Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier in San Diego

One of the most recognizable icons in La Jolla, the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, serves as a vital research facility that houses several environmental monitoring stations.

The Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier is one of the largest active research piers in the world. At 1,084 feet long, this active scientific hub for marine biologists is a known landmark of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

Consequently, the Pier is closed to the public because of the sensitivity of the instruments and general operations. However, the Pier operates through Scripps Oceanography to advance scientific study and exploration. The institute uses this marvel to behold for various experiments and technical diving operations.

Photo Alert: The Scripps Memorial Pier is an iconic place for visitors to take sunset photos below the wharf. For instance, twice a year the sunset aligns perfectly with the Pier, creating the most breathtaking image of the sun joined to the sea.

Scripps Memorial Pier is a global leader in observing the changing planet. With the catastrophic challenges our future holds, scientists monitor climate change patterns, sea level, ocean acidity, public health and ecosystems.

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Scripps Memorial Pier History

Siblings Ellen and E.W. Scripps donated over $36,000 in 1916 to build the original Pier. The initial structure, made from wood and concrete, withstood years of storms and damage, with two major repairs in 1926 and 1946.

Years later, in 1988, developers built a second pier next to the first one when concerns arose about the stability of the original. Afterward, in 2018, a more sustainable, modern version replaced the first, which was then removed. According to the 2017 Nature Innovation Index, Scripps Research is the number one most influential research institution in the world.

Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier – 5 Main Uses

  • Fresh Seawater: One use of the Pier is to obtain fresh seawater, a vital necessity for a marine institution. The seawater is pumped through channels and stored in tanks for use by the Oceanography Department and other local aquariums, like Birch Aquarium at Scripps. 1.8 million gallons of seawater are pumped each day.
  • Boat Launching: The Pier also serves as a boat launching facility. The Department of Oceanography uses small boats for research on either side of the Pier.


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  • Scientific Diving Instruction: The Scripp diving program at UCSD is one of the oldest in the nation and most prolific for marine advancement.
  • Instrument Mounting Station: Another Pier use is for researchers to store sampling materials for daily temperature monitoring. This practice originally started in 1916. The Pier houses the oldest tide gauge station in the open ocean on the west coast.
  • Teaching Tool: Graduate and undergraduate students use the Pier daily to learn more about data collection and ocean chemistry.

Fun Fact: Walk through any art gallery in San Diego, and you’re bound to find dozens of pictures and paintings of this celebrated wharf that extends deep into the Pacific Ocean.

Main Attractions Near Scripps Memorial Pier

Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

children lined up along aquarium looking at fish at Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, USA

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In addition to blue penguins, seadragons, seahorses, visitors can see over 5,000 fish in more than 60 different aquarium habitats, plus exhibits and displays exploring cutting-edge research from the university’s Department of Oceanography.


The University of California San Diego owns Scripps Pier, which at 1,084 feet long and 22.5 feet wide, is 33.5 feet tall above Mean Low Low Water. (Scripp Pier measurements collected by the Birch Aquarium at Scripps staff and volunteers). This public institution, founded in 1960, has an enrollment of over 31,000 students. It’s located on 1,976 acres in beautiful La Jolla and is ranked one of the best universities in the world. Take a tour of UC’s gorgeous campus with sweeping panoramic ocean views.


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Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Founded in 1903, this department of UC San Diego offers degrees, minors and more than 45 undergraduate courses in earth and marine sciences. The institute is one of the oldest and most significant centers for ocean and earth science research and education.

Blacks Beach

North of Scripps Pier, Blacks Beach is a fun beach with endless beach activities. Consequently, some locals consider the north-end clothing-optional, so be warned!

Scripps Beach

At the end of Discovery Way, follow the staircase for beach access. Scripps Beach is one of the quieter, more low-key beaches to swim, surf and sunbathe.

La Jolla Shores

Just south of the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, this beach is ideal for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and kayaking. Known as one of the best diving areas in San Diego, the cove is a must-see diving location for scuba divers.


View of a surfer walking through the rocks at False Point La Jolla in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Arne De via Facebook 

Top 5 Cafes Near Scripps Memorial Pier

Planning a day of beaching, sightseeing, and photography can work up an appetite. Luckily the La Jolla Scripp Pier area has some of the best pubs, diners, and restaurants in southern California. Here are some top picks to quell your hunger pangs between your coastal excursions.

Caroline’s Seafood Café by Giuseppe

Stop by for delicious, fresh California cuisine just above Scripps Beach and south of Scripps Memorial Pier. This boho-chic hot spot has patio seating to enjoy the lovely ocean views.

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Duke’s La Jolla

Stop by Duke's if you’re craving a seafood fare for brunch or lunch with a Hawaiian/California twist. Overlooking La Jolla Cove, this quaint eatery has picturesque views of the Pacific.

Mary’s Gourmet Salads

If you’re planning a picnic near the Pier and are searching for a quick, healthy alternative, try Mary’s Gourmet. Mary’s provides fresh, delicious salads for take-out or delivery.

Shorehouse Kitchen

This fab brunch spot hosts a tasty selection of great food in a spectacular atmosphere. Try the yogurt Beach Bowl, a local favorite loaded with granola and fresh fruit.

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Shore Rider Bar

For the best fish and chips in town, stop by Shore Rider. This fabulous spot near the beach on La Jolla shores has great views, great seafood, and excellent frozen margaritas.

Scripps Memorial Pier Parking

Furthermore, visitors can park at the Scripps Seaside Forum, though its extremely limited Monday through Friday. Scripps gives ten passes daily at $8 each from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After 4:30 p.m., visitors can park in Parking Lots 002 and 003.

Tourists can also find street parking on El Paseo Grande. Look for the stairway to the beach and walk north for about three minutes to see the Pier.

Pro Tip: Parking in campus parking lots is strictly prohibited.

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Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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