For the last few weeks, you have learned a bit more about American Halloween and Thanksgiving traditions… But it is time to go back to simply discovering the US West coast, right ? During the first week, our road trip led us to San Francisco ! We had heard a lot about it, we just could not leave without taking the trip through SF… And it finally became my favorite city of the whole trip ! I am now starting the tour with a first article about San Francisco, going through Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito ! To discover the rest of the city, you will have to wait a little while (not too long I promise !) 🙂
» Going on a walk on Fisherman’s Wharf
After our little tour on Alcatraz island, we were already by the San Francisco seaside and took this opportunity to have a walk on Fisherman’s Wharf (also we already had paid the expensive parking by the pier). This neighborhood goes approximatively from Pier 35 to Ghirardelli Square. It is definitely a very popular place : it was actually okay when we were there, but the streets are apparently completely full during high season. Walking around, you can watch the lazy sea lions next to Pier 39, clap your hands for the ambulant artists, buy a lot of
stupid stuff in souvenirs shops… There are also some museums nearby (the SF Maritime National Historical Park for example) and a lot of seafood restaurants. But truth be told, those would probably not be recommended by locals… It is merely a tourist catch even though some are probably okay ! And what about my opinion in all that ? I would say that it is probably not the most interesting part of San Francisco, besides the view, and unless you actually go through there (going to the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz island for example), there is no need to make a crazy detour by Fisherman’s Wharf.
» Crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge
Who never dreamed of taking his/her picture in front of the Golden Gate Bridge ? Whether you use it as a screensaver to show off in front of your friends or let it end up of the family’s fridge… You absolutely need this mythical picture – how can you come back from a road trip in California without having seen the Golden Gate Bridge ? Long story short, the bridge construction started in 1933 and ended in 1937 – not without complications. It was built in order to connect San Francisco and Sausalito by the road. In fact, beforehand, it was only possible to cross the strait with the ferry – not very practical. Nowadays, the Golden Gate Bridge has become a symbol of San Francisco, with its towers and its reddish color.
It is possible to cross that bridge by several means :
BY CAR : Of course, you can drive on the bridge ! Actually, depending on your itinerary (if you come through the North side) you will have to cross the Golden Gate bridge to reach downtown San Francisco. To go out of the city towards Sausalito, the crossing is free. To come back to San Francisco, you will have to pay the $6 toll (around 5,50€). Be careful, the system is a bit weird as you do not have a counter, you will have to pay online before or just after your passage. Their cameras are scanning your license plate and you just have to pay on their website. Anyway, it is pretty cool to cross the bridge driving, but you will not have the opportunity to fully enjoy the landscape and to stop for some pictures of the bay.
BY FOOT : You can also cross the bridge by foot. For this option, plan some free time : the Golden Gate Bridge itself is around 2,7km long, so you will have to walk a bit to get to Sausalito or San Francisco. The walk is probably very nice, but I strongly recommend – with the highest amount of objectivity – the next solution !
BY BIKE : We decided to rent bikes, following Karolin’s tips, and it turned out to be an excellent choice ! We rented the bikes on Fisherman’s Wharf. I am still trying to remember the name of the shop, but I have to admit that it apparently left my brain for a while… On the other hand, just a quick tip, do not rent them on the seaside, but preferably in the inner streets : you will definitely find a shop easily and it is (a little bit) less expensive. Count at least 15-20$ (around 14-18€) for half a day. But the ride is still worth it ! Do not hesitate to negotiate the prices, especially if the shop is not too busy – and do not forget to ask for a map, so you will not have to use Google Maps every 2 minutes.
Now that we have settled on the more “practical” aspects, fog or not, choose you will have to ! Actually it can be interesting to shoot this red giant with its head in the clouds… But if you prefer having souvenirs with a clear blue sky, make sure you go to the Golden Gate Bridge after 11am. It is about this hour of the day that the fog is usually going away. To find the best spots for nice pictures, there is no shortage of choice. I would recommend Presidio park, which can be found in between Fisherman’s Wharf and the bridge, and especially Crissy Field. You will definitely have to go through it if you go by foot or bike following the seaside. Otherwise, other perspectives can be found at Fort Point Rock for example, or on the other side, near Horseshoe Bay. It is hard to loose all the tourists, but it is actually a small price to pay for a nice picture and memory !
Once you are on the Golden Gate Bridge, you can admire its construction with a closer look. And of course have a beautiful view (if not foggy) on San Francisco bay, Alcatraz island, the skyline, Bay Bridge… The possibility to stop on the way to take some pictures will depend on the crowd. We were there by the end of April, and could stop a few times without creating traffic jam behind us ! Last quick tip : bring a sweater for the crossing because San Francisco is a very windy city, and the gusts are particularly strong on the bridge. You can obviously see that besides the sunny weather, we were quite covered for this bike ride !
» Spending a quiet moment in Sausalito
So, what should we do once we are on the other side of the bridge ? After pedaling for about 15 kilometers (leaving from Fisherman’s Wharf), you will reach Sausalito. It is worth the effort you will have to put on riding up the hill leading to this small town ! It is way calmer and more peaceful on this side of the bridge than on the busy piers of San Francisco, it is soothing. You will be able to admire the view over the ocean, and the city in the background. The architecture is rather funny, even a bit crazy. If you have time, go check out the houseboats North of the city. And in order to rest from the crossing, do not hesitate to treat yourself with a nice cold drink outside a café… We chose ice-cream cones, generously offered by Marijke ! But the day was coming to an end, it was already time to go back…
To leave Sausalito, you can go through the Golden Gate Bridge (careful, you will be charged driving this way), or take a ferry taking you back to Fisherman’s Wharf. The embarcadero is located at the beginning of the city, you cannot miss it. There are ferries regularly and you can board with your bike. Go to the information kiosk to know about all the destinations and departure times. Once again, it is a nice occasion to have a nice view over the 2 main bridges of San Francisco and over the bay !
Yep, it is already time to leave you… I will come back with the second part of our stay in San Francisco (especially Lombard Street, the cable car…) in a next article ! In the meantime, please leave a comment if you have any question or if you want to tell me which part(s) of the city you like best of you have already been to San Francisco 🙂