It’s common to feel like you’re not in California anymore upon arriving in Sausalito. With its stunning cliffside homes offering views of the San Francisco Bay, fine dining restaurants specializing in seafood and pasta, and a casual Italian charm, it’s a place that feels more like Italy’s Amalfi Coast than the Bay Area.
Located in San Francisco’s backyard, Sausalito is the day trip you’ve always dreamed of. Plan a day of waterfront dining, water adventures on the bay, and photo-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge, all within arm’s reach of San Francisco, California.
Here are some of the best things to do in Sausalito for the perfect trip.
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COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAUSALITO
- Best Near The Waterfront: Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa is an elegant hotel is located next to the downtown Sausalito waterfront, overlooking the San Francisco skyline. The hotel offers a full-service spa and a restaurant. It’s listed as a treasured landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Best Near San Francisco Bay: Near San Francisco Bay, this historic Sausalito, California resort is located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Cavallo Point Resort features a full-service spa and Murray Circle Restaurant.
- Best ON The Water: Looking to be literally on the water? This Floating Home In Sausalito is the way to go. The vacation home is fitted with 2 separate bedrooms and includes a kitchen with a dishwasher, fridge and dining area. It’s located 1.4 miles from Schoonmaker Beach, and 6.3 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Traveling to Sausalito from San Francisco will be an adventure, regardless of if you opt for the land or water journey.
Only 11 miles away, you’ll have the opportunity to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. Morning-time drives usually take you through the infamous shroud from Karl the Fog before emerging on the other side with clear skies. Be sure to include the bridge tolls in your travel budget, which you can conveniently prepay or pay on your way back to San Francisco online within 48 hours of crossing it.
Ferries were long used to cross the San Francisco Bay before any bridges were built and remain a popular way to commute between SF and Sausalito. Take the ferry from Pier 41 aboard the Blue and Gold Fleet for the half-hour journey where you’ll see Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and a receding view of the San Francisco skyline.
EXPLORE ALONG RICHARDSON BAY
HEAD TO DOWNTOWN SAUSALITO
From its streets lined with charming, colorful houses, to views of the waterfront, Downtown Sausalito is where you can spend an entire day exploring.
The Sausalito boardwalk feels more like a scenic waterfront sidewalk for most of its stretch. In the northern boardwalk section, you’ll see the fleet of masts in the harbor. Then, you’ll pass Tiffany Beach before reaching the southern boardwalk area near the Sausalito Old Town.
And the best part is that you’ll have easy access to the Bridgeway Promenade.
STROLL BRIDGEWAY PROMENADE ALONG THE WATER
Bridgeway Promenade is the heartbeat of Sausalito with its shopping, dining, live music and lively atmosphere. It extends from downtown to Tiffany Park.
Park your car and go for a walk down Bridgeway, the central shopping hub. See local art in the Gallery Sausalito, select handcraft jewelry and artwork in Studio 33, and pick up a few souvenirs at the Sausalito Ferry Co Gift Store.
There are plenty of dining options for any time of day. Breakfast at Sausalito Bakery & Café with an egg sandwich and chai latte. Satisfy lunchtime pizza cravings at Taste of Rome. And when you’re ready for dessert, Sausalito Sweets Retro Shop has the perfect sugary treat for your sweet tooth.
A visit to the Bridgeway Promenade is one of the best things to do in Sausalito.
VISIT THE FLOATING HOMES
The wealth in Sausalito is apparent when driving around with picture-perfect views of the San Francisco Bay everywhere you look, and million-dollar estates occupying the best real estate on the coast. Sausalito’s floating home phenomenon emerged from running out of space on land to build vacation or permanent residence homes.
A walking tour along the waterfront of these buoyant communities showcases more than 400 homes and neighborhood marinas. Or see them up close on a Sausalito Floating Homes Tour.
Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour takes passengers on guided tours in classic wooden boats to learn more about the history of floating houses in Sausalito and how much it’d set you back to get one for yourself.
SAMPLE THE WINE AT REAL NAPA WINERY
Napa Valley is only an hour’s drive north from Sausalito. But since you’re already in paradise, why make the extra trip? Instead, Real Napa Winery brings all the flavors of California’s famous wine region to you.
Friendly sommeliers exhibit the best flavors imported directly from Napa Valley. Order a glass of Fotsch Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Voignier before settling on a wine bottle to finish off the evening.
Views from the winery’s outdoor patio are set on the bay, where you’ll see the sunset over Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Cheers!
KAYAK THE BAY WITH SEATREK
Group kayak tours hosted by Seatrek look like a hand of bananas as you set off on a water excursion through Richardson Bay. These distinct yellow kayaks are easy to spot on the water surface, giving kayakers a new perspective of Sausalito.
Block out three hours of your day for a guided kayak tour with Seatrek to explore many of Richardson Bay’s highlight attractions. Practice forward stroke and sweep stroke as you glide beneath the Golden Gate Bridge towering 746 feet above you.
Paddle past the heavenly beaches lining the coast of Angel Island. Later, you’ll cruise the water highway through Sausalito’s houseboat communities — you might even spot a replica of the Taj Mahal.
BOOK A FULL MOON SAIL ON SCHOONER FREDA B
The moon illuminates Richardson Bay every night. However, it’s most brilliant during the once-a-month appearance of the full moon. There’s no place better to see this illustrious nighttime imagery than from the bay itself.
Set sail from the Sausalito yacht harbor on an 80-foot schooner boat, Freda B. The evening cruise is just in time to see golden hour on the bay, followed by the highly-anticipated moonrise. The dark sky sets the perfect backdrop for the moon to rise above the San Francisco city lights, as it lights your way back to the dock. Night views of the San Francisco Bridge and Angel Island silhouette have never looked more spectacular.
GRAB A MEAL AT THE TRIDENT
Tales of the who’s-who in California since the 1960s still linger at the table sides of the Trident restaurant. Leave your own star-studded legacy at the Trident when you come to enjoy its signature seafood dishes.
Trident is a place to dine in the venue used for the launch party of the Rolling Stones Tour in 1972, when its signature Tequila Sunrise Cocktail was co-signed by the likes of Mick Jagger. A place where the busboy role was held by the late Robin Williams, and seen in Woody Allen’s famous Play It Again, Sam film.
Sixties-era psychedelic murals decorating the restaurant mesmerize you as you experience the decadent seafood dishes like seafood linguini, Dungeness crab, and king salmon.
While you’re in Sausalito, try some of these amazing tours of the area that we know you’ll love!
- Take a Golden Gate Bay cruise. Sail along San Francisco’s breathtaking waterfront, under the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, and around notorious Alcatraz Island. Discover San Francisco’s history via an award-winning audio commentary, available in 16 languages.
- Go on a Muir Woods and Sausalito half-day trip. From serene ranks of giant redwoods to the quiet lapping of water on the shore, see all the highlights of the northern San Francisco Bay on this time-saving tour.
- Enjoy wine tasting on this half-day excursion. Leave San Francisco and enjoy a half-day excursion to wine country. This tour is designed for guests who don’t want to dedicate their entire day in the area, or are only visiting for a short time.
VISIT WITHIN THE GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL RECREATION AREA
Sausalito will fool you. Because in a place as enchanting as this bayside town, it’s hard to imagine a real need for the historic Fort Baker. You’ll find the 20th century fort, which was built during the early 1900s, at the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. The former Army post was located at a prime location for protecting the region, although it was only active until the mid-1900s.
Today, Fort Baker gives visitors a chance to explore a protected section of the Golden Gate Recreation Area near the foot of the bridge. Hike the grounds expanding 335 acres to see previous structures and outbuildings that were a part of the fort, fish for salmon in the bay from Fort Baker Pier, and enjoy a trek to Battery Spencer for views of the San Francisco Bay Area.
BAY AREA DISCOVERY MUSEUM
A child’s imagination can turn the kid-friendly exhibitions of the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM) into an entirely new universe of wonder. The BADM gives kids a place to call their own, as the tables have turned on who gets to have fun.
Adults standby while kids take over the travel itinerary for a few hours in the BADM. It will be time well spent, because it’s an unexpected lesson in STEM that feels more like fun than learning. Immersive exhibitions, like How Things Work and Try It Studio, show kids the inner workings of everyday things. But it’s not all learning, since the outdoor sandbox area is great for playing with a backdrop view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
From mountain summit hikes to strolls on the beach, the diverse landscapes within the Marin Headlands give plenty of options for enjoying the outdoors.
Start your adventure at the Marin Headlands Visitors Center to browse natural history exhibitions about the Bay Area. You’ll find well-marked trailheads leading to points of interest. Take the Rodeo Beach Trail for a trek to the sandy shore. Hike the edge of rugged cliffsides to see the 32-foot-tall Point Bonita Lighthouse. Wander along the Coastal Trail to see abandoned WWII Bunkers.
You’ll hear sounds of the foghorn used for alerting ships in the bay. But when the fog settles, head to Hawk Hill peak for one of the bay’s best views of Golden Gate Bridge.
MULTIPLE GOLDEN GATE VIEWPOINTS
If we’re being honest, most of us plan an epic photoshoot during our trip to Sausalito because who can deny the incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Recreation Area has several spots for you to get an epic flick that lets everyone know you’ve checked Sausalito off your bucket list.
Get in line with the other Tik-Tokers and IGers waiting for a photo-bomb-free picture at the Battery Spencer Overlook, a former artillery excellent for shooting pictures. Drive down to South Vista Point for a sunrise view of the bridge. Or perch yourself near the edge of Hawk Hill for a bird’s eye view of the bridge.
Expect the unexpected, because you may be met with just a cloud of fog when you reach the viewpoints.
LIME POINT LIGHTHOUSE
You’ll overlook the Lime Point Lighthouse if you’re looking for a traditional-style lighthouse tower. This lighthouse’s appearance is a bit more subtle, yet has one of the most important locations of all the lighthouses in San Francisco Bay.
Thanks to the Lime Point Lighthouse, boats can navigate the Golden Gate Strait between the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Walk to viewpoints of this historic Nebelhorn building, remaining from when the lighthouse was built in 1869, set atop its rocky spur. It also provides yet another perspective of the Golden Gate Bridge as seen from the mouth of the bay.
Descend the rocky bluffs in the Marin Headlands to reach the bay shore at Rodeo Beach. You’ll be accompanied by other beachcombers going for a leisurely walk on the pebble beach or water sport enthusiasts seeking the thrill of the bay.
Upon closer examination, the dark-colored beach showcases a shoreline covered with small, colorful pebbles. The tide from the Rodeo Lagoon pulsates gently on the crescent-shaped coast, and you’ll see a few pets splashing around this dog-friendly beach. Giant rocks protrude from the bay floor offshore, including Bird Island, where you’ll spot pelicans. Even further offshore, you’ll spot surfers riding the frothy waves rolling into shore.
MARINE MAMMAL CENTER
Barks and smells of sea lions welcome you to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. Since being founded in 1975, it has helped more than 23,000 marine animals and has grown into the largest marine mammal hospital in the world. Thanks to volunteer efforts, its animal rescue, and rehabilitation services extend from California to Hawaii.
The Marine Mammal Center is open to visitors to see behind the scenes of keeping the local marine life thriving. You’ll encounter a few of the hundreds of animals kept here, including sea lions, otters, seals, and dolphins.
Volunteer-led guided tours explain the caring process, stories about their facility’s rescues, and exhibitions inspiring you to care more for our planet’s oceans.
DAY TRIP TO MUIR WOODS NATIONAL MONUMENT FOR SOME HIKING
Did you know that Sausalito has a daily shuttle to Muir Woods National Monument? That makes it easy to plan a day trip to one of the last remaining redwood forests in Marin County, attracting nearly one million visitors every year.
Pack your hiking boots because Muir Woods National Monument is full of trails. Ancient mysteries lurk beneath the towering canopy of this old-growth forest of redwoods reaching heights over 250 feet, as seen on the popular Redwood Creek Trail. Then, ascend to the Mount Tamalpais summit on the 10-mile-long Dipsea Trail. Emerge from the woodlands to coastal overlooks at Stinson Muir Beach.
As for the kids, it’s one of the local national park stops required to become an honorary Junior Ranger for their exploration and knowledge of California parks.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
- NORTHERN CALIFORNIA: 18+ Magical Things To Do In Northern California
- SAN FRANCISCO: 47 Phenomenal Things To Do In San Francisco, CA
- BERKELEY: 17 Amazing Things To Do In Berkeley You’ll Love
- NAPA: 27 Fun Things To Do In Napa Everyone Will Enjoy
WHERE TO STAY IN SAUSALITO
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