Swanage's Victorian pier is over 100 years old and is one of two built, although it is the only one that survives complete today. The pier extends into the southern end of Swanage Bay near Swanage, a small town in the south east of Dorset, England. It is situated on the eastern coast of the Isle of Purbeck, approximately 10 km south of Poole and 40 km east of Dorchester in the United Kingdom.
The original Swanage Pier was built between 1859 and 1861 for use primarily by the local stone quarrying industry, and included a tramway which ran the length of the pier and some way along the seafront. The old tracks can be seen to this day, inset into the seafront walkways.
When local businessman George Burt introduced regular steamer services between Swanage and nearby towns Poole and Bournemouth in 1874, a need became apparent for a second pier to be built primarily for use by passenger steamers. Construction on the new pier began in 1895, and by 1896 was first used by a steamer. The pier was officially opened for traffic in 1897. While regular steamer services ran on the new pier, up until 1966, the older original pier declined along with the stone industry it served some years earlier. Today all that remains of the old pier are some of the timber piles.
After steamer services discontinued in 1966 the remaining pleasure pier also began to fall into disrepair. After a failed attempt to restore the pier by a development firm in 1986, Swanage Pier Trust took over ownership of the pier in 1993.
The Trust took on the task of raising over £1,000,000 needed to carry out major restoration work on the piers piles and timbers and ironwork fittings.
The pier today
Today the pier is open to the public once again. Small scale ferry services run, mainly to Poole Quay. The pier also hosts a successful diving school, the oldest in the UK, and is visited annually by historic steamers including the Waverley  paddle steamer.
The pier is a popular training site for new and qualified divers because it is one of the few sheltered sea diving sites on the south coast. It has easy access from adjacent car parks, it has depths of only 4 metres and it has a nearby dive shop. The Marine Conservation Society South East group use the pier as a location for its training dives during their Marine identification and underwater photography courses due to the wide range of marine life found under the pier.
The Trust maintain a small museum and gift shop at the shore end of the pier providing information and refreshments for visitors. An underwater camera in the museum has been set up to allow visitors to see the vast array of life that is present under the pier. The pier receives over 100,000 visitors a year.
- "Boat Trips & Paddle Steamer". Swanage Pier Trust. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Divers Down Swanage". Divers Down Swanage. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- "Waverley - South Coast". Waverley Excursions Ltd. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Swanage Pier - Diving England, Europe, dive site directory". Dive Site Directory. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Courses". Marine Conservation Society South East. Retrieved 2013-08-26.
- "Pier of the Year award won by Swanage". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
- "Swanage is pier of the year 2012". National Piers Society. Retrieved 2012-03-29.
- "Swanage Pier - National Piers Society". Piers.org.uk. 1966-09-24. Retrieved 2016-02-17.