Am I boring you yet with my San Francisco posts? I hope not, I still have loads more to come (who would have thought we ‘only’ went for six days). Assuming you’ve read about our week in San Francisco already, you know that we ventured out one day. And did a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito by bike.
When we planned our trip to San Francisco, I was all up for crossing the Golden Gate Bridge by bike (and to be honest, the prospect of doing a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito by bike was what sold SF to Mr. T in the first place). But I wasn’t quite sure, just how far I would like to go by bike. I am not an experienced rider. Yes of course, as a kid I would ride my bike almost anywhere (growing up in a village with limited public transport makes that a necessity). But then I went through a 20-year ‘phase’ of not riding a bike at all and only started getting back on one last year. The longest ‘tour’ I had done this decade was around 10km. And that was pretty much all flat. So, doing a trip of 30+ km felt a little daunting.
But enough of the moaning, let’s get going with our day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito by bike.
Renting a bike in San Francisco
One thing for sure, there are plenty of bicycle rental stations in San Francisco. I can’t think of another city where we would see so many people peddling.
Anyone who knows Mr T personally will know that we wouldn’t just show up at the first rental station we could find and hire a bike on the spot. Oh no! This was serious business and required preparation. Day before we kept an eye out to see which bike rental companies there were in San Francisco. And of which we liked the look of the bikes best (and with ‘we’ I mean ‘he’ obviously). When we eventually agreed on the rental company, we then checked prices and to get the best price, pre-booked our bikes online.
Out of all the rental companies, we decided to go with Bay City Bikes (Just to make it clear, this is not a sponsored post. We paid for our bike rental in full). All their bikes are Giant, something Mr T particularly liked.
Although I had toyed with the idea of renting an electric bike, in the end I opted for the same performance bike as Mr T. The performance bikes are a little more expensive than the basic city bikes, but for our day trip from San Francisco to Sausalitothey seemed to be the more appropriate choice.
If you are doing a bike trip as a family, you can also rent kids bikes, tag-along bikes or bike trailers. All bike rentals come with helmet (although not mandatory in San Francisco if you are over 18), a handlebar bag (perfect to keep your phone handy for all those iconic shots of Golden Gate Bridge and for Bagpuss to look out from – if you don’t know what I am referring to, check out this post about ‘My little travel companion’), a map and a lock. So, you are well equipped for your day trip to Sausalito.
We picked up our pre-booked bikes at Taylor Street (near Fisherman’s Wharf) first thing in the morning. Pick up took a little longer than expected as my bike turned out to be too big for me. But that wasn’t a problem. One of the staff quickly went over to another rental station and picked up a smaller frame for me. With bikes and helmets collected and water bottles filled, it was time to set off towards Golden Gate Bridge.
As we had already walked that first part of the trail the previous day, I knew I would hit the first hill fairly soon.
So, once we got past the Maritime Museum, it was time to crawl up towards Fort Mason.
Then down, past the Marina and through Crissy Field. With the bikes it didn’t take too long to get to Golden Gate Bridge.
There is a bike lane either side of Golden Gate Bridge. Weekdays before 3.30pm, cyclist have to use the east sidewalk (the one facing San Francisco). After 3.30pm and on weekends, cyclist have to use the west sidewalk. For us it was the east sidewalk giving us great views of San Francisco itself as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.
Halfway along the bridge, we obviously had to stop to take photos (well we frequently stopped for photos all day long, not just on the bridge).
Once we crossed, we made a stop at the Vista Point. What I mean is, I made a rest stop to take in the view, whilst Mr T. did a little detour uphill to Battery Spencer for an even better view and to take some amazing photos of the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background. Thank you darling.
Well rested it was time to continue our day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito. We were already more than halfway to Sausalito, so the last bit should be a breeze really. Well an up-and-down breeze. Whilst up until this point pretty much all of our tour was on dedicated bike lanes (or shared bike and pedestrian roads), we now had to join the cars on the main road going to Sausalito.
As we arrived into Sausalito, we headed towards the Sausalito Ferry Dock. As it seemed that was the only spot where you were actually allowed to park your bicycles whilst exploring Sausalito. As we were fairly early that day, there weren’t that many bikes parked just yet. Different story by the time we came back to collect the bikes. By then it was absolutely packed with bicycles.
We had a little wander around Sausalito. As it was early in the season (it was only beginning of March), Sausalito was still fairly quiet. But I can only begin to imagine how crowded it might become in high season.
What is there to see in Sausalito?
If you are considering a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito, it would probably be good to know what there actually is to see in Sausalito.
Sausalito is a small town across the bay from San Francisco. It has approximately 7000 inhabitants (and probably the same number of tourists on bikes during high season). Nowadays it is a picturesque little town as it nestles in between the seashore and the surrounding hillsides.
Sausalito has a huge houseboat community just north of the city. The houseboats come in all sizes, shapes and colours. But since it is a little beyond the actual city centre, you might miss them, if you only do a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito. However, if like us you continue to Tiburon, the route will take you right past the houseboats. So be sure not to miss it.
Sausalito may not come with a huge number of must-sees and sights. But it is a pleasant day trip from San Francisco.
As lunch time approached, we started looking for a lunch spot. And soon found just the thing for us. The Salsalito Taco Shop. After all, this was our third day in California, and we had yet to try any Mexican food. So, this taco shop with Californian influenced Mexican food was just perfect. And it looked just so inviting and pretty (and colourful). And what shall I say? It was yum. To the extent that we fancied coming back for more for the rest of our week in San Francisco.
After lunch it was decision time for me. Would I take the ferry from Sausalito back to San Francisco? Or would I join Mr T on to Tiburon? Well, I think I gave it away earlier. I decided to be brave and go the full distance.
So, we filled up the water bottles once more, headed back to the ferry dock to collect our bikes and off we went.
First, a quick stop at the Sausalito houseboats.
The route from Sausalito to Tiburon leads all around Richardson Bay. Most of the route is on dedicated cycle lanes. There is only a short bit in between where you will have to take the main road.
As before with the trip from San Francisco to Sausalito, I was a bit unsure if I could master the ride. And whether the elevation would be too much for me. And yes, I might have walked my bike occasionally. But overall, I managed. And was rewarded with more beautiful scenery, riding through marshes, parks and along the bay.
Once we eventually arrived in Tiburon, we checked the ferry times. The ferry back to San Francisco Pier 41 runs approximately every 1.5 hours. So, we would have approximately one hour to kill before the next ferry. Generally, all the ferries from Sausalito and Tiburon are first come first serve. So, whilst we were still fine early March (as it was off-season), if you do this tour in summer, you might have to wait for the next ferry.
During high season the ferry goes straight from Tiburon to San Francisco Pier 41. However, that day it made a detour via Sausalito, picking up more cyclist.
There is also a second ferry service running from Tiburon to San Francisco Ferry Building. But that wasn’t in service that day. Gosh just think you did that whole bike ride from San Francisco to Tiburon, only to find out the ferries weren’t running that day. That would have seriously killed me.
How much does a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito cost?
To give you an idea how much you will have to pay for a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito, let me tell you how much we paid.
Bike rental for two people for the day: $64 (you get a 20% discount for booking online. The regular price would have been $40/person).
Ferry from Tiburon to San Francisco for two people: $25 ($12.50/person on way in early season, $13 each during high season).
If you opt for electric bikes, these would obviously be more expensive. Also, if you don’t want to take your bikes back to San Francisco, you can return them in Sausalito. However, this will incur a one-way fee.
On top of that, we spent some money on food and ice cream. But that would have been the case anyway, regardless of the day trip to Sausalito or just spending the day in San Francisco.
Day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito and Tiburon: The Stats
As I said in the intro, I am not an experienced biker. However, I was able to complete the trip to Sausalito and eventually to Tiburon a lot easier than initially thought. So even if you are not that experienced on a bike, don’t be disheartened. Take your time, don’t rush things. And you will be fine, I promise.
The trip from San Francisco to Sausalito was approx. 13 km (8 miles) and it took us just over an hour actual cycle time (plus a little extra for frequent photo stops). It had 130m elevation. It gradually elevated until Golden Gate Bridge and also whilst crossing the bridge. After that you are faced with one more climb, before eventually heading downhill into Sausalito (so NO WAY would I ever consider doing the tour vice versa and head from Sausalito to San Francisco by bike).
The trip from Sausalito to Tiburon was a little longer with almost 18 km (just over 11 miles). But it was less hilly, and it only took us one hour and fifteen minutes.
So, tell me. Would you consider a day trip from San Francisco to Sausalito? Or have you done it?