Sausalito, California is known for many things: great weather, epic views of the San Francisco Bay, imaginative floating homes where the likes of Shel Silverstein came up with creative ideas, and as the site where Otis Redding sat on a dock of the bay and wrote ‘Sittin’ on a Dock of the Bay.’ Yep, Sausalito’s famous. Little did I know any of this when my husband and I moved here to “live the San Francisco dream” on our own houseboat back in 2019!
As you can imagine, Sausalito offers something special to locals and visitors alike; there’s nice energy in the air that has drawn artists, entrepreneurs, and tourists throughout the decades. Today, there are some awesome things to do in Sausalito if you count yourself among that latter group, from historic experiences to adventurous excursions.
Whether you’re planning a day trip to Sausalito or researching a potential move to one of the nicest parts of the Bay Area (not that I’m biased or anything!), this post will give you plenty of ideas for how to spend your time in Sausalito – and the surrounding area.
Top 5 Things to Do IN Sausalito
While writing this post, I decided to see what others were suggesting for visitors to Sausalito. I was very disappointed to see that the big travel sites are recommending lots of “things to do in Sausalito” that aren’t actually in Sausalito. Yeah, sure the address says “Sausalito,” but that’s the proof the articles aren’t written by people who live here – because no local is gonna say that Rodeo Beach or Vista Point are in Sausalito, no matter what Google Maps says the street address is.
As you’ll see below, I’ve included all of those not-actually-in-Sausalito activities and experiences in the “Explore Beyond Sausalito” section – because they aren’t actually in Sausalito and shouldn’t count on the list of things to do in Sausalito.
But don’t despair! As you’ll see, there are so many great things to do in Sausalito that you don’t have to look outside the city and rent a car to get there – if you don’t want to. As you can see in my map above, all* of the things to do in Sausalito that I recommend are within the city bounds (green); those outside the city bounds are marked in grey.
(*The exception to this statement is the Taj Mahal and Floating Homes in Waldo Point, both of which are technically over the water and are not officially within the city bounds but count as Sausalito for all intents and purposes.)
To kick things off based on my experience living in Sausalito, here are the top 5 best things to do in Sausalito:
- Admire the View from the San Francisco-Sausalito Ferry
- Stroll Along Bridgeway Promenade
- See the San Francisco Bay Model
- Take a Self-Guided Historic Walking Tour
- Visit the Famous Floating Homes
Sounds great, right? Now let’s jump into each one and you can decide which ones you want to do during your Sausalito visit.
1. Admire the View from the Sausalito Ferry
To be honest, one of the best things to do in Sausalito begins before you even arrive: as most people arrive in Sausalito by ferry (or depart that way if they choose to ride bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge to reach Sausalito), admiring the picturesque views of the city as the boat pulls up is a must-do.
Don’t be like many of the local commuters who head straight to the doors as soon as the boat gets close to shore; stay on the deck to look at the colorful homes, people-watch people walking on Bridgeway, and snap a few panoramic photos as souvenirs.
2. Stroll Along Bridgeway Promenade
Okay, here’s another thing to clear up: there is no single “Sausalito boardwalk” to walk along during your visit to Sausalito. There are three different sections of boardwalk along the Sausalito waterfront – all are great for a scenic stroll if you have the time while visiting.
However, if you’re looking for that picturesque boardwalk-like experience, you’ve gotta head to Bridgeway Promenade. This is the main waterfront street in Sausalito, and there’s a lovely sidewalk on the water side of the street that’s perfect for admiring Sausalito’s best views of the Bay and San Francisco skyline. My favorite spots for photos along Bridgeway Promenade are Yee Tock Chee Park and near the Sea Lion Sculpture.
At the southern end of Bridgeway Promenade, you can find one section of Sausalito boardwalk over Tiffany Beach. This is a great spot for photos with the hillside homes in the background that earn Sausalito its comparison to Cinque Terre in Italy.
3. See the San Francisco Bay Model
Can I be totally honest: I’ve never actually been to the Bay Model myself. I moved to Sausalito right before the pandemic began, and it was closed for most of the time since – I just haven’t had the chance to visit yet. Nevertheless, I know that it’s one of the best things to do in Sausalito as it’s both a fascinating feat of engineering and a cool way to learn more about the San Francisco Bay Area including Sausalito.
Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bay Model is a working hydraulic scale model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System – which means that the water flows in and out of the Bay Model each day based on the tides and helps scientists*, students, and curious visitors understand how expansive the full-scale (aka real) Bay Area actually is. (*Actually, the Bay Model is no longer used for scientific research but it was used for that in the past.)
This massive (320 feet by 400 feet) attraction is open from 9am to 4pm daily except Sundays and Mondays. You can learn more and plan your visit on the Bay Model Visitor Center webpage.
4. Visit the Sausalito Visitor Center
While it’s temporarily closed as of writing, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the Sausalito Visitor Center and Historical Society actually open. (Again, this may have been mostly a pandemic issue…)
However, in the future, I can say with certainty that not only will the Visitor Center be open, but it’ll be well worth a visit during your time in Sausalito, especially if you love history. Located in an old Ice House that was used for storing ice for transport elsewhere in the region, the Sausalito Historical Society is currently raising funds to revamp its exhibit about the city’s history. You’ll learn about the storied past of Sausalito and its many different chapters – from ferry terminal to hippie hotspot to today’s modern multi-million-dollar real estate market facing real constraints from climate change and sea-level rise.
Even if it’s not open during your visit, swing by and admire this building at the corner of Bridgeway and Bay Street.
5. Take a Self-Guided Historic Walking Tour
While you’re at the Visitor Center, you might notice a series of plaques out front; these are the beginning of a historic Sausalito walking tour that you can easily do if you have a half-hour to spare (maybe while waiting for a dinner reservation). I’ve detailed each of the stops along the walking tour route, and highly recommend it – especially if the Visitor Center isn’t open.
Along the path of the walking tour which follows the Sausalito waterfront, each of the plaques will teach you some Sausalito history and give you comparison photos to understand how each view you’re seeing has changed.
The Walking Tour route is 1 mile long; most people can complete it in 20-30 minutes.
6. Browse the Galleries & Boutiques
Part of what gives Sausalito its small-town charm is the fact that there are no franchise stores or restaurants in the city. (There used to be a Starbucks, but it closed after a fire so even now you’ll have to find your caffeine fix at a local coffee shop.) Instead, you’ll find art galleries and boutiques to browse during your Sausalito visit.
Two of my favorite places to window shop (or actual shop!) are along Bridgeway Promenade (on the non-water side, obviously) and Caledonia Street in New Town. (Click here for an orientation on Sausalito neighborhoods.) In both areas of town, you’ll find fascinating art galleries and small shops with housewares, clothing items, and non-kitschy souvenirs.
(If you’ve ever been to Carmel-by-the-Sea, Sausalito is a good little sister to that art gallery/boutique shopping experience.)
7. See the (Sausalito) Taj Mahal
Did you know there’s a Taj Mahal in Sausalito? Now you do! It’s one of the main sights in town, but you have to know how to reach it to really admire the craftsmanship of this unique floating home.
You can spot the Sausalito Taj Mahal from another section of Sausalito Boardwalk, the one that runs alongside Sausalito Yacht Harbor, where the floating home is moored. To reach it, walk to the north end of the boardwalk until it makes a sharp turn northeast. Follow the boardwalk out onto the pier (Pier A). All the way at the end, you’ll reach the Floating Taj Mahal.
This is a private residence, so please admire it from a distance rather than going all the way onto the property.
8. Visit the Famous Floating Homes
Speaking of Floating homes, you might see the Taj Mahal and wonder where all the other floating homes are in Sausalito – isn’t that one of the things the city is famous for?
Indeed it is – though you’ll need to make a bit of a journey to the very north end of town to see them. Following the waterfront (there’s a path almost much the whole way), it’s a 2.5-mile one-way walk from the Sausalito Ferry terminal to Waldo Point Harbor where all of the iconic floating homes are located. (Technically, Waldo Point is not within Sausalito city limits, but again, for practical purposes, it’s in Sausalito.)
Most of the piers are marked for residents only or have gates, so you won’t be able to walk out and explore too closely. However, there are two viewing piers, one between S40 Dock and Liberty Dock, and another jutting out from the park between Charles Van Damme Dock and Issaquah Dock. Those are both great places to see many floating homes and take pictures without disturbing the privacy of residents.
9. Dine Al Fresco
Since Sausalito has some of the best weather in the Bay Area (San Jose has us beat, but we’ll take the #2 spot), dining al fresco is a very popular way to enjoy a meal. There are a number of restaurants with both indoor and outdoor (usually sidewalk) dining; if the weather is good, always ask for an outdoor table!
Here are some of my favorite spots to dine al fresco in Sausalito:
- Le Garage, near Schoonmaker Point Marina
- Joinery Beerhall
- Bar Bocce (beach dining!)
- Salsalito Taco Shop
- Poggio Trattoria
- Venice Gourmet Delicatessen & Pizzeria
- Angelino Restaurant
- Barrel House Tavern (mezzanine dining overlooking the Bay)
Be sure to check my Sausalito restaurant guide for details about each of these options.
10. Do a Spirits or Wine Tasting
If you need something to wash down that incredible al fresco meals, Sausalito also has some libation options. In particular, you can do either a spirits tasting or wine tasting, thanks to Sausalito’s close proximity to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys where these products are made.
For spirits, head to Hanson of Sonoma Tasting Room. Their vodkas are delicious and – since the pandemic – they offer cocktails and nibbles too. This is a perfect Happy Hour spot with sidewalk seating (another pandemic bonus!).
For wine, there are two tasting rooms: Bacchus & Venus (along Bridgeway north of the Ferry terminal) and Real Napa Tasting Room (along Bridgeway Promenade). Both have a variety of wines to taste from different wineries up north.
11. See the Sausalito Elephants
As you research Sausalito, you might notice that there is a rather unique image associated with the city: an elephant with a lamp above its back. This is due to two elephant statues at Viña Del Mar Park, in close proximity to the Ferry terminal. The two elephants face each other, creating a beautiful visual gateway to the small park and fountain within.
Be sure to stop and snap a picture with these Sausalito icons, and while you’re in the area…
12. Enjoy an Ice Cream from the Sausalito Steps
Hop across the street to Lappert’s for an ice cream cone that you can enjoy while people-watching from the Sausalito Steps. These steps descend right across from the intersection of Bridgeway and El Portal and provide a perfect spot to enjoy a sweet treat and admire views of the Sausalito elephants, Viña Del Mar Park, and Richardson Bay beyond.
13. Head out on a Hike
If you’re less of the indulgent type and more of the adventurous type of traveler, there are still plenty of things to do in Sausalito for you. First up, you might want to head out on a hike. There are actually two trailheads within the Sausalito city limits, though the trails themselves quickly leave the city.
First is Morning Sun Trailhead, which is accessed from a small parking area of the 101; Rodeo Trailhead has a similar access setup. In both cases, you’ll need a car to reach the trailhead – or hike up the Sausalito city streets to cross under the 101 to get there. (Actually, when I lived in Bridgeway Marina, I was told there were sets of steps leading from Bridgeway all the way up to Morning Sun Trailhead, though I’ve never found the route… To me, climbing several hundred steps is a hike unto itself!)
14. Go Kayaking on Richardson Bay
Perhaps the most common adventure activity in Sausalito is kayaking; every weekend, you’ll see scores of kayakers out on the water enjoying all the views you can only get from Richardson Bay looking back at the city (kinda like the Ferry ride!).
I’ve got a complete guide to kayaking in Sausalito if you’re interested in this activity; the short version is that you’ll need to reserve kayaks from SeaTrek in the Marinship area (next to the Bay Model, if you also want to visit that!). They’ll hook you up with all the safety gear you need to set out and explore. You can then paddle north toward Waldo Point or south toward the Golden Gate Bridge.
As someone who owned a kayak for a time, I just want to advise that the wind can come up quickly and make the return trip suck – so be sure to understand your limits and energy before paddling out too far!
15. Take a Sunset Cruise on the Freda B
Finally, the last thing – and one of the best things – to do in Sausalito is to take a sunset cruise on the Schooner Freda B. This 80-foot sailboat is iconic in Richardson Bay; she sets out for sunset sails and other special occasions and is truly beautiful when she opens her sails.
While most people head to dinner, a sunset sail before dinner is a great way to admire Sausalito from the water and usually isn’t too crowded. The sunset sail includes champagne, narration, and some epic photo opportunities.
Explore Beyond Sausalito
So those are the best things to do in Sausalito – now let’s talk about what you can do in the Sausalito area. I’ll cover each of these activities more briefly since they aren’t really the focus of this guide, but I don’t want to omit them in case you’ve seen them elsewhere and have your heart set on making them happen during your visit to Sausalito.
16. Visit Muir Woods
One of the most famous sites in Marin County, Muir Woods is definitely a must-visit in the Bay Area. This National Monument is home to some of the best Redwoods in the Bay Area and an easy drive from Sausalito. On weekends, there’s a shuttle from a spot in Mill Valley (about 3 miles from the Ferry terminal); otherwise, you’ll need a rental car. You also need reservations to visit Muir Woods, so be sure to arrange that before turning up to try and see the trees.
17. Explore Angel Island
Angel Island is another popular destination to visit from Sausalito. Visible on the ferry ride over, Angel Island is accessible by ferry itself. Once on the island, you can hike or bike around, see historic sights, and admire epic views of the San Francisco skyline and Bay Area. I’ve got an entire guide to visiting Angel Island from Sausalito if you want to do this as part of your visit.
18. Visit Tiburon
Tiburon is the community neighboring Sausalito across Richardson Bay (so you can’t miss it if you look out from Bridgeway Promenade to the north. You can reach Tiburon by car or on the Blue & Gold ferry, though the ferry is probably easier for most visitors. Once there, you can walk around the central part of town near their ferry terminal and see historic buildings from different chapters in their town’s history. There’s also a great Airbnb Experience in Tiburon worth checking out.
19. Explore Fort Baker
Fort Baker is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area south of Sausalito; it is the area that gets most commonly lumped in on lists of things to do in Sausalito – but it’s definitely not Sausalito! In any case, a visit to Fort Baker is still fascinating. You can visit Cavallo Point Lodge (an iconic spot with several good restaurants), stroll out on Point Cavallo and Battery Yates, and picnic on the lawns of Fort Baker.
20. Visit the Bay Area Discovery Museum
Within the Fort Baker historic buildings, those traveling with kids should definitely plan a visit to the Bay Area Discovery Museum; it’s the most kid-friendly thing to do in the Sausalito area. There are play areas and learning opportunities for all ages; some of the most fun (to adult me) is the exhibit on “How it Works,” the “Try It Studio,” and Lookout Cove.
21. Admire the Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point
Love good views? There’s no place better than Vista Point, which has one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge anywhere. Unfortunately, you can’t really reach Vista Point except by car or bicycle* so you’ll need to plan to reach it. If you do figure out the logistics though, you’ll enjoy an incredible view of San Francisco’s most popular icon.
(*If you’re riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Sausalito, this is a must-stop spot.)
22. Bike or Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge, if you aren’t taking the ferry back to SF as most people do, you may want to bike or walk across the Golden Gate Bridge to return to the city; you could also do this as a way to reach Sausalito, though it’s a long walk from the end of the GGB to Sausalito proper. As you can imagine, it’s much quicker with bikes, which is why so many people choose to bike to Sausalito across the bridge then take the ferry back.
23. Stroll on Rodeo Beach
This item and the next few all require a car – so they work if you’re driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. Rodeo Beach is the closest Pacific beach to Sausalito, reached by passing through the Baker-Barry Tunnel. The beach is close to a number of other historic military sites like Fort Cronkhite, Battery Townsley, Battery Smith-Guthrie, and Battery Mendell – all part of the historic San Francisco defense program. From the beach and adjacent hills, you can enjoy a few moments of peace as the waves crash on the beach.
24. Visit the Marine Mammal Center
Out near Rodeo Beach, you can also visit the Marine Mammal Center. This free-to-visit facility is temporarily closed but typically admits visitors to learn about animal rehabilitation; donations go to support the animals in their care. This is one of the charities that we support with 1% of gross revenue here on Discover Sausalito.
25. Drive to Spencer Battery Overlook
For another incredible view that can be reached only by car, Spencer Battery Overlook is the place. To be honest, I’ve actually never been here because the traffic has always been so bad; if you’re visiting on a weekend, be prepared for extensive lines of cars to reach this viewpoint. During the week, it’s not as bad, but you may still encounter lines if there’s a particularly nice sunset.
26. Hike to the Marin Headlands Point Bonita Lighthouse
Finally – last but certainly not least – there’s another great view (accessible by car then foot) at Point Bonita Lighthouse. This lighthouse looks out over the mouth of the Golden Gate, and helped protect ships entering and leaving the waterway from crashing on the rocky cliffs of the Marin Headlands. It’s now protected as part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area and a cool spot to explore if you’re spending part of your time in this area of Marin.
Where to Dine & Drink in Sausalito
As you can see, there’s more than enough things to do in Sausalito to fill an entire day – if not longer. That means you’ll need at least a few meals during your visit. Here are some of my personal favorite places to eat in Sausalito:
- Lighthouse Cafe – A must-visit brunch spot if you start your day in Sausalito early.
- Joinery Beerhall – A great spot for lunch or dinner with beautiful views and one of the best waterfront restaurants in town.
- Le Garage – I’ve had spotty service here, but the food and wine are fabulous and it’s away from the crowds near the Ferry terminal and Bridgeway Promenade.
- Barrel House Tavern – A great spot for happy hour drinks and appetizers with a view. We celebrated one of J’s birthdays here.
- The Trident – Another great spot for cocktails and nibbles; be sure to try the Tequila Sunrise, which was apparently invented here!
- Napa Valley Burger – While I’ve never eaten here, it tops my list of the best burgers in Sausalito and there’s stiff competition!
- fish. – If you find yourself in the northern part of town as dinnertime approaches, fish. is a must. They have incredible seafood dishes and outdoor seating.
- No Name Bar – For drinks, there’s only one place to go – our famous bar with no name. Try the Sausalito Punch and enjoy live music in this famed spot.
I have a complete list of all Sausalito restaurants available too, plus sub-lists of the best-ranked restaurants in different categories; click here to see all that info.
Where to Stay in Sausalito
I’ve sold you on staying a night in Sausalito, right? I mean, there’s just so much to do! If you want to turn your Sausalito day trip into a two-day adventure thanks to this post, you have exactly four hotel options:
- Hotel Sausalito & Suites – Conveniently located at the intersection of El Portal and Bridgeway. From $195/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- The Gables Inn – Tucked back off Bridgeway, this is a cozy spot to stay. From $225/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Casa Madrona – Sausalito’s most luxurious stay, with sweeping views from hillside rooms. From $296/night, book on Booking.com or Hotels.com
- The Inn Above Tide – With incredible water view rooms, the splurge is worth it. From $455/night, book directly.
Unfortunately, the city of Sausalito is – in my opinion – short-sighted and has no permitting process for short-term vacation rentals, so there are no options available for less than 30 days. If you have a car, you can look for Airbnbs in Mill Valley, the neighboring community. I’ve got a complete guide on where to stay in Sausalito with a lot more detail about all of your options.
Have any other questions about what to do in Sausalito? Let me know in the comments!