ALERT: Car break-ins and thefts have become common in California due to a change in criminal punishments. In “safe neighborhoods” of San Francisco and other major cities any purse, briefcase or backpack left in sight in a parked car on a busy street in broad daylight for even five to ten minutes may be gone when you get back, with the car window shattered. If it’s dark and an isolated area the odds get even worse.
Locals have gotten used to always putting everything in their trunks when they park. If you rent a car, be sure it has a trunk or other space where you can hide suitcases etc. It is not as common in Sausalito as in San Francisco and larger cities, but there is nowhere in California where this is not an issue.
There’s lots of parking in Sausalito, but it can be expensive. If you’re coming from San Francisco and don’t plan to stay late, the Sausalito Ferry tickets for two adults and two kids will cost about the same as gas, tolls and parking, and is a lot of fun. See also our page on Driving in Sausalito and our special page on Parking in the Restricted Areas Near Caledonia St.
Commuting on the bus? See our page on free Park and Ride lots in Sausalito.
Meters on Sausalito streets run 7 days a week 365 days a year 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and run later in City lots. Meters only take quarters, and you get 15 minutes for each quarter.
Insiders Tip: During the busy travel season centered on summer vacations El Portal St., which is still shown on most maps (including the Google map below) as intersecting with Tracy Way next to the Ferry pier is a dead-end cul-de-sac. Each year during this time Tracy Way is closed and turned into a bike parking area Cars can no longer access parking lots via El Portal during the summer, and you should use Anchor St. to reach the closest downtown lots.
When visiting Sausalito, always allow yourself extra time to find parking unless it’s early in the morning. If it’s the 4th of July or Labor Day Weekend use the Ferry or bus to come, or arrive very early in the morning. The regular spaces fill up and when you park in residential zones you’ll probably get an expensive ticket. If you plan to stay for 4th of July fireworks, however, you’ll need to drive, since the last ferry to San Francisco has already departed when the fireworks begin.
City Parking Lots
(Scroll down for a list of the individual lots and their locations)
City Parking Lots now have automatic sensors in spaces, and you’ll be charged between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM. Each lot has its own price structure, and parking gets cheaper in City lots block by block as you go north, farther from the Ferry pier. Walking a block or two can save significant amounts of money.
You’ll pre-pay when you park for the desired length of time, and can feed the machines with your credit card, debit card or coins. You can pay for time in any City Lot at any pay machine. Cool feature: Unlike some cities, if you leave early after paying for more time the sensors detect it and you’re not charged for the extra time.
There is no free parking in downtown Sausalito for times longer than two hours, and all spots in the primary downtown area are metered.
Costs vary from lot to lot, but average $2.00 to $3.00 per hour in lots and $1.00 per hour at parking meters. Fines for expired meters or red zones run from $35 to $58, so it’s not worth taking chances. Meters are aggressively enforced — last year I missed getting back to my meter by two minutes and had a ticket.
Residential Parking Benefits, Stickers & Permits
Residents get big parking discounts in Sausalito: three hours of free parking in the downtown lots #1 and #3 before being charged, but you have to sign up for the program at the Sausalito Police Dept. at Johnson & Caledonia and get an access card (see video below). If you are a resident of Sausalito who commutes on the Ferry, you can park for as little as $4.00 per day.
Some neightborhoods require special resident stickers on your car for overnight parking. This is due to the high volume of visitor traffic, which would otherwise use up all the residential area spaces. You can register and get your sticker at the Sausalito Police Dept. at 29 Caledonia St. (corner of Johnson and Caledonia) Monday through Thursday from 8:30 AM through 1:30 PM.
Parking Meters in Sausalito
— Meters DO operate on weekends.
— After 6:00 PM on-street meters are not enforced until 9:00 AM the next day. City parking lots still charge money later into the evening, so be sure to check the signs.
— Meters only take quarters, and you get 15 minutes per quarter.
— Most meters have a two hour or three hour limit.
— Street parking in residential areas that are close to Bridgeway and Caledonia St. businesses is very limited, with visitor parking prohibited or limited to two hours. Check signs carefully, because these rules are enforced and th4e tickets are expensive.
— Let’s mention that again for emphasis: the parking rules are enforced. Ignoring a No Parking sign, stretching a time limit or having an expired meter are all likely to produce a $35+ ticket.
List of Sausalito City Parking Lots
City parking lots are clustered downtown near the Sausalito Ferry pier, and close to most visitor destinations. See opening section on this page, and check out the video above for a great tutorial on how to use the parking machines.
— Lot #1 is located next to the Sausalito Ferry pier (the entrance is off Anchor St.), so ferry riders walk through this lot to get to Bridgeway after leaving the ferry. As of July, 2010 the price is $3.00 per hour; lots #3 and #4 are cheaper.
— Lot #2 is much smaller, and is half a block farther north, on the far side of the Bank of America. The entrance is off of Humboldt St. The price here is the same $3 an hour as at Lot #1.
— Lot #4 is between Taste of Rome and the Bay. .Parking here is $1 per hour.
— Lot #5 does not have the new parking machines, and is the de facto Marin Theatre parking lot, and is located at the intersection of Locust and Bridgeway about 5 blocks north of the Ferry. If you are trying to go to Sushi Ran or other Caledonia St. restaurants and the street parking is full, this lot is very convenient. Parking here is FREE for 3 hours between Noon and 2:00 AM. Just don’t stay longer than 3 hours because they do check the lot. Long term parking is not available in this lot.
The satellite photo below, which you can toggle into a map, shows the cluster of downtown parking lots next to the Ferry. Lot #1is the tree-lined lot at the lower right,#2 is in the center bordered by Bay and Humboldt, #3 is the long narrow lot at the upper left, and #4 (most of which is reserved) is top center.
Private Parking Lots