Daytona Beach Pier finally reopens

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Photo by Beach Maniac

UPDATE: The Daytona Beach finally reopened July 3. Joe’s Crab Shack, the new restaurant on the Daytona Beach Pier, celebrated a “soft opening” on June 5, and celebrated its grand opening on July 3, marking the conclusion of a $10 million reconstruction of the pier and the reopening of it for the first time since November of  2009. Below is a November blog about the pier:

About 10 years ago, I took the family to Daytona Beach for the first time. It was a wonderful experience, being wowed by the beauty of the beach, enjoying the many activities from body boarding to fishing to bike riding to miniature golfing to exploring the wide variety of restaurants in the area. Not being race fans, we bypassed the Daytona Speedway, opting instead to spend time on the beach, at the pool (the Hilton), and in the arcade at the Boardwalk. But most of all, we were impressed by the landmark Main Street Pier, along with its beautiful tram that swung out over the water and brought us back for more fun.

Recently, I returned to Daytona Beach with my adult son Ryan for a stay at the Wynham Ocean Walk Resort, a dazzling condo complex with outstanding pools, a great hot tub and a perfect location on the best stretch of beach in the area. From our balcony we could see the Main Street Pier, but it just did not look the same. We walked down to the beach on a barefoot stroll through the clear shallow water lapping up on shore and made our way to the Pier. As we got closer it dawned on: there was no tram. Sadly, in fact, the entire pier was closed. No restaurant to eat at, no tram to ride, nobody fishing off the side, no people walking along its wooden planks eating ice cream cones.

The pier, it turns out, is undergoing major renovation, one which I understand is taking much longer than anticipated and costing much more than planned. As a visitor, I’m not concerned with the politics and cost, all I know is that it’s a shame that this centerpiece of beach tourism in what is the self-proclaimed “World’s Most Famous Beach” is sitting idle for so long.

In a 2009 article in the News Journal Online, staff writer Eileen Zaffiro wrote, “The longest pier on the east coast of the United States, this Atlantic Ocean fishing pier offers everything you need for fishing including fresh and frozen bait and fishing poles for rent plus the pier features their famous gondola sky lift that takes visitors over the ocean and back in a scenic nine minute ride. Helicopter rides are also available and a full service restaurant is on site.”

According to the Volusia County Department of Economic Development, the pier was built in the late 1800s. It was known then as the Keating Pier, named for its owner, Thomas Keating. It was constructed of palm logs and wooden planks and anchored by a gazebo. Keating Pier burned down and was rebuilt in 1919. 1n 1924, the structure was torn down and completely rebuilt. It has been a landmark for locals and tourists alike, and you can read more about its rich history here.

Despite the resources of the Internet and a visit to the Daytona Beach Convention and  Visitor’s Bureau, it’s been difficult for me to track down details about the construction project. As best I can determine, there has been a lot of local squabbling about it and the extended project has caused the Pier to be closed for two years or so and they are hoping to have it back in operation sometime in 2012. Getting a quality tenant to operate the restaurant – which you can see from the pictures is very large, modern and looking very welcoming – apparently has been one of the challenges.

By all accounts, the Pier was in bad need of repair, and hopefully when it reopens it will be cleaner, sturdier, more attractive and more fun than ever.

Daytona beach has survived many recessions and hurricanes and invasions by racing fans. Its mix of beauty and grit makes it a unique and enjoyable vacation spot. But if you’re like us, and the beach is your main destination, then you’re hoping for a quick revival of the Main Street Pier. It’s just not Daytona Beach without it.

Slideshow of Main Street Pier, Daytona Beach

Photos by Beach Maniac

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