Nestled in the seaside hills of Marin, the first town north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is Sausalito. It’s a pretty, eclectic little place with bustling maritime and art communities, good restaurants, ample walking paths, and breathtaking views.
A little bit of history: First inhabited by the Coast Miwok Native Americans, Sausalito was discovered by European explorers in 1775 and began to develop as a settlement in the mid-19th century. It eventually became a place of summer residences for wealthy San Franciscans and a working hub for a diverse group of immigrants that flocked to the Bay as boat builders, merchants, railroad workers, fishermen, ranchers, and more. A community of people living on docked houseboats and anchored-out boats started to build in Sausalito with the California Gold Rush, and then grew again as a result of the earthquake and fires of 1906. Sausalito’s population inflated during WWII, and after the war, the town became the center of bohemian activity. Passenger ferries, which had been in use in the 1800s, were brought back in the 1970s, and with them came the tourists and people looking to move out of San Francisco.
Today, the population is a sundry mix of artists, entrepreneurs, techies, sailors, and anchor-outs. It’s still a busy tourist destination, for national, international, and local visitors alike. You can get to Sausalito easily from San Francisco by taking the ferry or making a short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (a must-do if you’re visiting San Francisco for the first time!). It’s such a beautiful little town that’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re in the Bay Area. Before we lived here, taking the ferry over from the city and walking along the docks was one of our favorite things to do. Now, after being Sausalito residents for over a year, I have much more to recommend. See my suggestions on what to Eat, Drink, Walk, See, and Do in Sausalito below.
Best for Breakfast
Lighthouse Cafe - is a no-frills type of restaurant with great food at good prices. For those reasons, its our favorite breakfast spot in Sausalito. The staff is friendly and the building is cute (the outside looks like a Lighthouse!). After 10am, a line out the door starts to build, so I recommend getting here before 9:30. The line does move quickly, though—they’re good at getting people in and out!
Le Garage - is my top recommendation for weekend brunch. This place has awesome curb appeal: a garage-turned-restaurant flanked by impressive yachts and pretty sailboats. The food is consistently good and the service can be slow, but I attribute that to their French owner: the restaurant wants you to embrace the experience of a leisurely, thoughtful meal.
Best for Lunch
The Joinery - is a casual, order at the counter and sit with your number type of place. It’s a really nice spot to enjoy a meal or drink (they have a lot of good selections on tap!), with doors and a patio that open out to Richardson Bay. My favorite order is for the pork tacos; Garrett loves the fried chicken sandwich. We eat here regularly and always recommend it! The Joinery is a great spot for lunch or a casual dinner.
Sausalito Gourmet Delicatessen - as an East Coaster, I miss my traditional delis. There aren’t a lot in the Bay Area. Sausalito Gourmet Delicatessen checks all of the boxes for me! It’s a cute mom and pop business run by an elderly couple. Warning: the pace here is slow. Be prepared for them to take a while to make your sandwich. But it’s worth it, I swear! Plus, they have a back patio that you can enjoy your meal on.
Fish - like the Joinery, Fish is an order at the counter, sit down with your number, good for lunch or dinner type of spot. It is a bit pricey but they’re committed to serving only sustainable seafood, which is a mission I happily support. Its waterfront location along a marina offers good view while you eat. I love their fish tacos and you can never go wrong with a crab roll, tuna melt or fish and chips!
Best for Dinner
Sushi Ran - this is a popular sushi spot, beloved by Marin County residents and San Franciscans alike. Make a reservation before you go! We love the crunch roll (it’s like Doritos but sushi) and their sake selection.
Copita - has one of my favorite mole dishes and Garrett appreciates their extensive mezcal selection. It’s centrally located, too, pretty much right across from the ferry. Decor is cute, service is great, food is delicious!
Fast Food Francais (F3) - two words: Pommes Dauphine. Oh my goodness, they’re so good. I’m not going to say anything else about them; you’ll have to order and find out for yourself. This restaurant is a great option in town for burgers.
Sausalito is a relatively sleepy town with a limited nightlife scene. Because it’s so beautiful here, I think it’s more fun to enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the Bay by day instead of hanging out at one of the dive bars by night—but I’ll leave the choice up to you!
Best for Day Drinking
Bar Bocce - this place gets packed on a sunny weekend day. The inside is nothing to write home about, but the back patio is gorgeous and it opens up to a sandy beach along the water. There’s only one bocce court and it’s usually overtaken by people just standing on it, so don’t get your bocce hopes up. This place is still worth your while, though—their beer and wine selection are great (I love their blood orange sangria!), the food is delicious (best pizza in Marin), and the views are unbeatable.
Barrel House Tavern - located conveniently next to the ferry drop off, Barrel House Tavern has a great upstairs outdoor patio overlooking the Bay from where you can soak in the San Francisco skyline and Alcatraz.
Travis Marina Bar - is a hidden gem located a little off of the beaten path. It’s a dive bar along Horseshoe Cove in Fort Baker, a settlement slightly south of town. Fort Baker is picturesque in itself with its rolling green lawns and red-roofed white homes. Travis Marina Bar is less picturesque inside but offers the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a great spot to head to for a beer if you’re biking over the bridge, or good to pop into at night if you want to hear live music. There’s usually a cover at night and the bartenders only accept cash tips.
The Trident - if you’ve noticed a trend here, most of my recommendations for drinks involve places with stellar views. The Trident is no different. Its outside deck is over the water and faces the city—you can’t go wrong with that. Their apps are pretty good too, but a little overpriced. You’re paying for the view! And, supposedly, this spot used to be a favorite of Janis Joplin, so that’s cool.
Best for Nighttime
Smitty’s - this is Garrett’s favorite Sausalito bar. I think that’s because it reminds him of the type of bar you’d find in Northern Michigan, where his grandparents and a lot of our friends had cottages. The wood-plank walls, pool tables, shuffle boards, TVs, foosball, and cheap pitchers all scream Michigan. And fun. It’s a good place with a pretty eclectic crowd on any given night.
No Name Bar - oh, the No Name. Another locals’ favorite. Another dive bar. If you’re going to the No Name, a unique night is ahead of you.
WALK, SEE & DO
Waldo Point Harbor - holds 245 privately-owned floating homes at the north end of Richardson Bay, all of which have been occupied since the 1970s. Most of the docks are private but there are a few that are open for the public to walk along, plus you can get a good look at the homes from the public shore path. This is a famous Sausalito houseboat community that you won’t want to miss!
The Docks of Sausalito Yacht Harbor - when you get off of the ferry, turn right. Cut through the parking lot and stay close to the water. Eventually, you’ll make it to Sausalito Yacht Harbor, which holds a ton of beautiful boats in its slips. Garrett and I used to love walking the docks and pretend shopping before we bought our own sailboat.
Caledonia Street - this street is often missed by day tourists because it isn’t along the main drag, but it has some of the best restaurants in town! (See: Sushi Ran, F3, Smitty’s.) It has an old school small town feel to it and offers a nice respite from the crowds.
Heath Ceramics - is a nationally renowned and coveted pottery and ceramics brand founded in 1948 by Edith and Brian Heath. The original factory was built in Sausalito in 1959, and is still open—complete with a storefront and factory tours—today. It’s a gorgeous store and their products make wonderful gifts to friends, family, or yourself!
Sea Trek - offers kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals to explore Richardson’s Bay by the water. There’s plenty to see in the Bay—harbor seals, sea birds, and of course, lots of boats. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours, especially when the weather is nice! They offer guided tours of the area, too.
Fort Baker - one of the Golden Gate National Parks locations, Fort Baker is an idyllic stretch of land and buildings just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an U.S. Army post in 1905 and today has a bunch of lovely historic army buildings set along a long, sloping park. It offers a stunning vantage point of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco city front as well as well as a few great establishments: The Bay Area Discovery Museum, Cavallo Point Lodge, Travis Marina Bar (mentioned above), and more! The green is also a perfect place to host a picnic.
The Bay Model - is an education center that has a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta System. It was build by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1956-57 and uses simulated tidal action. It’s pretty cool, and pretty big—it takes up 1.5 acres! This would be a great rainy day activity for kids and adults alike.
So there you have it! All of my recommendations of the best of the best of Sausalito. I hope you get to visit our beautiful little town and use these tips to enjoy your trip soon! Please let me know if you have any questions or need any more information.