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Visit Sausalito San Francisco Via The Sausalito Ferry

San Francisco has to be a contender for the top travel city in the US, I know there is some stiff competition but the geographical, cultural and societal diversity is what really draws us to this place and if you’re ever getting a little too much hustle and bustle you could always visit Sausalito San Francisco via the Sausalito ferry. It’s easy, you can take in some fresh air, snap a few pix of Alcatraz as you cruise by and enjoy day of laconic strolls amidst the serenity of Sausalito.

Catching The Sausalito Ferry From San Francisco

We’ve driven past Sausalito a few times and never managed to make the turn off. Our last trip was a month of exploring San Francisco’s Open Art Studio Event and the Castro Street Fair, which you can read all about here. We’d always had in mind that we would get out of town for few days, the logical option might be to hire car but we wanted an experience minus the hassle of driving (perhaps that’s called lazy?). A day trip to somewhere other than Alcatraz or Treasure Island was the starting point and Sausalito is a fairly obvious option if you want to take in some sights and enjoy the cruise along the way. I could mention at this point that the Sausalito Ferry is considered by some as one of top ferry journeys in the world. We’ve been a few and I couldn’t really argue with that.

When To Go On The Sausalito Ferry

We lucked out on our trip. It was a week day and we were going against the flow somewhat as we headed out around 9am. Avoid weekends and holidays if you can as they can get crammed with bikers who will ride one way across the bridge.  The schedule is fairly complex and getting to your destination doesn’t mean you’ll get away in the same day especially if you plan on mixing it up with a visit to Angel Island or Tiburon, so be sure you check your timing on the routes that are making the necessary stops.

Where To Go To Catch The Sausalito Ferry

From San Francisco you’ve got a couple of options. You could head off from the main Ferry Building, which is hard to miss as it’s one of the cities most historic landmarks at the bottom of Market Street (not far from the turntable), or you could wander 2 km’s north to Pier 39/41, the main difference between the two is the view of Alcatraz as you pass which I’ll cover next . You can purchase tickets from machines at the pier, prices below.

Sunset by Marcin Wichary | Ferry by Prayitno

San Francisco Sausalito Ferry – One Of The Great Ferry Rides

Duration – 30 minutes | Cost – $12.50 Adults, $7.50 Kids(5-11),$7.50 Seniors(65+) Schedule here

Departing from Pier 39/41 will get you a view of the western side of Alcatraz within 10 minutes and slightly closer than the route that departs the Ferry Building. If you want some photo ops with the bridge in the background I’d recommend departing from the Ferry Building though, you’re only a little further away as you’ll pass the eastern side of Alcatraz but you’ll be a little closer to Angel Island in another 10 minutes on your Starboard side (impressed?) the right that is. I’m not sure I need to go into Alcatraz, if it’s still a mystery to you, watch the movie “The Rock” for an insightful and authentic peak into life on Alcatraz 😐.

Angel Island Via The Sausalito Ferry

Often referred to as the Ellis Island of the Pacific Coast. Angel Island is a little known historic gem of the San Francisco Bay area. We had never heard of it until our day on the Sausalito Ferry. It’s a place with a sad and desperate history which is ironically all the more pointiant now as it was when it was in use. Essentially it was an Immigration inspection and detention facility for the most part but was originally built as a quarantine facility to segments of the Chinatown community and arriving Chinese immigrants during a bubonic plague scare in the late nineteenth century. The Hawaiian Japanese, German and Italian population were interned here during World War 2 and the island also housed a military missile site until the 1960’s.

You can tour the barracks or explore the islands beaches and views. I quite fancy the segway tour, makes those hills seem a little more attractive. Scroll down for the video.

Above Angel Island images by Marcin Wichary

Angel Island Video


Sausalito is town of around 7,000 in population. It has a reputation as being a wealthy and artistic enclave which screams oxymoron to me. It’s had several incarnations, originally occupied by an indigenous population of Coast Miwok’s, Sausalito’s twentieth century history has been mostly of fishing and shipbuilding with perhaps bootlegging during the prohibition being the most interesting. Today Sausalito is mostly a holiday destination and is tucked in behind the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a popular spot for families.

From the ferry you’ll disembark on the southern side of town. It’s still worth a wander a little further southward. You might get tempted by some fine dining on the waterfront or you can cross the road and start your stroll north through the cute little alleyway off Bridgeway on Princess St. There’s some boutiques and galleries to take in which add to the laconic charm of Sausalito. Heading a couple of blocks north you’ll find a lot more options for a bite to eat. there’s not a lot further on, I’d be crossing back over the road to the marina, maybe steal a yacht, perve on the houseboats of the “Bohemian Artist Colonies” or enjoy the views of San Francisco… wherever the urge lies.

Artist housaboat image by Allie_Caulfield

Things To See in Sausalito

Eating – This is what it was really about. A nice city escape where you can wander the water line eating and drinking and there is a surprising amount of options for such a small town.
Shopping – There’s a nice selection of clothing and accessory stores including SOXalito… the sock shop. There’s also a handful of art galleries including Gallery 111, which is a coop of local artists. If you’re lucky enough to be in town on the Labour Day Weekend (beginning of September) you’ll be able to visit one of the countries leading Art festivals – the Sausalito Art Festival.

  1. Angel Island – Having my time again I would seriously consider mixing it up with a quick visit to Angel Island. The ferry schedule is complicated between Sausalito and Angel Island (mostly non-existent), you’re better off doing a loop via Tiburon which has ferries hourly to Angel Island between 10am – 5pm, schedule here. You could do a 30 minute bus trip between Tiburon and Sausalito or do a $30 Uber/Lyft ride, check this link for some details.
  2. Golden Gate Bridge – Sausalito is also serviced by Golden Gate Transit so you could ride the Golden Gate Bridge on the Transit Bus one-way to Sausalito and do the Sausalito Ferry on the other leg. See here for more details on getting around San Francisco.

Eating & Drinking in Sausalito

Fine Dining

If you’re feeling like a splurge just wander south of you when you get off the ferry, there’s a handful of places that’ll take your money in exchange for a good view and quality dining.

The Barrel House Tavern is a swanky modern revamp of the old ferry building. The brunch menu could be a good way to dabble in a little fine dining without the pain$$.

Scoma’s Sausalito, reputation is good and position is prime. You’ll see it from the ferry hanging out over the water… makes for a great feature image for a post on Sausalito 😉.

Light Meals

There’s more cheap eat options if you head north from the ferry point and if the bright colours of the Taco Shop doesn’t lure you in or multiple Italian options don’t take your fancy you’ll see Cibo Cafe near the corner of Pine Street. A funky little cafe that does good light food and good coffee.

Tips For The Sausalito Ferry

  • The San Francisco are 1.4 miles apart so make sure you pick the right one, an extra walk at the end of a long day is no fun.
  • Take some layers of clothing. A sunny day doesn’t mean the breeze across the bay won’t have you shivering.
  • If you are unlucky enough to get stuck with the MAMIL’s, there are separate lines at the Sausalito pier for MAMIL’s bike riders and pedestrians, apart from the cues being longer you may need a dose of smelling salts by the time you actually embark.

Getting around San Francisco

San Francisco is fairly compact unlike many US cities so if you consider the hassle of parking I’d be ditching the idea of renting a car and going with a Muni Mobile Pass, it’s a paperless system that comes in 1,3 and 7 days and will get you to and from the airport, unlimited rides on the bus, rail and cable car – a 3 day pass will run at US$33. Just show your ticket via your mobile device to the fare inspector. You can mix this up comfortably on foot or with UberGolden Gate Transit services mostly the north of the bay area so the Muni system will really only get you to the Golden Gate Bridge which’ll work if you’re feeling brave and fancy a walk.
San Francisco Castro Street Fair

If you fancy driving around town or perhaps fitting in a few day trips check below for some car rental rates.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

I’m not sure I’d be able to fill an overnight stretch in Sausalito, we chose to stay in Castro on this visit as it was central to where we wanted to explore at the time. Castro is also a straight run down Market Street on the tram to the Ferry Building. We use Airbnb whenever the opportunity pops up and the apartment we got in Castro was fantastic. We run our own place in Port Douglas so know the system pretty well and for us it’s the most user-friendly of the private holiday rental apps. If you are planning to stay for longer than 2 nights, click here to set up an Airbnb account, it can be a roll of the dice in terms of what you get but you’ll likely get more bang for your buck.

If you’re more comfortable 😉 going with hotels, below is an accomodation banner for you to check out some hotel options through Agoda or use the Hotels Combined search engine, which is preset to search the San Francisco area.

Map of Sausalito Ferry

San Francisco Publications you might find helpful

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Whilst many of the images are our own we did get some help from some talented individuals, we like to give credit when it’s due! If you click their links under the images you will see some fantastic portfolios of passionate travellers and photographers.
All images were obtains under the Creative Commons Licensing Agreements