Those who have traveled to Hatteras Island for decades are undoubtedly familiar with one of the Outer Banks’ most popular landmarks: the Frisco Pier. But unlike the dozens of other attractions that draw visitors to the island throughout the year—including other nearby piers in the neighboring villages of Avon and Rodanthe—the Frisco Pier no longer attracts fishermen looking to cast a line in search of the catch of the day. Instead, visitors who make the trek from the northern beaches toward the southern tip of Hatteras Island are simply hoping to catch a glimpse of the decades-old wooden structure—and to see if it’s still standing in the spot where the shoreline meets the sea.
Officially named the Cape Hatteras Fishing Pier, the Frisco Pier—as it’s always been known to frequent visitors and locals alike—was built in in 1962. Long before Hatteras Island became a bustling vacation destination for families and famous for offering opportunities for world-class recreational activities like kiteboarding and standup paddleboarding, the Frisco Pier served as a hot spot for fishermen and sightseers who set up shop along its wooden planks and enjoyed an afternoon or evening in its adjoining pier house.
But after less than five decades of operation, the Frisco Pier sustained such serious damage during Hurricane Earl in the fall of 2010, it was closed to the public and has remained inaccessible ever since. The Category 2 hurricane, which passed 85 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras on September 3, 2010, sent strong winds and rough surf barreling toward the barrier island, resulting in large sections of the pier breaking off into the ocean and the remaining portions to buckle and break.
The structure’s owners at the time—Hatteras Island natives Tod and Angie Gaskill, who had purchased the Frisco Pier after it was severely damaged during Hurricane Isabel in 2003—fought to save the pier, but despite their efforts, Mother Nature prevailed. In the decade the Gaskills owned the Frisco Pier, storm after storm has taken a serious toll on the structure, which once stretched 400 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. In 2013, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in various attempts to repair the pier and reopen it for use by island residents and visitors, the couple reluctantly sold the historic Hatteras Island landmark to the National Park Service.
With portions of the pier being torn away by crashing waves during each nor’easter and hurricane to pass offshore, the structure was deemed unrepairable by the Park Service and slated to be demolished in the fall of 2016. Underwater dives to survey the pier have been completed, and, according to findings, 263 pilings that kept the pier in place—in addition to the pier house and the remaining planks on the walkway above—will ultimately need to be removed.
Although demolition plans were approved by the Park Service and bids were sought for the pier’s removal, the process of tearing down the Frisco Pier was not initiated during the proposed timeline, and the remaining pieces of the pier are still standing—for the time being. When the historic Frisco Pier is finally demolished—the timeline for which has not yet been announced—what will be left in its place is a planned public beach access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
For lovers of this historic wooden landmark that has stretched into the sea for decades, the thought of taking a stroll along the shoreline and not seeing its silhouette against the sky borders on unimaginable. As a result, the structure has become one of the most visited—and most photographed—spots on Hatteras Island in recent years. Vacationers and locals alike are both inspired by and in awe of the Frisco Pier, which refuses to fall full victim to the sea and attracts thousands of visitors who climb over the sand dunes and step out onto the beach in hopes of catching one last glimpse of this historic Hatteras Island landmark before it is lost forever.