Like two defiant fingers, the Lake Worth and Juno Beach piers poke bravely out into the treacherous Atlantic.
They’re roughly 20 miles apart as the seabird flies, and nearly the same length – about 990 feet. They share a similar construction, and both are popular with residents and tourists.
How do they stack up against each other? A quick comparison:
The Juno Beach Pier originally opened in 1949. It was privately owned, and operated until 1984 when a Thanksgiving storm crumbled it. Declared a safety hazard, it was burned down by the town’s fire department in 1986. A new $2.5 million, county-owned pier opened in 1999. Last year, its railings and decks were replaced.
The Lake Worth Pier was built in 1959 as a platform for laying a sewage outfall pipe into the ocean. The original wooden fishing pier opened in January 1960 and it’s been torn apart by storms and rebuilt several times since then. In 2004, back-to-back hurricanes decimated the pier. After $3.4 million in renovations, it reopened in 2009.
Both are in tip-top condition. Palm Beach County officials estimate about 72,000 people visit Juno Beach Pier each year, and the pier helps make Juno one of the county’s most popular beaches. Benny’s on the Beach co-owner John Thanopoulos says visits at the Lake Worth Pier top 200,000 annually.
Both piers are municipal, one the City of Lake Worth, the other Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation. The governments lease the pier to private businesses, which run the pier operations and its amenities. Don Streeter runs the Juno Beach Pier and its tiny snack bar area. Cousins Peter and John Thanopoulos run the Lake Worth Pier and the well-known beachside restaurant, Benny’s on the Beach.
To compare the snack bar at the Juno Beach Pier with the landmark Benny’s on the Beach is just unfair. A varied menu, indoor and outdoor seating, even a second-story view if you prefer, have made Benny’s a local favorite. But there is also new competition: Mulligan’s, the new Kilwins and Mamma Mia’s. Says Peter Thanopoulos, co-owner of Benny’s: “There’s enough business for everybody.”
Juno is definitely the winner here. Parking is free across A1A at Juno Beach Park. At Lake Worth, you’ll pay $2 an hour, unless you’re there to fish. Anglers can pay a flat fee of $3 plus tax to park all day, but you have to park in the lower lot and walk up. Sightseers forced to park in the lower lot can hitch a ride to the top on a super-sized golf cart.
Both beaches are beautiful, and the surfing’s great. Piers contribute to good surfing, and Kandiss Molitor, who runs daily operations at the Juno Beach Pier, said when the waves are good, you can count a hundred surfers or more on Juno Beach. Restrooms are available across the street in Juno Beach Park. Lake Worth Beach has restrooms and showers at the north and south end of the complex. And if you want to skip the beach altogether, you can take a dip in the municipal pool.
Let’s face it. The pier makes a lovely photo, and it’s great for a romantic date-night stroll, but mostly it’s the fishermen who benefit from the pier itself. A cast of crusty characters stake out prime space along the railing. Just mind their lines, and remember, it’s your pier, too.
IF YOU GO:
LAKE WORTH PIER
Where: 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth
When: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Two shade structures
Fish cleaning tables
Fishing: $3 adult; $1.50 kids younger than 12. Ticket is good for the day.
Sightseeing: $1, good all day.
Parking: $3 ticket for all-day parking as a pier fisherman; $2 per hour at the metered parking.
Info: Bait shop: 561-582-fish (3476)
Benny’s on the Beach: 561-582-9001.
Surf report: surfline.com
JUNO BEACH PIER
Where: 14775 U.S. Highway 1, Juno Beach
When: March to October (sea turtle nesting season), opens half an hour before sunrise and closes half an hour before sunset
November to February: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.
990-foot pier with T-end
Two shade structures
Four fish cleaning tables
Sightseeing: $1. County residents can buy passes good for multiple entries for fishing or sightseeing.
Parking: Free in Juno Beach Park, across A1A.