If you've done it all in San Francisco proper, get in your car or take a ferry to the small San Francisco Bay Area city of Sausalito. Go with your friends to just hang out and take in an underappreciated area of the Bay. Walk among the eclectic houseboats, grab a bite to eat, and simply enjoy the day at this bayside town.
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Sausalito?
If that small town charm with mom and pop stores and restaurants is your preference, Sausalito has all that in a beautiful location.
Sausalito takes its name for the "little willow" trees (Saucelito) which 18th-century Spanish explorers found growing along its streams. Sausalito is a small town of only 7,500 residents, best known for its spectacular waterfront views.
It's a quiet, charming town that some say reminds them of the Mediterranean. Not only does this mean a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city noise, but it also means you can leave your cool SF weather jacket at home and soak up the sun in a slightly warmer climate, just in San Francisco's backyard.
Four Things to Do in Sausalito, California
Art galleries and souvenir shops along Bridgeway are Sausalito's most-visited attraction. Views from there across the bay toward San Francisco are so captivating that a friend once remarked: "It's like a dream."
To get a different point of view, take a walk north along the waterfront, past the yacht harbor. Along the way, you'll find the Bay Model, a three-dimensional hydraulic model of San Francisco and the Delta that covers more than 1.5 acres.
Sausalito's floating houses are one of its least-known and most fascinating points of interest. In fact, performer Otis Redding wrote his hit song The Dock of the Bay in this area of Sausalito, where he had rented a houseboat in late 1967 to get some peace and quiet. 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.
Annual Events in Sausalito
The annual Sausalito Art Festival, held over Labor Day1 weekend, draws a broad selection of artists and craftsmen.
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 .
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 to stay 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.
By car, 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.
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.