Apr 122012

Over the years, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco has gotten cluttered with souvenir shops, street performers and throngs of tourists. Sadly, I think that it long ago lost much of its maritime charm and historic appeal. So why do Mr. TWS and I still insist on bringing our out-of-town visitors down to the wharf?

San Francisco Skyline from Fisherman's Wharf

San Francisco Skyline from Fisherman’s Wharf

Experience Cruising San Francisco Bay

Gull on Blue and Gold Boat

Seagull on Blue and Gold Fleet Tour Boat

This seagull is riding atop a tour boat operated by the Blue & Gold Fleet that sails from Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf. Of several tour options that are available, we like to take the 60 minute Bay Cruise Adventure. It’s definitely a touristy thing to do, but a worthwhile one that offers great views of the city and perspectives of the Golden Gate Bridge that you can’t get any other way. Although there is also inside seating, we always sit outside on the upper level or stand upfront on the bow for the best photo opportunities.

Palace of Fine Arts

Fort Mason and the Palace of Fine Arts

The red-roofed buildings of Fort Mason can be seen near the waterfront on the left. To the right is the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts, a structure built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition that commemorated the opening of the Panama Canal.

The Golden Gate Bridge never fails to impress me no matter how many times I’ve crossed it on foot or by car, or passed beneath it on this tour.

Golden Gate Bridge

Marin Headlands and Golden Gate Bridge

The Marin Headlands in the background are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are wonderful hiking trails, beaches, and panoramic views that can be seen from the scenic road you can drive to the top.

Boats on San Francisco Bay

Golden Gate Bridge

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

View of San Francisco Skyline

Heading Back

As you can see, we chose a calm, sunny day to be cruising San Francisco Bay and were joined by many sailboats. But don’t be deterred if their are threatening skies or rough waves. In my opinion, that can make the cruise can be particularly exciting.

Sailboats on San Francisco Bay

Sailboats on San Francisco Bay

The boat tour takes you up close and around Alcatraz, the infamous prison.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay

After the cruise, take a few minutes to watch these sea lions as they loll around the docks of Pier 39’s west marina.

"Sea lions at Pier 39 on San Francisco Bay"

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Cute, eh?

  67 Responses to “Cruising San Francisco Bay”

  1. OH! Your photos are simply MARVELOUS!! The sea lions are my favorite, but the 4 sail boats in front of the Golden Gate Bridge is stunning. What a wonderful share for Travel Photo Thursday!

  2. Wait a minute…you found a calm sunny day? In San Francisco? I’m not sure that I believe that part of the story. I’d love to get out on the water in the Bay area, but it always seems that there’s so much to do. Then again, I still like visiting Fisherman’s Wharf. I guess not knowing it when it was less-touristy makes a big difference.

    • Pretty lucky, weren’t we? Maybe that’s it, Steve. When I first visited Fisherman’s Wharf, it was still a major tourist spot, but still seemed authentic. Also, I think there are times that are better than others to go. It seems that I’ve been there lately on holidays or busy weekends.

  3. I agree Cathy, the views of the bay never get old! Loved the picture with Alcatraz. While Fisherman’s Wharf is not one of my favorite places in SF, it is one tourists love and it is a great walk especially when the sun is shining.

    • Glad you like that pic, Debbie. I liked the sailboat in the photo, too. Everyone is looking for something different when they visit a place, so I don’t mean to project my opinions on everyone. But Fisherman’s Wharf seems to be over-commercialized to me.

  4. Photos of San Francisco always make me want to go there so badly! The kids and I have never been (apart from the airport) and we really have to get there soon. The boat tour sounds amazing but I could easily sell it to the kids just by showing them the photo of the sea lions – so cute!!

    • I think there’s a lot of thing that the kids would love. A ride on the cable cars would be hit, too, I think.

  5. Love those seals. I would definitely take this cruise if I am ever in SF.

    • Definitely take it or one of the other bay cruises. The sea lions are extremely popular — for good reason. πŸ™‚

  6. Perfect timing…Just booked at trip to San Fran and looking for things to do. Might have to look into this tour…

    • Absolutely! Click on the link in the article for more info. Hey, do you like Irish Coffee? While at the wharf, check out the Buena Vista — the place where Irish Coffee was first introduced in the U.S. πŸ™‚

  7. The sea lions are back?! Last 2 times I went (last year) I was not able to catch the sea lion groupies ;_;

    • Oh, you should go back there now. I’ve seen more of them in the past, but there was still quite a few there — as you can see.

  8. Those sea lions certainly look tasty! (Ummm…I mean cute, yeah, cute). πŸ™‚

  9. I can see why you take your guests there, Cathy. It’s a lovely tour. The sea lions are cute!

    • One of these days, I’m going to try one of the other tour options. But the 60 minute cruise is perfect, especially for first time visitors.

  10. It looks like you got to see the best of the area all in one hour-who cares if it is a touristy thing to do. Great pictures-love the seagull!

  11. Many years ago, I was fortunate to be visiting a friend in Walnut Creek who had friends of her parents who had a sailboat. We sailed the Bay and they let me take the wheel – it was so exciting. Another visit there before the seals took over the Marina there was a gentleman that took people sailing from the docks. I joined some strangers and went. He was very generous letting me at the wheel once he knew I was a sailor. Thanks for bringing back those joyous memories.

  12. These are beautiful shots especially of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve never see it in person without the fog on top of it even in July. You had such a great day! This looks like a wonderful tour and I would definitely look into it next time. I’ve always loved watching and listening to those seals =)

    • Thanks, Mary. The GGB is pretty amazing no matter how you look at it. I like the mysterious look of it in the fog!

  13. I always love seeing photos of the Golden Gate Bridge – looks like a great place to sail!

  14. The sea lions are sooo cute! Are the tourists allowed to pet them or something? SF has always been in my bucket list. Maybe someday I’ll get to see that wonderful bridge, and maybe run on it too!

    • The GGB is a very popular place for runners (and walkers.) I don’t think that people can get close enough to touch the sea lions at the marina, but that’s a good question.

  15. Really nice shots of an interesting bay. Alcatraz is so intriguing. Is it true one can spend a night there?

    • I know that you can visit inside Alcatraz, but don’t know about spending the night there. I’m going to check that out.

  16. Sometimes touristy things can be great, this sounds like one of them.

    • This is definitely one of the cool tourist experiences. It’s more the atmosphere around Fisherman’s Wharf that’s less cool, in my opinion.

  17. I think it looks fantastic! Touristy? Maybe – but I would love to do it!

    Happy friday!

  18. I always think it’s a lot of fun to see a city from another perspective. I haven’t done a San Francisco tour but have done a NYC one & loved it. Great photos Cathy.

    • Boat tours can be great. One of the best I’ve ever taken was in Chicago – the Architecture Boat Tour on the Chicago River. And of course, I recently blogged about my boat trip on the Seine where I actually fell asleep! πŸ™‚

  19. Beautiful!!! This totally goes on my Pinterest wishlist – don’t care if it’s touristy or not.

  20. This series of shots with its bayside landmarks brings back a lot of memories for me from two visits to San Francisco, Cathy. We never went on out on the bay in a boat though, but you’ve now given me the idea to do that next time!

  21. I’ve never done a boat tour around San Francisco, but I think I will do this now based on your experiences. I agree that you can never tire of seeing the Golden Gate (or views of the city). Such a beautiful place. And even though the wharf is so touristy, we always take out-of-town visitors there, too, because of the sea lions and views of the water.

  22. Beautiful photos, Cathy. I love doing the “touristy” things in San Francisco, but a sail on the bay looks like a perfect retreat from it all. πŸ™‚

    • There’s plenty of touristy things to do in San Francisco and I love doing them, too. I just wish there weren’t so many others with the same idea sometimes. πŸ™‚

  23. Looks lovely! We once took a ferry over to Sausalito and I got a killer sunburn.

  24. I’ve never been able to get a good shot of that bridge. Well done!!

  25. Those sea lions really know how to live! πŸ™‚
    I’ve always wanted to visit the bay area. I’ve added a cruise of the bay to the list based on your experience.
    All the best!
    Melinda Eliza

    • Thanks, Melinda — Glad you’ve added the cruise to your future SF itinerary. Tell them I sent you πŸ™‚

  26. I know I left my heart in San Francisco on our last visit there and this makes my desire to return even stronger! Thanks for the memories~

  27. Nicely done. Last time I visited Frisco was back in 1997. That’s a loooong time too. And I only drove pass the bridge… I hope to pay a visit again in the coming years.

  28. Great photos, Cathy! I’ve never been to San Francisco, but those sail boats and sea lions make it quite tempting. When i get back to the west coast (eventually!), it’s on my list. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank YOU for coming by. Happy to share photos of cool places in the Bay Area. Glad when they inspire a trip.

  29. Oh, I would be the perfect tourist in San Francisco. I’d be straight on that touristy boat trip to get those shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Beautiful! πŸ™‚

  30. I’ve never thought of taking a short boat tour of the SF Bay like this – seems like a great way to take some great photos. My photos of the Golden Gate Bridge are always from a bizarre perspective. πŸ˜›

  31. You’ve sold me on it! I’ve been once before and while the warf wasn’t the highlight of my tours (I have a particular fondness for the street cars) it was amazing. Your pictures don’t lie – the views are spectacular. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Carol! Yeah, the wharf has gotten a bit out of control, but still worth a visit, especially to get on the tour boat.

  32. what incredible photos! And a fabulous idea to take a cruise – we forget to experience the city from without vs within!

  33. I have to admit I’ve never take a cruise through San Francisco. However, I love the idea of exploring the city. I am learning that there is so much to see and do right where I live and I love exploring my backyard.

  34. San Fran is our absolute favorite destination. While teaching full time, we’d find a way to squeeze in quick trips from NY πŸ™‚ Great pix!

  35. […] Read more –> Cruising San Francisco Bay […]

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