: It's $25 to park in the lot next to the Paradise Cove Beach Café, which is next to the pier. If you spend $20 on food or drink at the eatery, validated parking is $3 for a four-hour stay.
Directions: From Highway 1 going north, turn left at Paradise Cove Road and take it to the guard station near the parking lot.