Things to Do

10 Fantastic & Free Things to Do in Sausalito

Sausalito, a picturesque coastal city just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, offers much more than meets the eye. Known for its breathtaking waterfront, rolling hills, and Mediterranean flair, this hidden gem can be experienced as a luxury destination – or a budget-friendly one.

If you don’t want to break the bank – easy enough to do in this nice community full of nice restaurants and higher-end shops – there are options; below you’ll find a list of my favorite free things to do in Sausalito, which I’ve collected since moving to Sausalito in 2019.

Free Things to Do in Sausalito Hero

Save those funds for a great meal or nice drink during Happy Hour; spend the rest of your day in Sausalito doing these free things and you’ll have great memories from your time.

Sausalito is the traditional lands of the Graton Rancheria, Miwok, and Me-Wuk (Coast Miwok) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation to the past and present stewards of these lands. To learn more, I invite you to explore Native Land.

1. Stroll on Bridgeway Promenade & Sausalito’s Boardwalks

You know those stunning photos from Sausalito everyone posts when they visit the waterfront town? They were most likely taken from Bridgeway Promenade.

This picturesque waterfront walkway offers stunning views of the San Francisco skyline, Richardson Bay, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. Take a leisurely walk along the boardwalk and breathe in the fresh sea air. Bridgeway Promenade is also dotted with charming shops, restaurants, and boutiques you can explore along the way.

There are also a number of short boardwalks in Sausalito that are nice for strolling – they’re a great spot for a photo too, if you’re looking for the perfect Instagram shot.

2. Take a Free Historic Walking Tour

Sausalito is a small town with a big heritage. If you’re curious to learn more, you can take a self-guided historic walking tour, using signs around the Old Town neighborhood.

These signs start at the Sausalito Visitor Centre and Historical Society and lead you through the town’s fascinating past, sharing captivating stories about its colorful maritime heritage, the Gold Rush era, and the famous shipbuilding industry. You’ll also get a glimpse of the distinctive architecture and learn about the unique cultural landmarks that make Sausalito so special.

As a side note, the Sausalito Historical Society is finally reopening after several years of closure and renovation – it’s well worth a stop too, if you love history.

3. Admire the Bay Model

Things to Do in Sausalito - Bay Model - Cary Bass-Deschenes via Flickr

If you appreciate good engineering, admiring the Bay Model is one of the top free things to do in Sausalito. But even if you don’t, believe me, it’s worth seeing. 

The Bay Model is a working hydraulic scale model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System. 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. There’s also a great little museum on this site which originally built ships for WWII.

4. Window Shop Along the Waterfront

Sausalito may not have a reputation for being a haven for shopping enthusiasts, but its waterfront streets are lined with an array of quirky boutiques, art galleries, and specialty stores that have quite stunning window displays I must say. You’ll also discover unique crafts, exquisite artwork, and local designs that reflect the town’s vibrant creative scene. 

I know I said window shop, but maybe you can find a cute souvenir to bring back home, depending on your budget.

5. Browse the Art Galleries

Sausalito has a huge artistic heritage, having been an escape and enclave for artists. The dozens of art galleries that dot the town are a good testament to that. 

You can spend the afternoon exploring the various galleries, where you can admire a wide range of artistic styles, from contemporary works to traditional masterpieces. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a presentation with artists, learn about their creative processes, and perhaps even find that perfect piece to take home.

6. Have a Picnic on the Beach

One of my favorite free things to do in Sausalito is to have a picnic on a beach. Pop by Golden Gate Market, get one of the deli sandwiches (to die for!), and head to one of Sausalito’s beaches for a nice afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Lay your tablecloth on the sand and enjoy a delicious bite with the soothing sound of waves crashing against the shore and breathtaking views of the bay and the city skyline.

7. Soak up the Sun in a Local Park

Sausalito boasts tons of well-maintained parks that locals turn to for their children’s play dates or jogging sessions. First things first, though. Slather some sunscreen on that skin! Now lay a blanket and let the sun bathe you.

You can also find a cozy spot under the shade of a tree and immerse yourself in your favorite book or take a leisurely walk along the trails. Dunphy Park and Gabrielson Park are popular choices, offering stunning vistas and a great atmosphere for locals and travelers alike.

8. Take a Walk Among the Houseboats

Sausalito’s colorful floating homes, also known as houseboats, are one of the town’s main attractions. And for good reason: the collection of 400 or so houseboats is as eclectic as it is charming. Some of them belonged to the beatniks and Bohemians that flocked to Sausalito in the 1940s and ‘50s.

The best place to admire Sausalito’s houseboats is out in the Waldo Point neighborhood, which is a little ways from downtown. You could walk there or catch the city bus, then take a stroll along the docks and marvel at each home’s distinct character and style. Just be respectful that these are people’s homes so don’t touch any parts of their property or make too much noise.

9. Visit Golden Gate Vista Point

You can’t leave Sausalito without the iconic photograph of you and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Located just south of town, Golden Gate Vista Point offers the best view by far. Get the perfect shot and then gaze out over the waters to appreciate the iconic bridge.

Actually, the easiest way to visit Vista Point is on your way to Sausalito, where you can take the turn-out for the parking area just after crossing the bridge.

10. Hike in the Marin Headlands

Hiking in the Marin Headlands

Sausalito is surrounded by the Marin Headlands, meaning you have easy access to a plethora of hiking trails that cater to all fitness levels. It’s also a beautiful spot to watch the sunset with great views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Tennessee Valley Trail, Rodeo Valley Trail, or the Coastal Trail are popular options for their good vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged coastline. The extra perk is that you are just a rocks throw away from Sausalito for dinner after enjoying a great hike and sunset.

Bonus: Explore Fort Baker

While it’s not in Sausalito, Fort Baker is one of the top free things to do for history enthusiasts. This former military post now serves as a stunning recreational area.

You can stroll through the well-preserved historic buildings and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of the area as you explore the barracks and officers’ quarters.

Pro tip: The fort has gorgeous views; even on cloudy days, you can see Alcatraz, Angel Island, and Bay Bridge.

These all sound great, right? Best of all, they don’t cost a thing! Have any questions about these free things to do in Sausalito, or do you have questions about other things to do? Let me know in the comments below!

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Valerie fell in love with Sausalito after her very first visit; she and her husband then moved there in 2019. It's one of her favorite places in the Bay Area and she's excited to show you the best parts of her city.

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