Here are our top tips for avoiding disappointment when you visit Sausalito.
1. Don't Make Sausalito an Afterthought
"We stopped by for an hour on our way back from the Wine Country, and we realized we should have spent a whole day here. We were tired and couldn't really enjoy ourselves apart from having a nice dinner."
Sausalito can easily fill an entire day (or more) for visitors who enjoy art and the striking vistas of San Francisco across the Bay. If you've been on any kind of an extended trip like the long drive to the Wine Country, giving Sausalito its own afternoon is a lot more fun.
Muir Woods and Sausalito in the same day? This is a frequent guided tour itinerary. If you just take a short walk in Muir Woods in the morning you can still have lunch in Sausalito and get a chance to see much of the town. But if you do one of the longer hikes, I think you'll enjoy your trip more if you give Sausalito "its own day." (And we also think that Muis Woods is such a compelling place that it deserves more than a brief visit.)
2. Do Call Ahead for Reservations
"It was a warm summer evening and the restaurants all looked great, but we tried two different places with great views and were told there was a long wait."
This applies if you're here during the summer, Christmas week, spring break, major holidays and at other popular travel times.
Despite being a small town, during peak visitor tines getting a good table fir dinner in downtown Sausalito is the same as it is in New York, London, Florence or Hong Kong. The top view restaurants can have long waits for walk-ins. During the summer months the top restaurants near the Ferry can also be booked up at lunch.
If we want to go to one of the top Sausalito places and it's a popular time of year, we try to make reservations a day or two in advance. If it's a special occasion or holiday we'll book ahead by a week or two, especially if we want to see the sunset from a picture window right on the Bay.
In the fall and winter this is less of an issue, but it still pays to plan ahead.
You can check our restaurant rankings and the restaurant categories at the right side of this page to plan your trip in advance, and we have links and phone numbers for each restaurant so you can reserve your table.
Insiders Tip: The last ferry leaves for San Francisco relatively early. If you drive instead of taking the ferry you can take a later restaurant reservation and have a wider choice of places in town.
3. Don't Get Caught in the Wrong Hotel
"The travel website said the Water's Edge Hotel in Tiburon was close to Sausalito. We got there and it's a long drive past Sausalito!"
Tiburon is very close to Sausalito... if you're traveling by boat or helicopter! By car going to Tiburon is a long drive (or a lovely bike ride) around the edge of Richardson Bay.
This is why OurSausalito.com is moderated by people, not computers. If Sausalito is the focus of your trip, do not stay in Tiburon.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Improvise
If you're arriving in Sausalito tonight, it's mid-summer, the streets are full of people and you don't have a dinner reservation, don't despair. Last-minute calls to the top places often score slots from canceled reservations, and sometimes you just get lucky.
If you're walking around Sausalito at 2:00 PM and see a place that looks great, it never hurts to walk in and ask in-person if they have an open spot for dinner, or a waiting list for a cell phone call to fill in for any cancellation. We've gotten tables at the last minute that we were shocked were still open, and all we did was ask as walk-ins.
5. It's Like the Louvre: There are Crowds in Summer
During June, July and August there are a lot of visitors in the six blocks at the heart of downtown Sausalito, closest to the Ferry. Other great Sausalito neighborhoods remain largely unaffected because only the local residents go there.
Some people love to come this time of year to be part of all that energy and activity and to be around people from all over the world, but it's less fun for others. We like walking down Bridgeway and hearing seven or eight different languages spoken in the span of just a few minutes.
The best weather is actually in September and October most years, and by then the crowds have started to thin out.
Insiders Tip: If you dislike crowds in the summer, come early in the morning. The streets don't start to fill up until after a few Ferries have arrived for the day, and the first bike riders from Fisherman's Wharf will not have reached town. Before 10:00 AM is quite quiet, and things don't start to get crowded till close to noon.
6. Don't Be Afraid to Come in Winter
Sausalito is not one of those summer towns that rolls up the sidewalks and locks the shop doors every winter. November through February are the least crowded months, and all the same great restaurants and art galleries are open then as well.
All four seasons are beautiful here. It so happens that I'm updating this section of the article on a rainy winter day. At times today the clouds and fog over the Bay are creating an El Greco sky that is beautiful and inspiring. Which is, of course, why his View of Toledo is to the left of this paragraph!
Have a good suggestion we should add to this article? Did you have a good time doing exactly what we suggest you shouldn't do? (Just because we have strong opinions doen't mean we're always right!) Leave a comment below and let our readers learn from your perspectives!