The 13 Best Things to Do in Sausalito, California

The best things to do in Sausalito, California

Want to feel like you’re having a European vacation without leaving California? Then you need to spend a day exploring the fun things to do in Sausalito, California. This small town offers delicious restaurants with waterfront views, charming parks, and some of the best views of the San Francisco skyline. As a San Francisco Bay Area local, I make the quick trip across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito anytime I’m itching to book that flight to Europe, especially in the summer! In this blog post, I’m going to share some of my favorite things to do in Sausalito with you, including practical tips so you can make the most of your visit!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a tiny bit of income if you decide to click and make a purchase and booking.

San Francisco Travel Resources

How to Get to Sausalito, California

Sausalito makes a great day trip from San Francisco and its easily accessible whether or not you have a car! Here are the three ways to get to Sausalito.

Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge

If you do have a car, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and take the very first exit on the Marin County side of the bridge, Alexander Ave. You’ll pass a left turn for the Marin Headlands, which is a great area for the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. But for now, skip that turn, and follow the road into the city of Sausalito.

Where to Park in Sausalito

There is very limited street parking in Sausalito and what is available fills up very quickly, especially on the weekends. I recommend parking as quickly as possible because the best way to see Sausalito is on foot. 

There is a large lot at the Ferry Terminal or you can head to the outskirts of downtown for parking lot 5, near Bar Bocce and the Joinery restaurants. From parking lot 5, it’s about a 3-5 minute walk back to the center of Sausalito.

You’ll use your phone to pay for parking. Download the PaybyPhone parking app and enter your vehicle information. You can pay for increments of two hours of parking and increase the time allotted as the day progresses without having to return to your car! The app will alert you when time is running out and you can simply pay for another two hours and go about your day.

There is free parking in the neighborhood, but be mindful of parking signs. The parking time limits are strictly enforced and the tickets are NOT CHEAP (trust me 🙁). It’s much cheaper to just pay for parking.

Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the most popular things to do in San Francisco is ride a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. In fact, this is a popular route for local cyclists as well. 

If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry, there are plenty of bike rental shops in Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 that will get you set up with a bike, helmet and map to get to Sausalito. My biggest recommendation is to rent an e-bike because there are quite a few hills to contend with on the route to Sauslito.

If you don’t think you have it in you to bike there and back, don’t worry. You can easily take the ferry back to the city from Sausalito and return your bike to the shop at the end of the day. This is usually what people do.

While you’re exploring, you can park your bike near the Ferry Terminal or many restaurants have bike racks.

Reserve your bike with Blazing Saddles (the best bike shop) here!

biking across the Golden Gate Bridge

Take the Ferry from the Embarcadero to Sausalito

If riding a bike or contending with weekend traffic do not sound like fun, an actually fun way to get Sausalito from San Francisco is via Ferry. The Blue and Gold Fleet makes the journey from Pier 41 to Sausalito and back multiple times per day. It’s a beautiful ferry ride across the San Francisco Bay where you’ll have views of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge.

The journey takes approximately 30 minutes. A one-way ticket costs $14 per adult.

Once you arrive in Sausalito, you can explore the city on foot!

Sausalito waterfront

The Best Time of Year to Visit Sausalito

Honestly, any time of year is a good time to visit Sausalito. The weather is fairly consistent year round, with winter being the rainy season.

Fog is really the biggest thing to consider. Often when San Francisco is shrouded in the cold summer fog, locals know they can just drive across the bridge for some sun in Sausalito. And vice versa. 

While there is no bad time of year to visit Sausalito, I highly recommend avoiding weekends when possible. Since it’s such a popular place to visit in the Bay Area amongst tourists and locals, the small town gets packed on weekends. There is only one lane in each direction for traffic, loads of bicycle traffic, and foot traffic. If you can, go during the week to enjoy the town at a leisurely pace without the crowds.

Houseboats in Sausalito

The Best Things to Do in Sausalito, California

Are you ready to experience the beauty of Sausalito? Let’s dive into my favorite things to do in Sausalito.

Check out the Sausalito Houseboats

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Sausalito is the houseboat community. Located in the Marinship neighborhood are several piers filled with unique floating homes. These homes are privately owned and, yes, people live in them year-round!

I’ve always driven by them on my way to Muir Woods or to hike in Mount Tam, but on my most recent visit to Sausalito I decided to get an up close look at them.

There are two harbors where you can see the houseboats, Galilee Harbor Community Association and Waldo Point Harbor. Galilee Harbor Community Association is about a 10-15 minute walk from the center of Sausalito, but I highly recommend walking further to Waldo Point Harbor because the houseboats in this area are stunning! 

Houseboat in Sausalito
Houseboat in Sausalito, California

One I saw was in the shape of a fortune cookie, while another had what looked like mermaid scales on the outside. Some are works of art while others look like they just took a house from land and put it on the water, but still it’s so unique to the area!

Just remember to be respectful as these are people’s homes. 

If you want to learn a bit more of the history of how this community grew to what it is you can take a Houseboat Tour with Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour. There is a 6 person minimum for the tour. 

Fun Fact: Shel Silverstein lived in one of the house boats, called Evil Eye for about 10 years. 

Houseboat in Sausalito, California
Houseboat in Sausalito

Explore the Marinship Neighborhood

Since you’re in the Marinship neighborhood, take some time to explore the area. This is a fairly industrial waterfront area that was a massive shipyard during World War II. After World War II, the shipyard closed and some of the houseboats are actually built on top of the remains of the ships. The fortune cookie house is built on top of a landing craft!

Its industrial aesthetic certainly remains, but you can find Sausalito beach here and a few good restaurants like Fred’s Place (a great diner for breakfast) and Le Garage (a French spot great for lunch or dinner). 

Also in the neighborhood is the original Heath Ceramics factory where their stunning dinnerware is made by a team of 40 craftspeople. There is a showroom here as well if you’d like to purchase a beautiful piece for your home. 

Sausalito Beach, Sausalito California

Learn about the Bay Area at the Bay Model Visitor Center

While you’re in the Marinship area, you can also check out the Bay Model Visitor Center which was built and is currently managed by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. It is a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta Systems. It provides scientists with real water, tides, and currents of the water which can simulate the effects of oil spoils, floods, etc. 

It’s a huge facility, but it’s free to enter and geek out a bit over the unique geography of the area. 

Explore Richardson Bay on a Stand-Up Paddleboard or Kayak

If you’d like to explore the waterways of Richardson Bay, hop on a paddleboard or kayak. If you have your own, you can put it in the water at Sausalito Beach or pay a small fee to drop in at SeaTrek.

If you don’t have your own, you can rent one from SeaTrek as well. Check in is near the Bay Model Visitor Center. A kayak or SUP rental costs $35/hour. A double kayak costs $55/hour. 

SeaTrek also offers guided tours! You can take a guided tour around the floating homes neighborhood, a sunset paddle under a full moon, and more!

Houseboats in Sausalito, California

Get Ice Cream from Lappert’s

It’s not a Mediterranean style day trip without some ice cream, right? A must visit while in Sausalito is Lappert’s Ice Cream. This family run ice cream shop creates flavors inspired from places they’ve traveled like Brazil, Kauai, and beyond. 

Interestingly, while Walter Lappert is a Sausalito local, he opened the first Lappert’s on Kauai and the original factory is still there!

While they do have a wide variety of flavors, I always go for the Mint Chip with some hot fudge and almonds, it always hits the spot. 

Ice cream from Lappert's in Sausalito, California
mint chip ice cream from Lappert's in Sasualito

Relax in Gabrielson Park

Take your ice cream across the street to Gabrielson Park. This waterfront park borders the Ferry Terminal and is a great place to relax, especially on a crowded day. There are picnic tables under the shade of trees and grassy areas to lay out a blanket for a picnic. 

Gabrielson Park is also home to Jazz and Blues by the Bay which is a Friday night summer series of live music performances. It’s also the best place to see the 4th of July fireworks. 

Gabrielson Park, Sausalito California
Eating ice cream at the picnic table in Gabrielson Park, Sausalito

Play in Dunphy Park

Another waterfront park in Sausalito is Dunphy Park. This is a great place to have fun with your friends at the sand volleyball court or the Bocce Ball court. There is also a picturesque gazebo and lots of pups running around!

Pro Tip: Dunphy Park is located on the walk to Galilee Harbor Community Association where you can see some of the floating homes.

Dunphy Park Gazebo, Sausalito, California

Check Out the Art Galleries

There are a number of art galleries in Sausalito, but my favorite is the Hanson Gallery Fine Art and not just because it’s part vodka tasting room.

On my recent visit, there were a few works of a beachfront as seen from above  on display by Alfredo Candela which I absolutely loved. 

But my favorite was by Eduardo Romaguera called A Beautiful Day. It’s the view from behind of a woman sitting poolside with a drink in hand while looking over the sea with a sailboat in the distance.

I want that in my home someday!

Hanson Fine Art Gallery photo

Have a Cocktail at No Name Bar

Interested in cooling off with a refreshing drink? Stop by the No Name Bar. I actually passed this the other day and the door was open. I didn’t stop in, but it looked like an upscale dive bar. When I stepped back to find out the name, there was none.

Google informed me of the clever name.

No Name Bar has been serving beverages to famous musicians, artists, and locals since 1959. There is live music nightly and a large garden patio in the back.  

I’ll certainly be back to try one of their delicious cocktails.

Shop the Boutiques

While Bridgeway (the main road through downtown Sausalito) is filled with cheeky souvenir shops, there are also some great quality boutique shops.

My favorite is Hook House which is a gift shop with jewelry, clothing, coffee table books, and other unique gifts. Their prices are pretty reasonable as well!

Hook House boutique table in Sausalito, California

Walk the Sausalito Boardwalk

Perhaps one of the more popular things to do in Sausalito is walk the boardwalk. The boardwalk starts by the Trident restaurant. The walking path provides great views of the multi million dollar homes on the hillside with views of the San Francisco skyline in the distance.

However, if it’s a foggy day, the skyline views may be blocked! The walk is still very pretty though.

Sausalito Boardwalk, California
Sailboat on the San Francisco Bay, California

Visit the Sausalito Art Festival

Every Labor Day Weekend since the 1950s, the Sausalito Art Festival has taken place in the Marinship Park. However, the festival is currently on hold as the park is closed and in need of repairs.

If this sounds like something that would interest you, or you’ll be visiting Labor Day Weekend and want to know if you should avoid the area due to the increased traffic for the festival, check out updates here

Sip Wine Along the Water

Want to truly feel like you’re in Europe? Head to one of the wine bars on the waterfront for some wine with a view.

Venice Gourmet Delicatessen: I haven’t been to Italy (yet), but the Venice Gourmet Delicatessen is what I imagine Italy is like. It’s an old-school deli with a huge wall of wine. You can order a sandwich at the counter, pick up a bottle of wine, and sit at one of their sidewalk tables to enjoy the view.

Real Napa Tasting Room: Pop into Real Napa, a rustic tasting room for family run Fotsch Vineyards. 

Sausalito waterfront

Take a Seaplane Tour

Something that is on my bucket list to do in Sausalito is take a seaplane tour. I think it would be amazing to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and the ret of the city from above!

They even offer sunset champagne tours! Sounds so epic!

If you want to add a truly unique experience to your San Francisco bucket list, I think this is it.

Book your Seaplane Adventure Here.

Where to Eat in Sausalito, California

There are so many great waterfront restaurants to choose from in Sausalito. A few long time restaurants include Scomas and the Trident. They do have some prime waterfront spots.

A few other places to consider are:

  • Bar Bocce: Great sourdough pizza and views
  • Fred’s Place: A diner on the outskirts of town with a local vibe and delicious breakfast
  • Barrel House Tavern: They have a great burger and amazing happy hour specials.
  • Le Garage: A yummy French restaurant with a great wine selection. Nothing beats a charcuterie board and a chilled glass of white wine on a sunny summer day in the Bay Area.
Bar Bocce Pizza

The Perfect Day Trip to Sausalito

Now that I’ve gone into the best things to do in Sausalito, here is how I’d fit it all into one day.

  • Start your day by taking an Uber or riding your bike to Fred’s Place for breakfast.
  • After breakfast, walk down to Waldo Point Harbor to check out the houseboats!
  • Walk along the waterfront towards downtown Sausalito
    • Stop at the Bay Model Visitor Center if that’s of interest to you or rent a kayak to get on the water for an hour or two
  • Grab an ice cream cone from Lappert’s and enjoy it at Gabrielson Park
  • Walk along the Sausalito Boardwalk
  • Enjoy a sandwich and glass of wine at Venice Delicatessen
  • Check out the art galleries and shops
  • Have a pre-dinner drink at No Name Bar
  • Enjoy dinner at Barrel House Tavern 
  • Head home
Downtown Sausalito, California

Where to Stay in Sausalito, California

I think that Sausalito is the perfect day trip from San Francisco. If you do want to extend your visit and stay the night, just know that this is not a budget friendly location. The hotels are absolutely gorgeous, but come with a nice little (big) price tag.

That being said, it’s a nice indulgence for a special occasion or simply a treat-yo’ self moment. Because you deserve to stay in nice places too!

Cavallo Point Lodge

Cavallo Point Lodge is located below the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge in a former military base, Fort Baker. You can even stay in some of the historic homes on the property that have classic period details. There is a spa onsite, a heated outdoor pool, and an onsite restaurant and bar. 

Since it’s not in downtown Sausalito, it’s a great place to stay to feel a bit removed from the busyness of city life, but still have epic views of the bay and across to the city. 

Check rates and availability here.

Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa

Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa is a treasured landmark – literally, it’s on the National Register of Historical Places. The Mansion, now part of the hotel, was built in 1885, but sold in 1906 to an attorney who converted it into the Casa Madrona Hotel. It fell into disrepair after World War II, but a French family renovated it drawing attention from people like Dick Van Dyke and the band Pink Floyd!

Over the years, the hotel has evolved and been renovated to offer a 3,000 square foot spa, 63 stunning rooms, and the Poggio restaurant.

If you want to stay in a place of history, check out the Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa.

Check rates and availability here.

The Inn Above Tide

The Inn Above Tide is a gorgeous luxury hotel directly on the water offering panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. Many of the rooms have views of the water with private decks making it a beautiful space for sunrise or sunset. 

Enjoy continental breakfast in the Drawing Room or have it delivered to your room to enjoy on the patio. 

I’ve seen this hotel all over social media recently and it looks absolutely amazing.

While there isn’t a separate spa like others hotels offer, they will help you book a sp treatment in the privacy of your room. I mean, imagine enjoying a spa on the patio with views of the Bay. I’m relaxed just thinking about it!

Check rates and availability here.

The Inn Above Tide entrance in Sausalito, California

The Gables Inn Sausalito

The Gables Inn was the very first hotel in Sausalito, built in 1869! It’s located just off the main road in Sausalito, on Princess Street. It’s set amongst a small grove of trees creating a peaceful location. 

The rooms are modern and many have patios with views! They even have apartments with full kitchens and a separate living and dining area from the bedroom if you’re looking for a longer stay in the area.

Side note: There is no air conditioning in the rooms – but the weather is very temperate here, so opening up the window and turning a fan off should be sufficient.

Check rates and availability here.

I just went to Sausalito yesterday to add the final touches before writing this blog post and as I’m finishing it up, I already want to go back. Sausalito is the perfect escape from the city and to transport you to another world. I hope you have fun exploring this charming coastal town, eating yummy food, and soaking in the stunning views of the city!

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