Some beach cities in California charge a fortune just to let the public see their beaches and piers. If you live along the treasured coast, you discover that you are not alone in seeking piers to visit that don't require plugging money or credit cards into meters. Often the meters don't work and you lose your money. Other times the meters expire and you get big fines. It's a dollar & dime approach to inviting tourists, then penalizing them for visiting. It also discourages visitors from staying longer and spending money eating, shopping and feeling generous.
With that in mind, don't be surprised when you discover the popularity of cities with piers and the old-fashioned concept of free parking. Some of the favorites where you often can park nearby and walk include Seal Beach, Belmont Shore (pictured), San Clemente, Oceanside, Cayucos and Pismo Beach.
What you find at these piers are lots of locals without a lot of money who like to fish, plus tourists who just happen by. The piers have a slightly different look & feel than their counterparts where you must pay a minimum of $1.50 to stroll the pier. Most people like to stay beyond an hour so paying means that it will cost around $5.
If you're seeking an enjoyable, free stroll, be sure to NOT go on the busiest of beach days when free parking is in high demand!