The Complete Guide to Kayaking in Sausalito
If you’ve ever visited – or even just looked at pictures – you’ve probably noticed: there’s a lot of water around Sausalito. A waterfront community, Sausalito is home to floating homes, houseboats, sailboats, motor boats, and even unmotorized options kayaks and stand up paddleboards. Almost everyone has a boat, lives on a boat, or knows someone who does one of the two.
As a visitor though, you might wonder how you can partake of this awesome resource; you may not know anyone with a boat you can borrow. While there are sailing opportunities listed on Airbnb Experiences and the Freda B Schooner sailing tour too, kayaking is the most popular way to get on the water – and a great way to spend a weekend morning if you’re visiting Sausalito at that time.
In this post, I’ll break down everything you need to know about kayaking in Sausalito. You’ll learn where to rent a kayak, where to put-in if you have your own kayak, and the best Sausalito kayaking routes. (This advice also applies for stand-up paddleboards if you have one of those or want to rent one.) Read on for the complete Sausalito kayaking guide to help you plan this part of your Sausalito visit.
Kayaking Rentals & Tours in Sausalito
Just like sailing, kayaking in Sausalito is a popular activity for locals and tourists. It makes total sense as charming Sausalito sitting in a small harbor in Richardson Bay. If you’re new to the Sausalito kayaking scene, you might wonder where you can find rentals and tours.
Most locals and websites recommend Sea Trek Sausalito. They were the first commercial sea kayaking business in California and have consolidated as a premier Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Board Center in San Francisco and Marin. They offer sit-on-top sea kayaks or traditional sea kayaks for rent at an hourly rate. You can choose between single and double kayaks in both categories, with single kayaks costing $30/hour and double kayaks costing $50/hour. They pro-rate based on additional time every fifteen minutes.
They also offer kayak Sausalito tours for all ages and expertise levels. Their Scenic Sausalito Kayak Tour is one of the most popular choices, where you paddle along Sausalito’s picturesque waterfront. You don’t need any experience, and the guides ensure you learn basic kayaking and safety measures before heading out.
If this isn’t your first time kayaking, you can book their Angel Island Kayak Crossing. This thrilling experience takes you from their Bay Model location across Raccoon Strait to Angel Island. Wildlife lovers can check out the Drakes Estero Full Day Tour. This tour takes you to explore Drakes Estero, a pristine estuary brimming with wildlife and one of the largest concentrations of Harbor seals on the West coast.
Kayak Put-Ins in Sausalito
If you have your own kayak, you can bring that instead of renting or booking a tour! To go kayaking in Sausalito, you only need to find that sweet spot to start their Sausalito kayaking trip. Here are the best places to launch your kayak and explore the paddling routes Sausalito offers.
Schoonmaker Beach is one of the prime Sausalito kayak launch spots. Located within a yacht harbor area, Schoonmaker Beach has an area of shallow water and easy bay access. You’ll have to unload your kayak first, carry it to the beach, and then find parking. On weekends, you can park at 30 Libertyship Way and on the far southern corner of this lot or Bridgeway street on weekdays.
Dunphy Park Beach
Dunphy Park is another popular launch spot to begin your Sausalito kayaking experience. It is adjacent to the Bay and runs along Bridgeway. You can launch your kayak from the park’s shoreline area along the Bay where there’s a small beach. Make sure you find a water point that’s shallow enough for you to stand in. You’ll find plenty of parking in Dunphy Park.
Turney Street Boat Ramp
Located between Joinery and Salito’s Crab House, Turney Street Boat Ramp is a public ramp that gives boaters and kayakers free access to Richardson’s Bay and San Francisco Bay. There’s also a dinghy ramp where most kayakers launch. This ramp is right next to Salito’s restaurant. You can find public parking a block north away on Bridgeway at Locust. The first three hours are free.
Where to Go Kayaking in Sausalito
You’ve rented your kayak and chosen your launching spot. Now, it’s time to set out on your watery adventure. Below you’ll find five gorgeous places to paddle in Sausalito. They all offer scenic views and routes you can choose depending on your kayaking skill set.
Waterfront Toward Downtown
I can’t deny that much of Sausalito’s charm stems from its fabulous waterfront. While most visitors explore it on foot, you’ll never experience the same gorgeous views as you do when kayaking. Sausalito’s historic waterfront makes for a fantastic kayaking trip.
It is also an excellent way to see the town from a different perspective. You can paddle from Dunphy Park Beach and glide through the waters towards downtown. As you meander, you’ll take in scenic views of Angel Island and Alcatraz, the San Francisco skyline, and Tiburon at a distance. You’ll also paddle along some of Sausalito’s best waterfront restaurants.
Paddling along the waterfront is an excellent opportunity to see Sausalito’s wildlife. You’ll spot Harbor seals and sea lions, as well as pelicans and cormorants.
Along/In Sausalito Marinas
Speaking of Sausalito’s seaside charm, marinas are powerful contributors to the waterfront’s picturesque and quaint vibes. Sausalito has thirteen marinas located along the waterfront. Each one is unique and has developed its personality throughout the years, with some harboring luxurious boats and others being home to traditional houseboats. While all marinas have that lovely je ne sais quoi, there are two unbeatable ones when it comes to kayaking trips.
A privately owned marina, Sausalito Yacht Harbor is the most central and one of the most extensive marinas in Sausalito. People who walk along its docks quickly name Sausalito Yacht Harbor as their favorite spot in the city. You’ll do the same once you kayak it. Despite being a densely moored area, Sausalito Yacht Harbor remains peaceful, and the scenery is fascinating, with fancy yachts and the backdrop of SF’s skyline.
Waldo Point Floating Homes
One of the more beloved communities in Marin Country, Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor is an excellent kayaking destination for novice paddlers. The houseboat community started in the late 1940s after the end of World War II. Today, you’ll find over 245 floating homes on the five docks of Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor. Similar to Sausalito’s waterfront, the view from the kayak is unbeatable.
Kayaking along Sausalito’s Waldo Point Harbor is a historic and scenic experience. You’ll see the most varied and exotic architecture. I mean it when I say each house you look at is unique. Some homes are straightforward, whereas some are eccentric. Other homes pose a linguistic dilemma to visitors who try to find a way to describe them.
Richardson Bay is one of the best places to start your kayaking adventure in Sausalito. The area offers paddling trips for all kayakers, either for beginner or experienced kayakers seeking challenging waters.
If this is your first time in a kayak, you might want to stay closer to the shoreline. The further you get from the piers and docks, the wilder the tides and currents get, which can be grueling for newbies. Also, the wind might be choppy depending on the weather. You’ll enjoy sweeping vistas of the San Francisco skyline and glimpses of Harbor seals resting on rocks. You can also paddle to Sausalito’s marinas or Waldo Point Floating Homes.
Veteran kayakers can paddle up to the tip of Belvedere or the Mill Valley along Pickleweed Inlet in Richardson Bay. Some even dare to reach Golden Gate Bridge!
Angel Island is a popular Sausalito kayaking trip. However, it is an open-water crossing, so I suggest it for advanced paddlers, who can handle a challenging and long journey.
Many paddlers begin their Angel Island trip in Turney Street Boat Ramp put-in and end it in Ayala Cove, where they allow landing. Those who venture to Angel Island will encounter rougher waters and powerful currents leading outside the Golden Gate. Paddling the current through Raccoon Straight (the strongest currents are here) might be the hardest part. Sometimes, the current is strong, and you’ll get large standing waves, especially where the strait is the narrowest.
If you’d like to hone your surfing skills or just play a little, set out to the northernmost end of Angel Island or between the island and Belvedere. You’ll find a large tidal range with plenty of exciting standing waves!
No matter where you choose to put-in or go kayaking in Sausalito, it’s a great way to explore the city from the water – an important part of the city’s history and life today. Have any questions about kayaking in Sausalito? Let me know in the comments!
Excellent information and I especially enjoyed the photos. I was interested to see your description of the paddle from Sausalito to Angel Island. I used to whitewater kayak, even ran the Grand Canyon a couple of times, but get me 50 feet from a visible shore in calm water and I start getting anxious. The scariest paddle I ever did was the 2.5 miles from Sausalito to Angel Island, on a calm day with swells less than 2 feet. Never happier to land my little boat! I think it was just my open water anxiety kicking in, but now I can point to your article to give myself a bit more credibility. 😉
Valerie & Jacob
Absolutely, Donna! The crossing is definitely tricky even under good conditions, and many people underestimate it! Thanks for reading!
Hi Folks… Thanks for your great info…. Can you please explain why google maps labels Schoonmaker Beach as “Permanently Closed?” Is it? I would like to launch my kayak from there? Are there any kayak launch places closer to Downtown Sausalito? How about anywhere near Tiburon / Belvedere closer to Peninsula Point?
Valerie & Jacob
Hi, Andrew! It’s definitely not closed – and I’m not sure why it says that. (When I check on Google, it *doesn’t* say closed, so I’m even more confused!)
In any case, you should be able to put in there. You could also put in at Turney Street, which is closer to Old Town.