This post is part of a series on travel close to home. You can find more posts from this series on my page Getaways Near Me (or You)
As a Bay Area Girl, originally in SF and now in the East Bay, Sausalito has always been a favorite getaway. Living in the Richmond District of San Francisco, we spent most of our days in the fog.
But being so close to the Golden Gate Bridge, it was easy to hop over to Sausalito. Once there, we could bask in the sunny weather (they call it the “Banana Belt” for a reason), taking in the views of SF that Sausalito so generously offers for an afternoon!
Climbing up the hillside from the Bay, Sausalito is often said to have the charm of a quaint Mediterranean seaside village. And being Adjacent to the Golden Gate National Recreation, biking, hiking, and sailing are big draws for the active set.
However, many folks come to shop (even just window shopping), browse the art galleries, and eat and drink by the Bay. There are endless things to do in Sausalito. That’s why it’s a beautiful getaway for anyone in the Bay Area for a day or a more extended relaxing weekend.
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Shopping and Art In Sausalito
If you arrive by ferry, your drop-off point is adjacent to Bridgeway. Did you drive into town? There is a large public parking lot by the ferry pier. If you are here for the day, this is a great place to start your adventure. No Sausalito Getaway is complete without a stroll up and down Bridgeway. As the town’s main thoroughfare, this is where you will find all the action.
One of my favorite things to do in Sausalito is window shopping and browsing the art galleries. There are so many unique shops in the charming downtown area you will surely find something that reflects your style and taste.
Shops Til You Drop!
You’ll find exceptional women’s fashion at Claire’s Attic, where you will find accessories, unique and different clothing styles, and more. Or stop in at Hubba Hubba to discover the best in Sausalito-style fashions for every age!
Are the gentlemen in the group looking for a different take on casual wear with a nautical theme? Look no further than Paul and Shark.
For the kids, Sausalito’s very own Cha Cha Cha is one of the best kid’s clothing retailers in the Bay Area.
Don’t want to drive up to the Napa or Sonoma Valley; stop and taste the best in California wines at Bacchus and Venus. Or head over to Real Napa (Fotsch Vineyards Tasting Room), have a tasting, and pick up some fun Napa wine-inspired gifts.
In Sausalito, specialty shops abound, and as you walk along Bridgeway, they welcome you in.
Viewing Art Is One Of The Inspiring Things To Do In Sausalito
A Labor Day Weekend Sausalito Getaway allows you to partake in the internationally acclaimed Sausalito Art Festival. But you don’t have to wait until then to view great arts and crafts. You can visit many of the local artists right in town.
Looking for sports, celebrity, or history photography? The Mark Reuben Gallery has a beautiful catalog of prints suitable for framing to fit every budget.
The Adele Gilani Art Gallery features original works by emerging artists from the Bay Area and around the world.
A working art studio, gallery Sausalito offers its visitors the chance to observe artists creating their art. The gallery currently features eight artists, including its Owner, Sue Averell. You could lose yourself here for quite a while watching the makers.
Sailing, Biking, Hiking, and Fishing
On the north side of town, you find the harbor and docks for all-size boats and yachts. If your list of things to do in Sausalito includes living out your sailing fantasy, this is where you make that happen.
If you dream about sailing around the Bay but you’ve never set foot on a sailboat, Modern Sailing School and Club is the place to go. Here, you can eventually learn everything you need to know to captain your craft.
But suppose your version of sailing in Sausalito is relaxing in a sailing craft, sipping champagne, and sailing around the Golden Gate. In that case, you can book a tour at Fine Day for Sailing and enjoy the ride!
When you take the ferry over from San Francisco and bring your bike, you can start your biking tour smack dab in the middle of town. Note: bikes are allowed on the Tiburon-Sausalito Ferry on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive at the ferry extra early to ensure you can bring your bike along.
If you are really into biking, join up with some friends and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and down into Sausalito.
Head To Fort Baker For Hiking & Fishing
At the South end of town is Fort Baker. This decommissioned army base is now home to CavalloPoint Lodge and the Bay Area Discovery Museum, among other things. The resort is housed in the refurbished officers’ quarters and barracks that date back to the early 1900s, the museum in what used to be the stables.
Fort Baker gives you a chance to get close to the Bay. If you are a sports fisherman, one of the best things to do in Sausalito is fish or crab off the pier at Horseshoe Cove. You have a great day outdoors and may end up with some nice perch, striped bass, or Dungeness Crab for dinner.
Bonus: Since you are fishing from a public pier, there is no license required.
The hikes around Fort Baker are generally moderate and reasonable for most. The Drown Road and Chapel Steps trail is a relatively flat one-mile loop. Alternatively, You can head over to explore Battery Yates and its fortifications at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lastly, you can do the “Fort Baker Cell Phone Tour” and learn about the Fort’s history for an easy and informational walk.
If you are staying overnight or for the weekend in Sausalito, take some time to tour the Marin Headlands on the Golden Gate’s Westside. I wrote a post all about this great part of the GGNRA!
Unusual Things To Do In Sausalito On Your Getaway
Take a Flight Over the Bay
You can hop on a seaplane with Seaplane Adventures and take a 30-minute ride over San Francisco Bay. The view of the Bay, San Francisco, and all the surroundings from the sky gives you a thrill you won’t get any other way.
See how the San Francisco Bay Moves Throughout The Day, Month, and Year
The San Francisco Bay Model is a fantastic place to visit for anyone interested in the science of the Bay. And has the added benefit of being one of the few “free” things you can do in Sausalito!
The US Army Corps of Engineers created a 1.5-acre working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta System back in 1957. The model can simulate the rise and fall of the tides and the currents that run through the Bay.
The model was built initially to test the impacts of proposed changes to the Bay and its surrounding waterways. But the Army Corps of Engineers has now moved on to faster simulations using computers and such. This leaves the Bay Model available for visitors to ponder nature’s incredible power.
Visit the Sausalito Houseboat Community
There are more than 400 houseboats of various shapes, sizes, and values along the north end of town. Well, technically, some of these are outside the Sausalito city limits. Still, the houseboats are generally acknowledged as part of the Sausalito community.
There have been houseboats in Sausalito for over 100 years, starting with the fishermen who fished here. After World War II, beginning in the 1940s and 50s, the area became a sanctuary for artists, writers, musicians, beatniks, and hippies.
Their search for an alternative lifestyle resulted in a flourishing art scene. If you’ve ever listened to Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” this is where it was written.
The area was quite run down in the latter part of the 1900s. There was even talk of removing all the houseboats. But eventually, the houseboat community was brought up to code and safety standards. Proper power and sewage hookups were installed, and brand-new piers were built.
New floating homes, some quite large, were constructed. Several of the houseboats are architect-designed homes and have been featured in major magazines!
Let Your Kids Burn Off Some Energy and Expand Their Minds
Suppose you are looking for things to do in Sausalito that focus on your kids. In that case, the Bay Area Discovery Museum offers a space for imaginations to run wild! Right at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge on 7.5 acres of National Parkland in Sausalito, BADM features exhibition spaces and daily programs for children 6 months of age to 10 years.
One Of My Favorite Things To Do In Sausalito – Eat!
As in most towns and cities, dining in Sausalito can be low or high, depending on your mood and budget. You will find excellent options and won’t be disappointed whichever way you go.
If you get into town early and are looking for a great breakfast, you must try Fred’s Place. Fred’s opens at 7:00 am and closes at 2:00 pm and has been serving American diner classics since 1966. No website, no reservations, just great food. By the way, be prepared to share your table; this happens often.
Fish & Chips-Sausalito offers a small sit-down area and takeaway. Get your fish and chips to go. Then, walk over to the bayside park off Spinnaker Drive and eat lunch while watching boats sail by.
For fantastic Italian food, Poggio Trattoria fills the bill with expertly crafted antipasti, secondi, pasta, dolce, etc. If you sit outside, you get a view of some of the best people-watching in town.
Is a view of the Bay or the San Francisco skyline and some seafood more to your taste for lunch or dinner? Check out the Spinnaker or Scoma’s for the freshest catch.
And Sausalito has not one but two Lappert’s Ice Cream Shops! This super-premium ice cream maker originated in Hawaii and offers unique flavors and huge portions. Lappert’s is a must-do if you love ice cream like my DH!
These restaurants and more are an easy walk from the ferry pier, parking, and just a few of the great eateries in town.
Planning An Overnight Stay?
Sausalito is one of the best places to plan a romantic getaway with your significant other. While there are several great places to rest your weary bones in Sausalito. Two that I recommend are top-of-the-line and cater to your every whim. Want a facial or massage after a day of wandering in and out of shops and art galleries? Both of these resort-style hotels offer a full spa.
In town right on Bridgeway is Casa Madrona. The hotel is located in a mansion originally built in 1885 overlooking Richardson Bay, the little Bay off San Francisco Bay that is home to the Yacht Club and Houseboat communities.
Outside of town, located on the old Fort Baker Army grounds (now part of the GGNRA), is Cavallo Point Lodge. Some of the best rooms here are in the original officers’ quarters with sweeping views across the Bay and San Francisco parade grounds.
While these are my favorites, there are many more hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation homes to be found around Sausalito.
Getting to Sausalito
If you are in San Francisco, the most fun way to get to Sausalito is to take a ferry ride on the Blue & Gold Fleet, leaving three times a day from Pier 41. The ferry cost as of this writing is $13.00 one way for adults with discounts for children and seniors (over 65).
Driving from the peninsula or San Francisco takes you north across the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101. After crossing the bridge take the Alexander Avenue exit (first exit after you leave the bridge) and follow the signs into town.
From the East Bay, take I-580E / I-80W heading towards Richmond. Follow the route across the Richmond / San Rafael Bridge (there is a toll in this direction). Once across the bridge, take the Sir Francis Drake Blvd exit and follow the signs to Highway 101 South. Continue on 101 South to either exit 445A (Donahue Street (north side of town) or exit 442 Alexander Avenue (south side of town).
You Won’t Be At A Loss For Things To Do In Sausalito, No Matter How Long Your Getaway!
Sausalito is a shining jewel in the Bay Area’s crown. If you have an afternoon or are staying for a night or longer, the town and surrounding area will provide endless adventures. I find new treasures on each visit as I explore this historic place further. I hope this brief read of things to do in Sausalito inspires you to visit and that you enjoy your time there as much as I do.