30 Dec 2022
One of the Lowcountry’s most iconic coastal landmarks has had a makeover and is back in action. In fact, “makeover” might be the wrong term. It was more like major replacement surgery.
Folly Beach Pier
Folly is Charleston’s other beachy barrier island, on the far side of Charleston Harbor from the Isle of Palms. The “Edge of America,” as it’s fondly known, has a bit more of a laidback surfer vibe than the IOP. One of its most recognizable features is the very large, impressive Folly Beach Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier, as it’s officially known. Stretching 1,045 feet out and over the Atlantic Ocean, it’s 25 feet wide and 22 feet above sea level - literally. It’s been lauded as the second longest such pier on the entire East Coast.
Folly Beach Pier has been a hot spot for terrific saltwater fishing, of course, as well as people-watching, dining, swimming, and countless special events over the years.
Wood + Water don’t mix
The origins of the pier date all the way back to the 1930’s. The version most of us are familiar with - and the one pictured above - opened on July 4th, 1995. It’s been owned and maintained by the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.
All of these earlier piers were made completely out of wood, including the pilings. The latest one began having serious issues, some related to external forces of wear and tear from the ocean, weather and storms. Some deterioration came from within - in the form of marine borers, who were eating away at the wood structure from the inside.
Back in 2013, the CCPRC conducted dive inspections to address these issues, treating for the borers and encapsulating the pilings to make sure it was safe for the public to use. It helped for a while, but it was a temporary fix.
The fact is, the life expectancy of piers made out of wooden timber piles is only about 20 to 25 years. So plans were set in motion to upgrade the pier in a big way.
Concrete to the Rescue
The CCPRC made the decision that the wisest way forward was a major reconstruction plan for the entire pier, from the sand up.
Basically, it would be built on a substructure and pilings made of concrete, which can hold up to the marine conditions far longer and better than wood. In fact, the life expectancy of concrete-based piers is over 65 years.
The new design would rest on a total of 228 concrete pilings supporting the pier. Thus the surfaces in direct contact with the ocean would be made of concrete. The walkways and railings up top would still be made of wood.
Ahead of Schedule
In October of 2020, Folly Beach Pier closed to the public, and work on the new pier began in earnest. It was expected to take 28 months.
Construction went smoothly, and lo and behold, they finished ahead of time. The new and improved Folly Beach Pier opened just in time for the holidays in December 2022.
Although the pier has the same basic look as the original, there were some tweaks and improvements in addition to all that concrete.
The new pier gives expansive, unobstructed views of the ocean and better pedestrian flow, with new benches and shade structures. The famous Diamond Head is a 7,500 square feet platform area at the end of the pier.
Although most of the pier is 25 feet wide, two sections were covered as well as widened a bit (by eight feet) to give more comfortable areas for fishing.
Wooden walkway panels were designed to give way in case of a severe storm, to help preserve the structure of the pier.
Here’s some of what you’ll be able to find on the FBP:
- The Pier 101 Restaurant and Bar for oceanfront dining and drinks;
- The Gangplank Gift & Tackle Shop (where you can rent rods, buy tackle/bait, refreshments, gifts and sundries);
- New restroom facilities;
- Beach access (with availability of beach-accessible wheelchairs);
- Lifeguards (seasonal);
- Special events will return in 2023, including the popular Moonlight Mixers, fishing tournaments, and more;
- Stay tuned for a new Folly Pier Fest scheduled to take place on March 11th, 2023.
Times & Access
The pier is open from 8:00 a.m. till sunset, and it’s located at 101 E. Arctic Avenue, on Folly Beach. Check the website for more details, including fees for rentals and parking. NOTE: they will be renovating the parking area in January 2023 and will close some of the facilities for a brief period. Call the Folly Pier at (843) 762-9516 or (843) 795-4386 for the latest info.
Above is a photo of how the pier used to look, made completely of wood. Head to their website to see images of the new design. Or better yet, pay it a visit in person.
your Isle of Palms vacation blogger