The History Behind the Iconic Malibu Pier
No Malibu landmark holds quite the same draw as Malibu Pier, and visiting it is something we recommend to every guest of Malibu Beach Inn. In fact, in our pier view rooms, guests have stunning views of Surfrider Beach and the pier, its iconic shape complementing sweeping views of the Pacific and serving as the perfect backdrop for coffee or cocktails on the balcony. Though the Southern California landmark has a timeless quality, its rich history is one of its lesser known features. To truly appreciate Malibu Pier, you need to understand its history—so let’s dive in.
The Beginning of Malibu Pier
Malibu Pier was built in 1905 for purely commercial purposes, though its primary use today is as a tourist attraction. Frederick Hastings Rindge, one of the founders of present-day Malibu, used it to ship agricultural products and building materials to and from his 13,000-acre property, Rancho Malibu.
The pier was used solely for this operation until 1934. Then it opened to the public for pier and charter fishing. Rindge’s land operation went bankrupt shortly thereafter, and the pier was taken over by its financial backers. They extended it to 780 feet (still its current length) and added a small bait and tackle shop in 1938.
During World War II, the pier served as a Coast Guard lookout until a storm destroyed much of its structure. William Huber bought the pier for $50,000, repairing it after the war ended. Huber expanded the pier to build the iconic Cape Cod-style buildings that remain there today. In addition to a bait and tackle shop, Huber added the pier’s first restaurant. The restaurant bore several iterations over the next several decades, including the Malibu Sports Club Restaurant, Malibu Pier Club, and, most notably, Alice’s Restaurant, which was a favorite Malibu gathering spot from 1972 to the ‘90s.
Disrepair and Renaissance
After owning the iconic Malibu landmark for more than 40 years, Huber put it up for sale in 1980. He sold to the State of California later that year. By that point, the pier had fallen somewhat into disrepair. Determined not to let this piece of history be torn down or destroyed, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to recommend the pier be registered as a Point of Historical Interest in 1985, which was approved by the California Historical Resources Commission.
Just eight years later, the El Niño storms of 1993 caused significant damage to the pier. Its condition further deteriorated with more severe storms in 1995. The pier closed that year, no longer safe for public use. More than 10 years later, after extensive restoration, the pier reopened to the public in 2008. In 2009, California State Parks won the Los Angeles Conservancy Preservation Award for its “solid stewardship of this beloved public resource by reversing decades of decay while staying true to its historic character.”
Today, more than a century after it was first built, Malibu Pier serves fishermen, birders, surfers, and visitors from around the world. It’s been the backdrop of movies and TV shows, and its peaceful setting continues to lure travelers for a meal, walk, or iconic sunset.
A short walk from Malibu Beach Inn, the pier should be at the top of your Malibu bucket list. A restaurant once again graces one of the twin buildings at the end of the pier, now an outpost of Helene Henderson’s popular Malibu Farm restaurant group—Malibu Farm Pier Cafe. A perfect brunch destination, its menu focuses on fresh, farm-to-table flavors. The pier is also the ideal spot to pick up some mementos to commemorate your trip. Ranch at the Pier offers everything from home goods and gifts to beach gear and fishing permits, or shop for fine jewelry and leather goods in Miansai’s 1949 Airstream.
The pier is a hub of activity all year long. Just one visit will show you what makes it so magical.