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What to See When Sailing Around the San Francisco Bay

Updated on July 13, 2012

Sailing is one of the most exciting and exhilarating ways to explore a city on the water. While the crowds are flocking from one vista point to another, you are able to enjoy the scenery with little interference. In fact, while sailing, you go from simply seeing the great views, to become part of the scenery that every else is admiring. There's nothing like standing at the helm of a ship for your confidence, and knowing you're in a tourist's photo album for your ego.

Experiencing San Francisco by sailboat is exciting for the tourist and the local alike. Considered one of the roughest places to learn to sail, the wind and the waves during the summer will make your vacation an adventure.

The beauty of the San Francisco Bay
The beauty of the San Francisco Bay | Source
Our family on the Bay!
Our family on the Bay! | Source

Sailing San Francisco Bay

When traveling around San Francisco via sailboat, there are several destinations that you must visit. Although these are valuable locations for every tourist to this beautiful city to visit, they are an entirely new experience for those on a boat.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Everyone has heard of the classic Golden Gate Bridge. It is a breath-taking site for anyone visiting San Francisco. However, sailing it is a whole other experience. While many people will take a dinner cruise under the bridge, sailing it requires a lot of work and far more appreciation once reached.

Because it is on the way out of the Bay, you want to approach the bridge when the tide is ebbing (coming in) to prevent yourself from getting sent out to sea. However, the tide is incredibly powerful. Even if you leave before the tide is coming in at full power, reaching the bridge is a challenging feat. But the view is amazing. Going from looking at the postcard view to being in the postcard is an awesome experience!


The famous prison island is a must see when traveling to San Francisco. The legendary stories of prisoners escaping and swimming to shore in the frigid waters are worth hearing and seeing.

Although sailboats cannot dock at the island, they can sail around it, experiencing the prison from all sides. Just be careful, I ended up doing a 360 degree spin when I was first learning to sail on the Bay. As I came around the edge of the island a strong gust caught our sail and we spun in a manner I had no idea a sailboat could accomplish! And we were still afloat! Sailboats are amazing things.

Pier 39

This famous shopping area with the sea lions is a place where you can actually dock (unless you rent from a local yacht club as they have had too many accidents in that harbor). However, even sailing by the pier is an exciting experience. I had been to Pier 39 countless times before sailing past it and sailing by it was incredible. Sailing by Pier 39 you're bound to end up in at least several Japanese family photo albums.

Angel Isand

Angel island is part of the Golden Gate national recreation area where boats can anchor and you are able to get out and hike around. This is a beautiful island only accessible by boat. Hiking around on it is a great escape from the bustling city.

Treasure Island

This island has an old military base on it and is halfway across the Bay Bridge. Sailing around this island will give boaters and opportunity to see the new bridge and observe the docks where the giant tankers come into port. Just be careful, it's amazing how fast those tankers can end up right on you! Give them plenty of space as they are unable to slowdown or turn quickly.

Ferry Building Marketplace

There is a dock on Pier 1 1/2 that sailors can leave their boat for 2 hours for free. Walk a block down the road and you end up at the marketplace with a plethora of entertaining shops and restaurants. This is a perfect place to take a lunch break when sailing around the City by the Bay.

AT&T Park

Anyone who is a fan of the Giants, or baseball in general, must certainly stop by the Bay side of this epic stadium. If you end up there while a game is going on, who knows, maybe you'll be able to dive in and retrieve a home-run ball.

Map of Must-See Sailing Destinations

show route and directions
A markergolden gate bridge -
Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA 94129, USA
get directions

Countless tourists cruise under this bridge. Sail under it yourself and gain an even more amazing experience!

B markeralcatraz -
Alcatraz, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, CA, USA
get directions

Sailing around this old prison island is an experience in and off itself. Be careful of the winds - a huge gust can come out of nowhere!

C markerPier 39 -
Pier 39, 2 Beach St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
get directions

Sail by this location and you'll end up in countless tourists' family photos.

D markertreasure island, ca -
Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA, USA
get directions

Sailing around this awesome island will also give you the opportunity to check out the new Bay Bridge.

E markerangel island, san francisco -
Angel Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California, USA
get directions

Angel Island is a beautiful place to sail around or stop off on and hike.

F markerFerry Building Marketplace, san francisco -
S.F. Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
get directions

A great place to shop and eat. Free sailboat docking for up to 2 hours. Perfect stop for lunch.

A markerat&t park -
San Francisco Giants, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA
get directions

The great baseball stadium where the San Francisco Giants play.

How to Sail Around San Francisco Bay

At this point you may be wondering: All of this information is great, but how do I sail around the bay? I don't have a boat and I have never sailed before. Isn't sailing something that only the wealthy do?

My friends, sailing is not a cheap sport, but it doesn't have to cost much more than any other hobby. In fact most yacht club members are not like Gilligan's Island's Thurston Howell, III. Many sailors simply love sailing. Rather than purchase a season pass to their favorite sports team or ski resort, they spend their time and money on sailing.

There are many opportunities to sail around San Francisco with a captain, but there is something about knowing that you are captaining the boat yourself that is very rewarding. Being Master and Commander of a ship, telling others when to reel in the mainsail, hoist the jib, or tack, is a blast. Additionally, sailing is considered a great method for teaching leadership skills.

If you are considering a week long trip to San Francisco, I would recommend visiting the Modern Sailing Club in Sausalito - right outside of San Francisco. You can take a five day sailing course that certifies you to rent out yachts on your own. Although it is not cheap, you are able to spend the night on board one of the boats for free, everyday you receive a tour of different aspects of the Bay that people pay $100's for, and you end the week with a certification that allows you to sail all around the world!

Next time you plan a trip to California, consider sailing. Who knows, maybe I'll see you on the Bay!


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    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      I'm glad you chuckled a few times Riverfish! Life's more enjoyable with the occasional laugh. And yes, SFO is a beautiful place!

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 5 years ago from United States

      SFO is great to visit! Nice work on the hub! Made me laugh a couple of times too :D

    • KevinTimothy profile image

      Kevin J Timothy 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      My mom and younger sister went there in 2010 and they still talk about the experience to this day. They couldn't believe how busy and artistic the city is.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      @KevinTimothy: Maybe one day you'll decide to give it a shot, and if you do, I'm sure you'll love it! Either way, San Fran is a beautiful place indeed.

      @Trinity: I certainly hope you get to visit it sometime soon. It's an amazing city and I'm sure you would enjoy it.

    • Trinity M profile image

      Trinity M 5 years ago

      One of the places I’ve always wanted to visit; now I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for the very informative hub Rob. Voted up and interesting.

    • KevinTimothy profile image

      Kevin J Timothy 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      I already have a phobia for massive bodies of water. My heart would've probably stopped when that sail boat did a 360. I hear those SF bay currents are ravenous. Not sure why anyone would choose a thrill like that. I've always admired that city, though. Love your information.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 5 years ago from California

      Hahaha! Yes! Oh my goodness. Thank you. I can't believe I used Candlestick. Glad you enjoyed the read though and that change is made!

    • MarshFish profile image

      Marshall Fish 5 years ago

      Excellent Hub, Robert. Just one small correction. The Giants play at AT&T Park. That's the ballpark you're referring to where you might catch a "splash hit". The Giants moved from Candlestick in 2000 to the newly opened Pac Bell Park, now AT&T Park.



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