Jennette's Pier offers an experience unlike any other on the Outer Banks. Part of the NC Aquariums, its mission is to educate as well as provide an excellent spot for fishing. No old wooden buildings or wavy decking here. The pier extends straight as an arrow, one thousand feet into the ocean. Wooden decking rests atop reinforced concrete pilings built to withstand 130 mph winds. You don't feel this pier sway, even when the seas get really big.
For a $2 walk-on donation, visitors can walk down the pier and learn about pier fishing and beach ecology from informational signs on everything from the fish cleaning station to the shady kiosks underneath the three wind turbines. Donors have "purchased" planks and benches in memory of loved ones, special occasions or simply to show support for the pier's mission. Village Realty's bench is almost at the end on the south side. Cut some bait on us!
The pier is open year round. April through November hours are 6am to midnight, opening a little earlier in the summer. December through March, hours are 8am to 5pm. Day, week and 3-day passes are available and children 12 and under are half price. The tackle shop offers bait as well as rod and reel rentals.
The History of Jennette's Pier
In 1929 a Swedish tanker sank near the beach at milepost 7 on the Outer Banks but its deck remained above the water. For a few years before the deck finally went underwater, fishermen were rowed out to the ship’s deck to enjoy fishing in deeper water where they could not safely anchor a boat. Warren Jennette, Sr. owner of Jennette Fruit Co. in Elizabeth City, North Carolina saw a business opportunity here and envisioned building an ocean fishing pier.
In 1933 the U.S. Civil Works Administration (also known as the Works Project Administration or WPA) built transient camps in South Nags Head to house workers who built the protective sand dunes from Corolla to Ocracoke. This property was later abandoned and available for purchase. Around this time Warren Jennette Sr and his son Walton, took a trip to Kure Beach North Carolina, to see the first wooden ocean pier built in North Carolina and came back to Elizabeth City with a plan for their new business. Warren Sr., with his four sons, Warren Jr, Walton, Carter and William bought the WPA ocean property and cabins in South Nags Head. On May 22, 1939 the first pilings for Jennette’s Pier were sunk deep into the sand. And the father and his sons, owners of Jennette’s Fruit Company, became owners of Jennette’s Fishing Pier. The first Jennette’s Pier was completed in just a few months and would serve the community and guests for 70 years.
Jennette’s pier had cabins for rent (remodeled transient cabins), a pier house and the pier had lights strung under it to attract the fish at night. Initially it was built with untreated timber but the pier only lasted 4 years before collapsing into the sea. From then until the pier remodel in 1996, there were a succession of hurricanes and nor’easters that damaged or destroyed the pier. Each time, Jennette’s was rebuilt and repaired and improved and each time the people returned.
Vicky Jennette Perry, granddaughter of Warren Jennette Sr and daughter of Walton Jennette, remembers the pier where she spent most of the summers of her life. She laughs about her uncle’s pier dog, Daisy (a Heinz 57 breed), that he jokingly said was a pure bred Egyptian waddle-hound! She and her cousins spent the summer in hammocks by the ocean reading comic books and she recalls how Figaro and Lucille, the café cooks, made the best fried chicken she ever had in her life. Her uncle had a knack for marketing and advertising and painted the word “cabins” and “sport fishing” on the cabin top so airplanes could see what was offered below. All his efforts brought an increase in business. Thousands of others have share fond memories of this grande dame of Outer Banks Piers.
Through the years Jennette’s Pier was rebuilt many times, changed hands many times and was remodeled in 1996 with a new 9000 sq ft. pier house, a new 70 seat restaurant, game room, remodeled cottages and improved parking. In 2002 the pier was sold for the last time to the North Carolina Aquarium Society, who brought educational exhibits and programs to the existing fishing pier. Then in 2003, Hurricane Isabel destroyed 540 ft of the pier and damaged the property. It was reopened with educational programs through the 2005 season. Jennette’s Pier, the oldest in the Outer Banks, was demolished in 2008. On May 22, 2009 (70 years to the date of the first pilings going in) a sand breaking for the new Jennette’s Pier was held and on May 21, 2011 the oldest pier in the Outer Banks became the newest.
The new Jennette’s Pier bears no resemblance to the nostalgic, old wooden pier. There are no weathered cottages or hammocks or dogs. In its place is a state of the art 1000 ft. concrete pier, a 3 story, 16,000 square ft. pier house, beach and bathhouse with outside showers and free public parking. The structure is an architectural wonder, big, beautiful and park-like but designed with an Old Nags Head feel. There is a well stocked snack area with self serve hot dogs, sodas and snacks and outside picnic tables; NC Aquarium exhibits; a gift shop; a bait and tackle shop; rod and reel rentals; a second floor observation balcony and an ocean-view events hall. The pier has many backed benches (marked with commemorative fish plaques) and fish cleaning stations and at the end of the pier is the area marked and reserved for king rigs, jigging and blue fishing.
Unlike the other piers, here you walk up to the pier house and down the pier and see it is lined with commemorative plaques, has contemporary lighting (with power supplied mostly by solar power), wind turbines that provides 50 % of peak electricity needs, shade huts and exhibits. There are a number of pier educational programs and family events daily. Mike Remige, the pier manager, is proud of what the new Jennette’s Pier offers and is quick to tell everyone that like all the other piers it has it’s community of fishermen who have returned for years. The fishermen patiently waiting for their catch, will remind you that even with the turbines humming and a wedding celebration taking place on the second floor of the pier house that this is still Jennette’s Pier and remains a great place to fish!