As we locals know, the Marina District shoreline is one of the best trails in the City for walking, running or biking. Expect fantastic views, typically pleasant weather and plenty of unique attractions. We often start at Aquatic Park, adjacent Fisherman’s Wharf, and continue west until we reach Fort Point, under Golden Gate Bridge.
Below are descriptions of what to look for on your adventure. Also see our Marina Walking Map for exact locations.
Aquatic Park, adjacent the Buena Vista and the end of the cable car, is where we start. If you head west from the end of Van Ness Ave (sometimes you can find parking here) there is a steepish little road between the shoreline and Fort Mason. Up above this little road are some nice somewhat hidden spots to relax and enjoy the fabulous view.
The little road takes you on to Fort Mason’s Great Meadow, a grassy meadow with several nice knolls. If you like gardening, check out the Fort Mason Community Garden hidden adjacent the meadow; local San Franciscans wait for years for a vacancy so they can garden here. Across Laguna Street from the meadow is Marina Safeway, which used to be one of the best places to meet well-to-do singles in town. Maybe it still is?
Continue west and down the hill to the main portion of Fort Mason Center. The center has been converted from military use, which was big time during World War II, into a wide variety of community clubs and other activities. For example, we like the Book Bay Book Store and Goodys coffee shop both of which help support San Francisco Libraries. Greens Natural Food Restaurant there is recognized as one of the finest in town; they have a take out bakery counter if you want a taste. Events there include a good Farmers Market every Sunday and an Off the Grid mobile food event Friday evenings 8/1-10/31. See more.
Next stop heading west is Marina Green Park. It’s 74 acres of nice grass facing San Francisco Bay. This is San Francisco’s favorite place to go fly a kite. It also happens to be one of the few places you can find much free parking along the shoreline (assuming no special events).
The yacht harbor at the west end is used by two of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the U.S., the St. Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club. Larry Ellison is a member of Golden Gate Yacht Club which is the current holder of the America’s Cup. America’s Cup Village at Marina Green was at the center of action for the recent Americas Cup World Series won by BMW Oracle Racing in 2013.
At the end of the peninsula housing these two yacht clubs is the Wave Organ. The gurgling sounds aren’t particularly exciting but the walk is nice.
Side Trips Inland
A bit inland from Marina Green are some pleasant side trips worthy of consideration: The Palace of Fine Arts, LucasFilm Headquarters, and Chestnut Street.
The Palace of Fine Arts was the site of the 1915 Worlds Fair, built to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. It is still somewhat spectacular and the lagoon is very nice to walk around. SF’s Exploratorium was located here for decades but moved to a large new building on The Embarcadero in 2013.
The Letterman Digital Arts Center, across the street from the Palace of Fine Arts , is headquarters of Lucasfilm. Check out the Yoda statue and Star Wars artifacts which enthusiasts from around the world come to see. There is also a great “hidden” park on the campus with 17 acres of beautifully landscaped public space and a Starbucks coffee shop.
Chestnut Street is Marina’s main commercial strip where young locals who can afford to pay high rents nearby hang out. If you are into funky shopping, coffee shops, restaurants, etc., note that it is easy to jog over from Chestnut Street to Union Street via Fillmore Street. Chestnut’s shops extend west from Fillmore while Union Street’s extend east.
The Presidio, which is one of San Francisco’s biggest and newest parks, is also nearby … especially if you are on a bicycle.
The Golden Gate Promenade, which is in The Presidio, is a wide pedestrian and bicycle trail that goes for about 2 miles along the Bay from the Marina Harbor to Fort Point. It is beautiful, pleasant and popular with locals and sporty tourists alike.
Besides usually great weather and always terrific views of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge, the Promenade’s attractions include a natural marsh now reestablished at Crissy Field, the Warming Hut, and Fort Point.
Across the grassy fields at the westerly end of Crissy Field, along Old Mason Street, you can find some interesting commercial ventures. These include Planet Granite (a great gym with boulder climbing and rock wall high climbs) and House of Air (big trampoline park with a dodgeball pit). It’s fun just to look if you are not that sporty yourself.
The end of the Marin District Walk, at the west end of Golden Gate Promenade in The Presidio, is Fort Point. It provides some of the best, most unique views of Golden Gate Bridge (from directly underneath) and of the San Francisco Bay (where water is rushing by at its fastest … the view used to be better before they fenced off part of it). Tort Point is also one of the most interesting Civil War historical sites on the West Coast. Admission is free.
If you want to continue your walk from Fort Point there is a path from the parking lot here up to Golden Gate Bridge. Golden Gate Bridge is another great walk, perhaps for another day, you won’t want to miss!
We often ride our bikes the entire Marin District walk, then across the Golden Gate Bridge and on to Sausalito … then take the Sausalito ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf. Or, when less energetic, we relax and thoroughly enjoy only a few segments of this fantastic round trip at a time.