Sausalito is a small town just a short ferry ride but a world away from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Yes it can be very touristy in the summer but in the cooler and quieter winter months its a joy to visit.
The sun was just coming up when I arrived at the Ferry Building. I got myself a ticket for the 0740 ferry, bought a coffee and waited as the ferry arrived from Sausalito bringing its first batch of early morning commuters into the city. We boarded quickly and the ferry set off on its return journey back to Sausalito.
The ferry has a couple of open decks from where you can get some stunning views of the city skyline, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.
It only takes half an hour to reach Sausalito by ferry and I was soon there ready to start exploring. The area known as Sausalito today was originally home to Native Americans who called it Coast Miwok. In 1775 the Spanish ship San Carlos arrived bringing the areas first European settlers, they named the area Saucito after the small willow trees growing along the steam banks.
Things changed again in 1838 when Englishman William Richardson was given land and built a hacienda in the vicinity of the present day Caledonia Street. When Richardson lost his vast holdings the bulk of his estate was sold to the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company in 1868, they developed the area into much of what is seen today. Over time the town prospered and gained a reputation as a somewhat bohemian community becoming home to artists and literary types. Today Sausalito stills retains that bohemian feel mixed with some of the Bay area’s software, financial and multi-media types who have brought their wealth and lifestyle with them.
Just as you leave the ferry pier you can see the small, but pretty, Vina Del Mar Park named after the city of Vina Del Mar in Chile. The park is famous for its fountain and two elephant statues that were brought here from the Court of the Universe at the 1915 Panama Pacific Fair & Exposition.
A short walk along the waterfront brings me to Spinnaker Point and some great views out across Richardson’s Bay.
A little further takes you to the wooden boardwalks of Sausalito’s Yacht Harbour from where you can view the expensive yachts and some of the amazing houseboats that this area is famous for. I walked as far as Dunphy Park before returning along the Bridgeway to where I started.
There are some lovely shops selling art work and gifts around Princess Street as well as some nice places to stop for a snack, coffee or a more substantial meal.
Princess Alley is a quaint thoroughfare just off the main street and has a good selection of gift type shops mainly geared towards the tourist market.
Walking south along the waterfront there are more beautiful views of the coastline and also the incredible houses built into the hills of Sausalito that overlook the bay.
If the tides out you may even see the famous Sea lion Statue that sits in the water about half way down the Brideway. If you’re lucky you might even spot some seals!
At the end of the Bridgeway a wooden boardwalk takes you past some pretty beach houses built right on the waters edge, and along to Swede’s Beach.
You really only need a few hours to see most of what Sausalito has to offer but if you do plan on staying longer there are some wonderful waterside restaurants to spend some time over a nice lunch or dinner.
An alternative option to get to Sausalito, if you’ve got the energy, is to hire a bike from Fisherman’s Wharf and cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a spectacular way to get there and you can always get the ferry back when you’re done.