Across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city of San Francisco lies the sleepy town of Sausalito. Yachts and sailing boats dot the harbor, making it a peaceful retreat from hectic city life. With shops, galleries, parks, and eco-museums, Sausalito offers a bounty of fun things to do for both families and solo travelers.
From fascinating remnants of the Bay Area’s military history quaint shopping to several educational institutions, Sausalito makes for an enjoyable day trip from San Francisco — or it can be enjoyed on its own for what it offers to the curious traveler. Here are our top tips for the best things to do in Sausalito.
With everything from cozy B&Bs; to luxury boutiques, the small city of Sausalito has accommodations to suit every style and budget. You can’t help but find the perfect match to enjoy your stay across the Bay — either near the waterfront, in town, or closer to the woods. Get to know your options for Sausalito hotels by reading our guide to Sausalito Hotels.
Known for fresh California fare and Mediterranean vibes, Sausalito is home to a number of restaurants ranging from casual local delis to upscale waterfront dining. You can find whatever piques your fancy in this small waterside town, including world-class sushi restaurants and sustainable cuisine. For a more in-depth look at Sausalito Restaurants, read our guide to Sausalito restaurants.
What To Do & See in Sausalito
Marine Mammal Center
If you’re traveling with kids or if you’re just a lover of aquatic animals, the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito offers educational programs and tours free to the public. Specializing in seals and sea lions, the Marine Mammal Center is located in the Marin Headlands inside the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Learn how the center rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals in a hospital designed just for this purpose. Look into the puppy dog eyes of these marine mammals and you won’t be able to resist falling in love. Enjoy a morning with these majestic sea creatures and learn how we can preserve their species for years to come. This is one of the gems of Sausalito travel.
Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Road, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito
Muir Woods National Park lies just north of Sausalito and features old-growth coast redwoods — massive trees that form an everlasting canopy above you. These sturdy and impressive trees are a highlight of the park, but the Steller’s Jay, ladybugs, ancient horsetail ferns, and the banana slug all lay claim to the park as their home.
Take your hiking shoes, a map, and some water and set out for an adventure through this primeval forest. The park serves as a place of respite from busy city life and as a laboratory for conservationist and local school children. What’s better than breathing in fresh air amidst some of the oldest trees in the country?
The woods are also rich in history. For instance, the United Nations had a gathering in the forest in 1945 to honor the late president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Immerse yourself in this mythical Eden of nature, science, and history all coming together.
An easy way to visit Muir Woods is to sign up for a guided day trip that picks you up directly from your San Francisco Hotel. This well-liked activity motors you across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the ancient coastal redwood trees. As a bonus, you also visit Sausalito, where you can opt to catch the ferry back to the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
We loved this tour to Muir Woods. Our driver was very friendly and provided us with a lot of interesting facts about the area and Muir Woods on the drive. The redwoods are incredibly beautiful and should not be missed. The air was clean and crisp, much different than the city. The drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and stop in Sausalito were a bonus!”
– 5-Star Review
Whether you’re in the mood for a refreshing stroll alongside the waves or ready to dive in with the surfers and hang ten, Rodeo Beach has something to offer you. Children love to play in the sand, which is covered with one-of-a-kind red and green pebbles. Cliffs shelter the beach and it is bounded by a biodiverse lagoon.
Here you can go birdwatching or make like an amateur botanist and sketch the lovely jasper, carnelian, black agate, and jade plants amid the sands of the beach. There are also wheelchair accessible picnic areas that overlook the beach. This beach is a wonderful little hideaway where you can simply relax.
Rodeo Beach, 1049 Mitchell Road, Sausalito
Sausalito Yacht Club
Saunter on down to the Sausalito Yacht Club to get a slice of how high society lives across the bay from San Francisco. Here you can ogle the yachts of millionaires and enjoy the fresh sea air. This is one of the top pleasure-boat harbors in the world and a great attraction of Sausalito.
Sausalito Yacht Club, 100 Humboldt Ave, Sausalito
The San Francisco Bay Model
Owned and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, the San Francisco Bay Model is a full working model of how water flows through San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Originally, they wanted to demonstrate what would happen if the South Bay were dammed. They ended up proving that it’d be disastrous for the bay environment, so they scrapped the plan. Nowadays the fully hydraulic model remains open to the public to learn about Bay hydrology. For the history or engineering nerd, this is a fun place to also learn about the history of Bay Area watercraft, the Marin Shipyard, World War II in general, and the modern life of the bay system.
The San Francisco Bay Model, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito
With an absolutely iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco in the background, the view from Battery Spencer is a must-see if you want the best in Sausalito travel. Formerly one of the main protection points for San Francisco harbor back in the early 1900s, Battery Spencer was discontinued during World War II and is now an interesting remnant of military history that you can see for yourself. This is the perfect place to have your quintessentially California photo-op as you stand triumphantly atop a hill as the fog rolls in across the San Francisco Bay.
Battery Spencer, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Conzelman Rd
Bay Area Discovery Museum
Got kids in tow? Then there’s no better place in Sausalito than the Bay Area Discovery Museum (BADM). The focus of the BADM is early childhood learning and they blend creative problem-solving activities and hands-on inquiry-driven experiences in a fun and nurturing environment for young learners.
Expect exciting programs and exhibitions that are all backed by research done at the museum’s research division, the Center for Childhood Creativity. Your kids will have an absolute riot and learn a thing or two about science in the process.
Bay Area Discovery Museum, 557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito
A former World War II military post, Fort Cronkhite is the perfect attraction for history buffs or those curious learning more about World War II. It’s one of the few remaining examples of the mobilization posts that popped up around the country during the war. The barracks, mess halls, and other buildings are uniquely preserved and evoke the history of the soldiers who lived and worked here.
These days Fort Cronkhite’s buildings are used as offices and housing for the National Park Service. Come to Fort Cronkhite to be immersed in the living history of the military in California.