The Ferry Ride Back to San Francisco
Both ferry services that dock in Sausalito usually run on time – I’ve missed a ferry more than once by arriving just one minute late at the pier. It’s a good idea to always arrive a few minutes early, especially if you’re taking the last sailing of the evening.
The lines for waiting passengers so split so that those who have bikes and those who do not line up separately, so make sure you stand in the non-bike line.
The outer decks of the ferries are often cold at night, though they offer wonderful views. The top deck of the Golden Gate Ferry is open at the back and there are heaters so you can have both fresh air and some warmth.
The Golden Gate Bridge is lit subtly at night, with only a few low-wattage floodlights on the towers. For this reason it’s best viewed from outside rather than inside the lighted cabin.
Alcatraz is also not brightly lit at night.
The two stars of the nighttime ferry ride are the Bay Bridge, with its now-permanent light show, and the skyline of San Francisco. During December of each year some of the downtown buildings display extra Holiday lights.
I hope you enjoyed your day in Sausalito, and that some of my favorite places in town now are your favorites, too!
Wait! Don’t Go! We Still Have Time for Dinner!
For some readers I may be signing off too early here. You may have more time before the late ferry, or you may have driven and planned all along to stay for dinner.
Before I give you my personal recommendations, here are some resources to help you decide on the perfect place for dinner tonight. I’m going to limit my suggestions to those places within easy walking distance of the ferry pier, but if you don’t mind driving or using Uber, Lyft or a taxi, many more great options open up and these pages will help you explore them.
Our list of the best dinner restaurants in Sausalito is here. A majority are within a few blocks of the ferry pier and Vina del Mar Park.
Our list of the best view restaurants in Sausalito is here. Those at the top of the list are clustered in the areas where you’ve walked today.
The OpenTable website, which allows you to check ten to twelve of the most prominent local restaurants (out of almost 70) to see if they have reservations available.
If you haven’t already picked a place, here are my personal favorites (including some I also suggested for lunch) within easy walking distance of the ferry pier and parking lots. As before, we’ll assume that you’re starting from Vina del Mar Park, but you can use the map below to orient yourself from anywhere else in Sausalito.
If you want a sweeping San Francisco skyline view and California cuisine: try Barrel House, at the foot of Princess St. It will be one block to your left as you stand in Vina del Mar Park facing the hillside. If the weather is acceptable, ask for a table on the deck outside, and they have heaters there that will help with the cold.
If you can recite the name of each band member from Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship and Starship and which albums they’re each on, you’ll want to go to The Trident, where Bill Graham once threw a party for the Rolling Stones. It has fabulous views, all of its original late-60’s architecture and woodwork, and the table where Janis Joplin used to drink each afternoon. It’s about one block past The Trident on the same side of Bridgeway.
If you want a 270-degree view from a restaurant perched on a pier above San Francisco, try The Spinnaker, with traditional seafood, Italian and American dishes. It’s less cutting edge than Barrel House, but the food is excellent and it has the best view in town. To reach it from the park, turn and walk back towards the ferry, but veer one block to your left and walk down Anchor Street. In one block you’ll see The Spinnaker’s driveway directly in front of you.
If you enjoy tapas and Mexican food and want to dine from the menu of a celebrity chef, consider Copita, where executive chef and PBS TV host Joanne Weir has built a unique menu. Their sidewalk tables are charming and they also have heaters overhead. You’ll see Copita across the street, just to the right of where you’re standing.
If you’d like to eat Italian cuisine at a restaurant that’s a perennial on Michael Bauer’s Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list, check out Poggio, which is about one block north of Copita on the same side of Bridgeway. They feature seasonal, locally sourced organic ingredients and on nice nights they also offer sidewalk dining that is reminiscent of being in Italy.
Four other choices are clustered close to each other about three blocks farther north. Continue past Poggio on Bridgeway until you reach Caledonia St., then bear left on Caledonia. This level street will lead you to Sausalito’s “downtown for the locals,” and after you cross Johnson St. you’ll come to…
If you’d enjoy hearing music while you dine, visit Osteria Divino, on the left half way down the block on Caledonia St.. In addition to excellent Italian cuisine they also have top regional musicians performing five nights a week.
If you think you’d like “American comfort food ingredients prepared in classic French styles,” then Fast Food Francais is a unique spot where you can order your meal and discuss the wine list entirely in French if you’d like. They also have some small sidewalk tables that are a charming place for dinner on a warm evening. You’ll find them just past Osteria Divino.
If you’d like to try pizza or Italian specialties at a tiny place where the family recently came here from Italy, your choice is Sandrino (their sign makes it look like “San Drino”), which is just past Fast Food Francais on Caledonia. The husband and wife team have brought their family recipes to Sausalito, and it’s already one of the top-rated places in town.
If you just have to have sushi, you’ll want to go two blocks farther down Caledonia to Sushi Ran, which is rated as one of the top Japanese restaurants in Northern California and has a charming, quiet location on Caledonia St.
A Lovely Evening Walk
If you didn’t have dessert with dinner (or even if you did!), Lappert’s Ice Cream on Bridgeway between Princess St. and El Portal is a great spot for an after dinner treat.
We strolled along the Bridgeway Promenade and appreciated the views this morning, but if it’s early on a nice nighttime same walk has very different but equally stunning views of the San Francisco skyline.
A couple of cautionary notes if you talk this lovely evening walk:
The Bridgeway Promenade is lit only by an occasional streetlight, so it’s darker than the downtown area at night. Watch carefully where you’re walking to avoid straying off the sidewalk and falling along the rocks. Avoid the steps that lead down to the lower path along the rocks, since in the dark it would be easy to trip and fall and you could be seriously hurt.
Central Sausalito at night is a relatively safe American city, and the Sausalito Police patrol proactively. In that context, it’s never a good idea in cities in the United States to go to dark, isolated areas where there is no one else around at night. Robberies are very unusual here, but you never want to place yourself in a position that makes you especially vulnerable and alone. If there are other people around walking and talking then you should be OK.
The areas near Scoma’s, The Trident and the Sea Lion Statue are better lit and more traveled. Farther south the Bridgeway Promenade is darker and there are fewer nighttime pedestrians.
Two places in the central areas of Sausalito offer live music several evenings a week:
The No Name Bar, on Bridgeway opposite the ferry pier, has jazz, blues and rock bands many evenings, and the quality of the performers often rivals the best small clubs in San Frabncisco. It’s also one of the most famous artist hangouts in Sausalito, with a history that stretches back to the Beat Generation in the 1950’s.
Osteria Divino is a small Italian restaurant and bar that has excellent jazz, latin, world and fusion music several nights each week. Again, the quality of the performers here is very high. The audience is primarily locals.
We’ve had a long day together, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Thanks very much for reading about – and hopefully experiencing – our One Perfect Day in Sausalito.