11 Ways to Experience San Francisco Bay

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Apr 29, 2013 / 0 comments

Sure, everyone has their favorite San Francisco story. The one with the remarkable views of the bridge, and the sun glinting off the water. If you’re traveling to San Francisco, and want to have your OWN special SF Bay story, here are eleven ways to experience the beauty of San Francisco Bay.

11 Ways to Experience San Francisco Bay


1.    Helicopter Tour. While possibly the priciest way to see the Bay, it’s worth it, especially if you combine the tour with lunch in Sausalito or Napa. Views from on-high are unbeatable.

2.    Boat Tour with Red and White Fleet. This is a fun way to get right onto the bay, and see all there is to see – as well as learn about famous sights with an audio tour. It’s a remarkable way to experience SF Bay in a relaxing way. Take a sunset cruise for a lovely view of the lights reflecting on the water.

3.    Hike to the peak of Mt. Tamalpais. North of the Golden Gate is Mount Talampais. It boasts a 2,571 foot peak!  The State Park website notes: “On a clear day, visitors can see the Farallon Islands 25 miles out to sea, the Marin County hills, San Francisco and the bay, hills and cities of the East Bay, and Mount Diablo. On rare occasions, the Sierra Nevada's snow-covered mountains can be seen 150 miles away.”

4.    DeYoung Museum. This museum has a very unique structure, with a public observation deck on top of a 144-foot tower. Excellent views!  Of course, if you can tear yourself away from the views to head inside, you’ll love the exhibits.

5.    Bike the Golden Gate Bridge. ‘nuff said.

6.    Vista Point, North end of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re driving northbound, take the first exit (Golden Gate Vista Point), which will lead to a large parking lot with plenty of gorgeous views! No southbound exit, alas. But definitely worth paying again to drive back and exit to see the views.

San Francisco Bridge from the Ferry Building

the Bay Bridge as it enters Treasure Island  

7.    From Alcatraz – the home of a federal penitentiary that housed some of our country’s most famous criminals! Now, criminal-free, you can tour the island, and get an incredible view of the Bay. Imagine, living there?!

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

8.    Fisherman’s Wharf. This is the history-laden center of the fishing industry in San Francisco, and there is much to see here, including the USS Pampanito (a WWII submarine museum), shops and restaurants, sea lions on pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and more. Great up-close view of the bay.

9.    Ferry Building. This is an extraordinary shopping center, with plenty of places to eat, as well.  The views can’t be beat.

Pulling away from San Francisco’s Ferry Building

Pulling away from San Francisco’s Ferry Building

10.    Cable Car – take a cable car ride anywhere around town – you’ll get spectacular views of both the city, and the bay. Extra bonus: people-watching.

11.    Kayak. While you might not be able to rent a kayak during baseball season (as everyone kayaks over to McCovey cove to catch long hits from the SF Giants), there is still much to see and do on the water.  UC Berkeley offers a day-long intro to sea kayaking course that will get you started, safely. Graduates of said course may rent kayak equipment from UCB!



All photos courtesy and copyright Julie Royce, except word photo, creative commons