Founded in the 1830’s, Sausalito has had a rich and colorful history as a port of call, a fishing enclave, and a major shipbuilding venue for almost a hundred years. The community is situated near the Golden Gate Bridge’s northern end and is adjacent to and largely bounded by, the protected spaces of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which include the Marin Headlands and the San Francisco Bay. Listed below are the top ten tourist attractions in Sausalito.
10. Sausalito’s floating houses
To live on a houseboat, you not only have to change your life, you have to change your idea about what life is about. And there’s a whole community who has done just that. This lively community began in the 1800’s when shipbuilders and creative individuals lived on all kinds of boats informally anchored in San Francisco Bay. There are 500+ dwellings but the only way to actually see inside one of them is to come to the annual Floating Homes Tour that is held in late September. You’ll see everything from architectural gems to repurposed working boats to, well, a few maintenance-challenged vessels that date back to World War II.
9. Sausalito Art Festival
The Sausalito Art Festival, held each Labor Day weekend, is the biggest outdoor art festival in the U.S. It features not only some seriously high-end art but also selections of affordable prints, jewelry, and photography. In addition to paintings, jewelry, photography and sculpture there are rugs, woven clothing, furniture, ceramic and glass serving pieces, decorative ceramics and glass, lamps and all sorts of useful items carved from wood or cast in metal. Music plays almost all day on two different stages. There is also a fairly large selection of food fare that includes tuna wraps, gyros, smoked turkey legs, and more. The entrance fee is $25 per person
8. Marine Mammal Center
The Marine Mammal Center was established in 1975 and is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals. You can see rescued seals and sea lions undergoing rehabilitation for release back into the wild, as well as exhibits that teach adults and children about marine mammals and the work done at the Marine Mammal Center. They are open daily 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
7. Vista Point
One of the best places to visit in Sausalito is Vista Point. It’s a great spot to stop and take some photos after you cross over the bridge because you get a sweeping view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz Island. This is a very busy place and a very popular scenic viewpoint which means that it can take a great deal of time to get in or out of it when in peak tourist season. But it is definitely worth the time and the trip and there is nowhere else that you will find the picturesque beauty that is offered here.
6. San Francisco Bay Model
If it’s time to find some shade and cool off, go to the San Francisco Bay Model. At first sight, it’s utterly overwhelming with a working hydraulic model of the natural harbor and Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta System that is scaled to fit over an acre and a half. The Visitor Center is a fully accessible education center administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which makes possible the viewing of this scientific tool. While the Bay Model is still operational, it is no longer used for scientific research but is instead open to the public alongside educational exhibits about Bay hydrology. It’s a terrific way to educate kids about the effects humans can have on our natural water systems and admission is free.
5. Muir Woods
William and Elizabeth Kent had purchased the land to preserve its beauty and restful wilderness and had named the area after John Muir, who was a tree lover. In 1908, they donated it to the federal government to protect it from destruction. It is 554 acres of which 240 acres are old growth coast redwood forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the area. Coastal redwoods are the tallest living things on earth, and walking among these giants is truly an awesome experience. During popular summer holidays the park can see more than 6,000 visitors crowd into the woods, so prepare accordingly.
4. Sausalito Jazz and Blues on the Bay
Summer Jazz and Blues by the Bay concerts are held each Friday from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Gabrielson Park in downtown from early June through the end of August. It offers a spectacular backdrop with views of Angel Island and more. You can bring your own chairs, blankets, tables, wine, cheese, beers, and snacks; or you can also buy a table for the evening along with wine, beer, and food from the temporary concession. The concerts are free, pet-friendly, and kid-friendly so it’s a great way to spend time with friends and family.
3. Bay Area Discovery Museum
This is a children’s museum which has a mission to ignite and advance creative thinking for all children. They are geared to children from 6 months to 8 years of age with the museum’s different areas being tailored to a specific age group. There are 7.5 acres of natural beauty inspires families to engage in a world of possibilities including navigating winding tunnels, feeling the rush of cold water tide pools, building things from giant foam pad pieces, experiencing a room full of toy trains and a full-size fishing boat with toy fish, and the bubble machines. They are open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Admission is $12.00 for children and adults.
2. The Sausalito Ferry
The perfect way to get in the spirit of your trip is to make the voyage on one of the regularly scheduled ferries that service the city. The Blue and Gold Fleet has proudly served as the Sausalito Ferry for years and has helped commuters, day-trippers, visitors get to and from Sausalito in style and it’s the second most exciting and fun ferry boat ride in the world according to a vote by The Society of American Travel Writers. Along the way on your short journey, you’ll see Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the Marin and Tiburon headlands.
1. Point Bonita Lighthouse
Number one on the top ten list of things to do in Sausalito is Point Bonita Light Station which had the first fog signal lit on the West Coast on May 2, 1855, and it was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast. Today, it’s located at Marin Headlands southwest as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which has tons of hiking trails, the Marin Headlands Center for the Arts, dog-friendly Rodeo Beach, the abandoned NIKE Missile site from WWII, a mini horse ranch, and some incredible ocean vistas. Though it’s no longer manned, it is still active and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The lighthouse is the only one in America that can be reached only by crossing a suspension bridge which is a replica of the one crossing the harbor. The original French Fresnel lens from 1855 is still in use, and you can walk through what was once the tiny lighthouse living quarters.
The community is often described as being like a European fishing village with great views of San Francisco. It offers visitors a secluded and romantic getaway overlooking the natural harbor with shopping, dining, and cultural attractions. Temperatures range between 57oF to 70oF year-long with some rainfall during the winter months. This means that any time during the year is a perfect time to get away for a day, a weekend, or a week-long trip.