Spellbinding Sausalito: An Easy San Francisco Day Trip

How to Spend a Day or Weekend in Sausalito

Sausalito Waterfront View
••• Sausalito Waterfront View. Jonas Santin/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0


You could go to Sausalito from San Francisco just for the view. From its waterfront, you can see Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge, and the San Francisco skyline and waterfront. It's a scene so idyllic that people sometimes say: "It's like a dream."

The trip to get to Sausalito would be worth the trip, too, whether you take the ferry or drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once you get to Sausalito, you'll find a small town of only 7,500 residents, whose homes cling to a steep, wooded hillside above shoreline tidal flats. 


Why Should You Go? Will You Like Sausalito?

Sausalito is a quiet, charming town that some say reminds them of the Mediterranean. Not only does it provide a break from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, but it also you can also leave your cool SF weather jacket at home and soak up the sun in a slightly warmer climate, just in San Francisco's backyard.

If you don't like shopping, you may not find much to do in Sausalito, but you may think it's worth the trip just for the views. 

Four Things to Do in Sausalito, California

Art galleries and souvenir shops along Bridgeway are Sausalito's most-visited attractions.

To get a different point of view, take a walk north along the waterfront, past the yacht harbor. It's one of the few ungated marinas in the Bay Area, where you can walk close to the boats if you want. About a mile north of the ferry terminal, you'll find the Bay Model, a three-dimensional hydraulic model of San Francisco and the Delta that covers more than 1.5 acres.

About a mile north of the Bay Model, you'll find Sausalito's floating houses. They're one of its least-known and most fascinating places to visit. In fact, performer It's a laid back place where musician Otis Redding wrote his hit song The Dock of the Bay while staying in a houseboat in late 1967 to get some peace and quiet. You can use the Floating Homes guide to find out where to see them, when you can get inside, and how you can rent one for a few days or more.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge is a good place to take the kids, from toddlers to age eight.

You may have seen Heath Ceramics featured in contemporary design magazines like Dwell and Architectural Digest. But you might now know that Heath is one of California’s last remaining mid-century era potteries and located in Sausalito near the floating home community. You can tour their factory and visit their factory store, where you can browse through their overstock section looking for bargains.

Annual Events in Sausalito

The annual Sausalito Art Festival, held over Labor Day1 weekend, draws a broad selection of artists and artisans.

Twice a year, the Industrial Center Building hosts Artists' Open Studios (May and December).

Best Time to Visit Sausalito, California

Sausalito is truly spectacular when the air is clear, and San Francisco is visible across the bay. After dark, the town gets very quiet.

It is also best visited as a day trip or side trip from San Francisco, as it's one of San Francisco's top-rated things to do.  Find out what the rest are.

Some people wonder whether you can take the ferry to Sausalito in the winter, asking whether it's difficult or too cold. In fact, winter temperatures are only 10 degrees lower than in summer, but it may actually feel warmer than it does on a foggy June day.

Where to Stay In Sausalito, California

While Sausalito is rich with charm, it's short on places to stay and is usually visited as a day trip from San Francisco. If you want to stay overnight, we have stayed at - and liked - Cavallo Point Lodge. Other popular places include Casa Madrona, The Inn Above Tide, Hotel Sausalito, and Gables Inn.

Where Is Sausalito, California Located? How Do I Get There?

An easy way to get to Sausalito is by ferry. You can catch the Golden Gate Ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building (Embarcadero at Market) or Blue and Gold Fleet from near Pier 39. The ferry ride takes about half an hour. 

You can use this guide to find out everything you need to know about taking the ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. The ferry is also a good alternative to a San Francisco Bay Cruise at a lower price.

By car, your trip will take about half an hour if you avoid rush hour traffic jams. To get there, take US Hwy 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Exit at the first exit past the north vista point (Alexander Avenue) and follow the road downhill into Sausalito. Bicyclists can follow the same route.

The trip north across the bridge is toll-free, but if you plan to drive back to San Francisco over the bridge, read the guide to Golden Gate Bridge tolls for visitors to find out how to pay your toll. 

Public parking is available at parking meters and in paid lots just off Bridgeway, on the north side of downtown.

1 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.