Getting to the Sausalito Art Festival via Ferry
The Golden Gate Ferry to downtown Sausalito adds extra crossings each year, plus special ferries sail from San Francisco directly to a pier adjacent to the Festival.
Many people get confused about which ferry goes where, so here is a summary of each option:
Downtown Sausalito Ferries & Shuttles
Regular Sausalito ferry service from Fisherman’s Wharf (Blue and Gold Fleet) and from the Ferry Building (Golden Gate Ferry) goes to the same place it always goes, the Sausalito Ferry pier. Free (comfortable) buses run from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM each day will to shuttle visitors from the downtown pier to the Festival, and this is a great way to get to the event and save the headaches of driving and parking.
Insiders Tip: If you have a regular ferry ticket and leave the Festival a little early you can take the free shuttle back to downtown Sausalito, but don’t immediately board the ferry. You’ll have time to eat at one of the many great nearby restaurants, some with great views, before taking a later ferry back to San Francisco. Just check the ferry schedule to make sure you know the time of the last voyage to your destination in San Francisco, either the Ferry Building (Golden Gate Ferry) or Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Wharf (Blue and Gold Fleet).
Insiders Tip: If you take the ferry from the downtown Sausalito pier, there are separate lines for people riding bikes and people walking. If you don’t have a bike be sure to stand in the shorter, non-bikes line. Bike riders are also more likely to have to wait for the next boat when the late afternoon ferries get full.
The Festival Pier Ferries
The special Art Festival ferries go directly to a pier adjacent to the fairgrounds at Marinship Park. You can buy combined event tickets and ferry passes. This is super convenient, but cuts you off from all the other dining and sightseeing of Sausalito and adds the hassles described below. The schedule for the expanded service is here.
Insiders Tip: In the late afternoon the pier adjacent to the fairgrounds can be crowded with people waiting for the ferry, and although the volunteers try their best the crowd control is uneven. The lines can get long, there may be people who cut in line, and the afternoon breezes can get cool.
If you’re planning to stay till the Festival closes and don’t want to hassle the lines don’t buy this ticket, but use the regular Sausalito Ferries instead. You can take the luxurious free shuttle bus to the downtown Sausalito Ferry pier, where boats run later and the pedestrian lines (which are separate from the bike rider lines) are usually manageable.
Note: IMHO the Festival volunteers should get a medal for the work they do. It’s the system that creates these bottlenecks, and the unpaid volunteers who try to help deserve our appreciation and support.
Why It Gets Extra Crowded at the Festival Pier: Blue and Gold Fleet accepts any Blue and Gold ticket for the trip back to San Francisco from the Festival pier, so people who came to the downtown pier in the morning can embark at the Festival and go directly to Pier 41 in the afternoon without taking the shuttle back downtown. This makes the afternoon crowds unpredictably larger than the inbound ridership and Blue and Gold Fleet says that tickets are good only on a “space available” basis… even if you thought you bought a reserved round trip ticket!