What Best Things To Do in
There are many great things to do in Sausalito, CA. Personally, we most enjoy just hanging out. Even if you have been to Sausalito before, you’ve likely still overlooked some of the very best spots such as the 500 houseboats, the old Marinship Shipyards neighborhood, or the Bay Model. See more details below as well as our Sausalito Map for exact locations.
This little seaside town in SF’s back yard has unbelievable scenery, protected “banana belt” weather, and a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere. If you are driving don’t miss the nearby & gorgeous Marin Headlands either.
The Sausalito Ferry
This 30 minute ride is better, more interesting, and less expensive than tour boat rides. In fact it is the second most exciting ferry boat ride in the world (behind Star Ferry in Hong Kong) according to a vote of The Society of American Travel Writers, the world’s largest organization of professional travel journalists & photographers.
Bridgeway near the Ferry Landing
Most tourists just off the (ferry) boat stick around the vicinity of Bridgeway Blvd and Princess Street. Therefore most of the shops within a block are tourist-oriented but much more upscale than Fisherman’s Wharf. Check out the Sausalito Ferry Company Gift Store, 688 Bridgeway, for inexpensive souvenirs. For something more unique and not outrageously expensive, see the downtown branch of Studio 333 at 803 Bridgeway. It is the largest local artists Co-Op in the SF Bay area.
Repeat visitors and locals will enjoy these casual stops within a couple of blocks of the ferry boat landing:
- Yee Tock Chee Park: Bridgeway & Princess Street. The first paddle wheel ferry boat to Sausalito docked here in 1868. This scenic little park was named after a popular early Chinese grocer. One of the best views in the SF Bay area is from the outdoor deck of adjacent El Piccilo Cafe; the coffee is not great but the view is fabulous.
- Venice Gourmet: 625 Bridgeway. Good, inexpensive deli sandwiches and a gourmet gift shop. Eat at the tables up front or walk across the street to Yee Tock Chee Park.
- Poggio Trattoria: 777 Bridgeway. This place is more up scale than Venice Gourmet but we have found that breakfast, coffee or lunch out on the sidewalk there is not outrageously priced and makes for quite a nice experience. It’s a good place to bring guests.
- The Trident restaurant: 558 Bridgeway. They have one of the best deck views in Sausalito. But, go here for the views rather than the service or somewhat expensive food. It is a good place to stop in for drinks on the deck during the week when you want to give out of town guests an impressive experience.
- Sausalito Yacht Harbor: Walk north from the Ferry Landing along the boardwalk to see expensive boats at one of the top pleasure boat harbors in the world.
- Taste of Rome: 1000 Bridgeway/Caledonia St. This was formerly part of the famous Cafe Trieste chain. It has remained quite similar and is still one of the most popular local coffee houses in town. Nifty ambiance with big open windows to take advantage of the great Sausalito weather. Their fruit smoothies are unusually good.
Local neighborhoods … Marinship and Caledonia St
In the northern end of Sausalito is where most of the local action is during the week. This whole area is little known to out-of-towners but, in fact, has been an important part of town since World War II.
Caledonia Street, one block west of Bridgeway from Johnson St to Napa St, is intended to be the main shopping area for residents. It is not touristy, not exciting and not busy at all on weekends but has some pleasant low key local eating spots. In the May they have a local festival attended primarily by locals unlike the giant Sausalito Art Fair; check our events page around May.
Our favorite breakfast spot here is Cafe Divino, 37 Caledonia/Johnson, an Italian cafe adjacent three other ethnic restaurants which also have outdoor street seating. The Sausalito Gourmet Delicatessen, 209 Caledonia/Turney, has a nice rear patio but is not open Sundays. The local dive bar, Smitty’s, is at 214 Caledonia St/Locust St; the last time we walked by they were planning to roast an entire pig on the street.
While here you might like to see Studio 333, the largest artists’ Co-Op in the SF Bay area. At there two locations are many items for sale by local artists, many from the art hotbed known as Sausalito.
The Marinship neighborhood, east of Bridgeway and north of Napa St, is Sausalito’s only industrial waterfront area. We like this funky older area and often start walking our way north along the informal shoreline from Dunphy Park, at Bridgeway/Napa St. Along the way you will come across sailboat rentals, a very nice swimming beach, canoe & rowing rentals, Le Garage indoor-outdoor French Restaurant, and a variety of boat docks.
- The Bay Model Visitor Center, which houses a 1.5 acre working pneumatic model of the SF Bay. This FREE exhibit is a must see for the engineers and kids in the family.
- Marinship Park where the Sausalito Art Fair with it’s 50,000 annual visitors is held.
- A nice large Modern Sailing school & Club, 2310 Marinship Way.
- The Industrial Center Building (ICB), 480 Gate 5 Road, houses approximately working studios for local artists and a large marine store.
- Fish Restaurant, 350 Harbor Dr, features a great outdoor deck and sustainable organic food. The Sausalito Seahorse, close by has mixed reviews as a restaurant/dance venue.
- 500+ houseboats in various marinas, at the far north end of town.
Sausalito has a strong & thriving art community which is featured in most of the special events below.
- Sausalito Floating Homes Tour – a High-End Houseboat Show
Sausalito has some unique high-end houseboat communities which provide a novel life style most people haven’t even dreamed of living. You can learn more about it for yourself at the annual floating home tour of about 15-20 fine floating homes. The tour is usually held in September (9/24/16, 11 am-4 pm this year). It is usually sold out so consider signing up in advance ($50/person on-line). There is also a free art show and musical entertainment at Kappas Green Park, located near the center of the five houseboat marinas.
- Issaquah Floating Art Show
Another neat way to see inside these houseboats is to attend the Floating Art Show on Issaquah Dock with FREE admission to about a dozen floating home galleries. If you get there early there are no lines. ALERT: Sorry to report that the show has been cancelled but they say to check back later.
- The world famous Sausalito Art & Music Festival
Held every Labor Day weekend (9/3/16-9/5/16) this art fair is known as “The Granddaddy” of outdoor festivals. It attracts over 50,000 fans, 20,000 works of art, 260 artists and 25 live performers. Live music, by top headliners on three different stages, plays non-stop all day . Art prices run from about $5.00-$100,000 and entry tickets cost $25 each which seems a little steep but certainly does not stop the crowds. See more. While you are there also check out the nearby ICB Art Studios.
- Sausalito Artists @ Work
The big historical 3-story Industrial Center Building (ICB Building) contains the studios of over 120 artists. It is not usually open but on Labor Day Weekend you can visit more than twenty artists at work there. This is the same weekend as the Sausalito Art Fair, within walking distance of the ICB building, so we recommend art lovers take in both attractions on the same day.
- Caledonia Street Festival
Held in May on Caledonia Street (at Johnson St), Sausalito. Free. See our event’s page for details in May. A party for the people of Sausalito, very much like the old Sausalito Art Fair, featuring local art and music. 7000 people attended last year.
Here is an interesting part of town most Sausalito visitors have never even heard of. There are over 500 houseboats in five floating home marinas at the north end of town. See map for the exact layout of the docks. Locals say you won’t get ticketed if you park in the gravel lot just south of Gate 6 Road.
While you can walk around the houseboat marina area most any day, to actually go inside some houseboats see Sausalito events above for public tours.
Bicycling to Sausalito
Many athletic tourists will rent a bicycle at Fisherman’s Wharf and take the pleasant bike ride along the Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then return via Ferry Boat. Check the Sausalito Ferry Boat schedule first to make sure you don’t miss the last boat. Most bicycle rental shops provide detailed maps.
Local bikers also love the ride across Golden Gate Bridge. The weather in Sausalito is usually even better than San Francisco’s and there are not many hills if you ride along the shoreline. On weekends you will see hundreds of bicyclists in groups of 2-20, crossing on the western “bikers only” side of Golden Gate Bridge and then streaming through downtown Sausalito as they head further north to places like Tiburone and Tennessee Valley beach.
As an aside for serious bikers, there are several excellent high-end bike shops along Bridgeway Blvd in Sausalito. Many riders including me stop to check out Mike’s Bikes, a big well run shop at the north end of town.
Once across the bridge another favorite ride for locals is to take a quick turn west and climb up Conzelman Road to Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands. You can continue riding further west to see the rest of the Headlands from there. See side trips below.
Nearby side trips
Right after you cross Golden Gate Bridge is the exit to Alexander Blvd which heads northeast from Hwy 101 into Sausalito. Here are a couple of very worthwhile side trips while you are in this area.
- Fort Baker – Just south and east of Alexander Blvd is Fort Baker. Adults will enjoy this beautiful area which is rich in Indian and military history. Here you will also find the Bay Area Discovery Museum which kids enjoy.
- Hawk Hill – Alexander Blvd headed southwest of Hwy 101 turns into Conzelman Rd. Go up Conzelman Rd to Hawk Hill for one of the best vantage points for spectacular views of the SF Bay, Golden Gate Bridge, and the City in the distance. Once little known even to locals, more and more locals and tourists are learning about this viewing spot. In the fall thousands of hawks cross the Bay starting from the top of this hill.
Tiburon is about 15 minutes further north of Sausalito. It is a beautiful but smaller town with fewer things to do. However, many enjoy the outdoor ambience & view at the sunny crowded outdoor deck of Sam’s Anchor Cafe, 27 Main St, Tiburon, or riding the local ferry to visit nearby Angel Island. And, one of the prettiest views in the entire SF Bay area is from the Old St Hilary’s Open Space Preserve (see Sausalito-Tiburon map for exact location).
Sausalito, CA, is one our favorite towns in the San Francisco Bay area. It has far more going for it than tourists see at first glance. If you like boats or art or just peaceful relaxation with a view this area will become one of your favorites too!
- Sausalito-Tiburon Map Shows locations of best things to do in both Sausalito and Tiburon
- Marin Headlands & Map Nearby things to do
- SF Bay Model Interesting working model of the SF Bay
- Marinship Shipyards Once a hyperactive shipyard, now a quiet haven for artists & houseboats
- Sausalito Calendar of Events Good calendar of local events
- Les Garage A hidden French bistro on the docks in Marinship
- Best Cities Near SF
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