Jetty vs. Pier

What's the Difference?

Jetty and pier are both structures built along the shoreline, but they serve different purposes. A jetty is typically constructed to protect the coastline from erosion and to create a calm area for boats to dock. It is usually made of rocks or concrete and extends out into the water. On the other hand, a pier is primarily built as a recreational facility, providing a platform for people to walk on and enjoy the waterfront. Piers are often made of wood and can have various amenities such as shops, restaurants, and amusement rides. While both jetty and pier enhance the coastal experience, their functions and designs differ significantly.


Photo by Christian Holzinger on Unsplash
DefinitionA structure that projects into a body of water to influence the current or protect a harbor or shoreline.A raised structure, often with a platform, that extends over water and is supported by pillars or piles.
LocationUsually found in coastal areas or near bodies of water.Can be found in coastal areas, lakes, rivers, or any body of water.
FunctionPrimarily used for docking, loading/unloading ships, or as a walkway over water.Used for fishing, recreational activities, or as a walkway over water.
StructureUsually made of wood, concrete, or metal.Can be made of wood, concrete, metal, or a combination of materials.
LengthVaries in length depending on the purpose and location.Varies in length depending on the purpose and location.
ShapeStraight or curved structure extending into the water.Straight or curved structure extending into the water.
AccessibilityAccessible by boats, ships, or pedestrians.Accessible by boats, ships, or pedestrians.
Common UsageCommonly used in ports, harbors, or marinas.Commonly used for recreational purposes, fishing spots, or tourist attractions.
Photo by Dogancan Ozturan on Unsplash

Further Detail


When it comes to coastal structures, jetties and piers are two common features that serve various purposes. While both are built in or near bodies of water, they have distinct characteristics and functions. In this article, we will explore the attributes of jetty and pier, highlighting their differences and similarities.

Definition and Purpose

A jetty is a long, narrow structure that extends into the water from the shoreline. It is typically made of rocks, concrete, or other durable materials. Jetties are constructed to protect harbors, inlets, and channels from sediment deposition and wave action. They help maintain navigable waterways by reducing the accumulation of sand and silt, preventing the formation of sandbars.

On the other hand, a pier is a raised platform supported by pillars or pilings that extends over the water. Piers are primarily built for recreational and commercial purposes. They provide a stable platform for fishing, boating, and other water-related activities. Piers often have additional amenities such as shops, restaurants, and entertainment facilities, making them popular destinations for tourists and locals alike.

Design and Construction

When it comes to design, jetties are typically built with a sloping or stepped profile to dissipate wave energy. This design helps prevent erosion and protects the shoreline. Jetties are often constructed in pairs, with one on each side of a harbor entrance, creating a navigable channel in between. The materials used for jetty construction are chosen for their durability and ability to withstand the forces of waves and currents.

Piers, on the other hand, are designed to accommodate various activities and structures. They can be simple wooden structures or elaborate concrete and steel constructions. The pillars or pilings that support the pier are driven deep into the seabed to provide stability. Piers are often built with multiple levels or decks to accommodate different uses, such as fishing platforms, boat docking areas, and recreational spaces.

Environmental Impact

Both jetties and piers can have environmental impacts, although they differ in nature. Jetties can alter the natural sediment transport along the coast, leading to erosion in some areas and accretion in others. They can also disrupt the movement of marine organisms and affect the distribution of sand and nutrients. However, jetties can also create sheltered areas that promote the growth of seagrass beds and provide habitats for various marine species.

Piers, on the other hand, can have a more significant ecological footprint. The construction of piers often involves dredging and filling, which can disturb the seabed and affect marine habitats. The presence of piers can also lead to increased boat traffic and pollution, impacting water quality and marine life. However, piers can also serve as artificial reefs, attracting marine organisms and providing opportunities for ecological research and monitoring.

Accessibility and Public Use

Accessibility and public use are key factors that differentiate jetties and piers. Jetties are primarily functional structures designed for navigation and coastal protection. While they may be accessible for walking or fishing, their primary purpose is not recreational. Jetties often lack amenities and facilities for public use, as their main focus is on maintaining waterways and preventing sedimentation.

Piers, on the other hand, are designed with public use in mind. They often feature amenities such as benches, lighting, and restrooms. Piers provide easy access to the water, allowing people to fish, stroll, or simply enjoy the coastal views. Many piers also have shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, making them popular gathering places for locals and tourists.

Maintenance and Longevity

Maintenance requirements and longevity are important considerations for both jetties and piers. Jetties are exposed to the constant forces of waves and currents, which can cause erosion and damage over time. Regular maintenance is necessary to repair any structural damage and ensure their effectiveness in protecting the coastline. The materials used for jetty construction are chosen for their durability and resistance to corrosion.

Piers also require regular maintenance, especially in areas with harsh weather conditions or high boat traffic. The wooden components of piers may need to be replaced periodically due to rot or decay. Concrete and steel piers are generally more durable but still require inspections and repairs to maintain their structural integrity. Proper maintenance practices are essential to ensure the safety and longevity of piers.


In conclusion, jetties and piers are coastal structures with distinct attributes and purposes. Jetties are primarily built for coastal protection and navigation, while piers are designed for recreational and commercial use. Jetties focus on maintaining waterways and preventing sedimentation, while piers provide public access to the water and offer various amenities. Both structures have environmental impacts, but they also contribute to the coastal ecosystem in different ways. Regular maintenance is crucial for both jetties and piers to ensure their longevity and functionality. Understanding the attributes of jetty and pier can help coastal communities make informed decisions about their construction and management.

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