The California city of Sausalito is known for its incredible views and historical communities. Visitors will enjoy looking across to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, shopping along the Bridgeway Promenade and along the Boardwalk overlooking the funky houseboat community. Visitors, whether on a day trip or planning to stay longer, will experience the artsy bohemian vibe of the community.
There are several ways for the budget traveller to travel to Sausalito from San Francisco using public transportation including the public bus service or the ferry. I chose the Golden Gate Ferry because I enjoy every opportunity to get out on the water. There are two different ferry companies. The public Golden Gate Ferry leaves from the Ferry Building and costs $28 for a round-trip adult ticket. Tickets can be purchased online from ticket machines. The Blue & Gold ferries leave from Fisherman's Wharf and are 50 cents cheaper. Tickets can be bought from their office at Fisherman's Wharf or online.
The original inhabitants were the Coast Miwok, a peaceful hunter-gatherer community. The first European explorers arrived from Spain in the late 1700s and named the area Saucito (little willow). In the early 1800s, William Richardson was granted nearly 20,000 acres of land in the area. He built several successful businesses and the area thrived for a time but eventually, Richardson lost his businesses and sold most of his estate to the Sausalito Land and Ferry company which truly developed the town into a bustling transportation hub.
Summer homes and fancy Victorian mansions were built on the hills above the port while merchants and working-class, people set up along what is now Bridgeway Street. During Prohibition times, Sausalito became a bootlegger's town with speakeasies, backyard stills, and tarp-covered trucks rumbling through town. When the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, train and ferry services were discontinued and it seemed the town would too. However, during World War II, a major shipyard was built and the town quickly grew in population.
After the war ended, the beauty of the area combined with cheap rent attracted the artistic and free-thinking crowd, giving the town its reputation as an art colony and literary enclave. When passenger ferry routes were re-instituted in 1970, the community became popular with tourists and day visitors.
Sausalito is built up the hillsides. The main street, Bridgeway, is full of restaurants, high-end and folk art galleries, along with hotels, bakeries, and trendy unique clothing boutiques. On the day of my visit, it was a beautiful warm Spring day. I was enjoying the weather so much, I decided to meander up and down streets, stairs, and waterfront.
Bridgeway is the main street near the harbour where you'll find tourist shops, boutiques, specialty food shops, gift stores and art galleries.
I was intrigued by the residential areas further up the hill and decided to climb up and take a look. I was very grateful for this lovely bench.
The Promenade includes a waterfront pathway that runs on the lower level along the waterfront. The name is a bit of a misnomer as it is not wooden at all, however it does offer some of the most splendid views in Sausalito.
Just north of Tiffany Park is the famous Sausalito Sea Lion statue which is said to be the most photographed public art display in the city.
Sausalito’s Houseboat Community
A big attraction in Sausalito is the large community of about 500 floating homes located in 5 marinas in Richardson Bay at the north end of town. Here, you'll see luxurious floating palaces hidden behind gates and some much more humble homes.
The Gates Co-op Houseboat Community is what is left of a once-thriving community of hippies, musicians, writers, and artists who lived here during the 1960s in all kinds of colourful floating homes.
These are people's homes, so you'll only be able to look from the outside unless you are able to visit when the community offers free walking tours. Residents ask that visitors admire from the shore.
I stopped for a cooling drink at The Trident. This restaurant is inside the beautiful 1898 former Yacht Club which was famous for grand yacht races, regattas and galas. After the Yacht Club moved to new premises in the late 1920s, the building exchanged hands several times and became a jazz club known as the Yacht Dock. The Yacht Dock was bought by the famous 1960s group, the Kingston Trio and turned into a natural food restaurant and music venue, attracting many folk icons of the era including Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan as performers. Famous patrons included Janis Joplin (who had her own table), Clint Eastwood, and Jerry Garcia.
Today's Trident is a fine dining restaurant that also offers casual drinks and snacks at their patio rail. I spent some time at the rail sipping a glass of wine and admiring the views. I really enjoyed watching sea lions feeding and playing in the harbour.
After a lovely day of wandering and exploring, it was time to head back to San Francisco. The ferry ride is always a treat as it passes by Tiburon and Angel Island. Sausalito is worth more than a day trip and the next time I am in the area, I will make a plan to do deeper exploration.
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