801 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965 Reservations & Hotel: 800-288-0502
Neighborhood: Downtown Sausalito (Ferry Pier). Website and reservations are here. Spa page is here. Valet parking (will resume after pandemic), city parking lot is across the street.
Casa Madrona Hotel
Despite being a local, I’ve stayed at the Casa Madrona multiple times as part of corporate events, and loved the place. Half of the hotel is a modern adaptation of a traditional older structure, while the other half is a Victorian gingerbread fantasy that belongs in a Bond film. It’s important to know which of those two experiences you want before you make your reservation.
In the photo above the original Casa Madrona Hotel is the light blue series of buildings at the far right. It was assembled from older buildings, houses, cottages etc. and sprawls across a hillside above Bridgeway, the main north-south street in Sausalito. The original mansion at the core of the hotel dates to 1885, and was converted into a hotel in 1906. (Yes, that 1906 in San Francisco.)
The rooms in the Victorian area of the Casa Madrona come in all shapes and sizes, many with balconies, others with unique fixtures. Everything here is old and one-of-a-kind. Some rooms are “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” charming, classy and the home base for a wonderful vacation. But others, especially those at the top of the hill, are hard to get to and require walking up a series of steps. The property has changed hands twice in the lat 20 years, and on each pass a major renovation and update was done to the buildings.
A the left in the photo above (and filling much of the photo) is the newer Casa Madrona wing is where you’ll find the spa and Poggio Trattoria. This modern section of Casa Madrona was originally built in 1924 as Mason’s Garage, serving people driving to the nearby ferry that carried cars and people to San Francisco. In the 1950’s it became the Village Fair shopping complex, for many years a popular four-story open-air shopping and restaurant area that pre-dated the concept of malls. We spent many a happy hour there with our family. Village Fair featured the miniature “crookedest street in the world” leading up from street level… a feature that was preserved as a stairway in the renovation that integrated the building into Casa Madrona.
Casa Madrona is about a three block walk from the Sausalito Ferry pier, with regular service to San Francisco. Our complete guide to the San Francisco ferry is here.
Staying in the modern side of the Casa Madrona will give you just what the name describes: a familiar, modern hotel room in a very convenient location, with Bay views from all the front-facing rooms. If you’re booking a Victorian Bay View room ask if it is a direct view of the Bay or if it’s tucked in at an odd angle. For example I recall seeing one room that had a fabulous view from its big balcony, but not much of a view from the room itself. That’s perfect for some guests, disappointing for others.
If you or your out-of-town guests have any mobility problems, call ahead to the hotel and make sure you can get a Victorian room with easy access, or one of the Modern rooms, which are arranged off traditional hallways.
Given the access issues I’ve described, why do some people ONLY stay on the Victorian side of Casa Madrona? Why would I personally opt to stay on the Victorian side? Because staying in the better Victorian rooms here can feel like you’re living on the set of a really romantic movie. There are balconies that overlook San Francisco Bay and would earn a front page spot on any travel brochure, built-in fireplaces and charm that you can’t just manufacture with antique (or modern) furniture and lots of marble.
Something else that people should know about Casa Madrona? Is it true that in 1979 publicity-hungry PR advisors wanted the owners to change its name to “Casa Mi Sharona?” Please let us know!