Summer on the San Francisco Bay
This summer, the Hoodline Bay Area Day Trip Series takes you on local outings near and far. And this week, we’re exploring the heart of it all: the bay itself. Cruise around the bay or the Golden Gate in search of sights, majestic whales or other wildlife, or disembark on one of the bay’s beautiful historic islands. Hop aboard a fishing boat for some old-fashioned sport fishing (and to grab a bit of dinner) or take off for a breathtaking excursion aboard a seaplane. Whichever way you choose to enjoy it, the San Francisco Bay Area is a big part of what makes the Bay Area a global destination. So why not take the time to explore it on your own?
Humpback whales near the Golden Gate Bridge | Photo: Oceanic Society
Sail the bay, watch whales, or explore the Farallon Islands by boat
Summer is the season to see gray whales and even blue whales, the biggest animal that ever lived (bigger than dinosaurs!). You may even spot orcas (the animals once known as killer whales). Sail to the Golden Gate to see these sea giants, as well as all kinds of other wildlife, from harbor seals and dolphins to all kinds of seabirds. The views of the coast, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco aren’t bad either!
Whale watching tours in San Francisco offers a 2.5-hour Golden Gate whale-watching trip that starts at Pier 39, starting at $ 120. (They’re also hosting a fireworks cruise on July 4th!) Or check out the non-profit organization Oceanic Society7.5-hour Farallon Islands wildlife expedition for a truly epic day exploring this rocky reserve just off our shores, starting at $ 450. They also run a 3-hour Golden Gate sailboat cruise from Sausalito that starts at $ 180. the Blue & Gold Fleet also offers a number of tempting cruises in the bay.
To save money: If those prices seem a bit steep and you don’t mind driving, whale watching tours from Monterey are much more affordable. Check out Hoodline’s guide to day trips to Monterey County for other things to do while you’re down south. Or for the poor man’s bay cruise, take a ferry! The ferries to and from Vallejo provide a good long trip.
Make sure you pack warm clothes, diapers, sun protection, and plenty of food – plus of course your camera and binoculars. The water gets rough outside the Golden Gate (and can even get rough in the bay), so make sure you eat well before you go, stay hydrated, and consider seasickness medication if you do. are prone to motion sickness.
Alcatraz Island with the Golden Gate in the Background | Photo: Alcatraz City Cruises
Explore local history at Alcatraz
It sometimes seems like a hallmark of a Bay Area native is never having been to Alcatraz. With tourism down and crowds limited due to the pandemic, this summer might be the time to change that! This former prison offers so much to see and experience, from its fascinating history to nature and the views from its rocky shores.
Ferry trips to Alcatraz from San Francisco Pier 33. Your ticket covers the 15-minute ferry ride, access to Alcatraz Island, including the historic Alcatraz Cellhouse, and a self-guided audio tour. Due to current social distancing requirements, there may be a fairly long wait for the cell visit, so clients are recommended to allow three hours for their trip (including the boat ride).
All trips to the island itself are organized by Alcatraz city tours. Plan ahead, as tickets can sell out! And of course, check the applicable regulations and recommendations. Cost: $ 41 / $ 38.65 (62 years and over) / $ 25 (5-11 years). There is also a family pack (2 adults + 2 children aged 5 to 11) for $ 119.60. However, the Blue & Gold fleet also offers a 90-minute service Escape from the Rock cruise who goes around the island and gives its story, without letting guests disembark.
More information: www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm
Picnic, cycle, hike or relax on Angel Island
A ferry trip to enjoy Angel Island is always a great way to spend a summer day. You can be as active as you want, cycle or hike around this picturesque island (bike rental available), or you can relax and have a picnic or relax on the beach not far from the ferry pier . Discover the historic immigration station or enjoy the wildlife and views all around the bay.
Currently, everything on the island is open except for guided tours of the immigration station (you can explore on your own) and some restrooms (but don’t worry, others are open!) . Note, however, that the US Immigration Post Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. And be sure to check out the latest restrictions and guidelines before you go. Bring lunch or get a take out order from Angel Island Café.
More information: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468
The seaplane flies over the bay Photo: Seaplane Adventures / Facebook
Go big and see the bay and coastline from the air with a seaplane tour
If you’re up for a real adventure, consider taking to the skies on a seaplane tour over the bay. Seaplane adventures has been conducting airborne explorations over the Bay Area for over 70 years. These scenic flights take off from Sausalito.
Tours include a 30-minute Golden Gate tour ($ 219 / $ 191 for kids), a 1-hour coastal tour ($ 319 / $ 280 for kids), or a decadent 40-minute champagne bedtime tour of the sun ($ 279 / $ 244 for the kids … we ‘guess it’s without the champagne). They even offer trips as long as six hours if you really want to think big!
More information: www.seaplane.com
Goldeneye 2000 fishing charter stops in front of SF skyline Photo: Laila Weir
Dine (and more) on a fishing boat tour of the bay
Whether you are a seasoned angler or an enthusiastic beginner, a day trip on a fishing boat is a satisfying way to satisfy your interest if you really want to catch fish. Unlike shore or dock fishing, which can net zero to a few fish, fishing boat passengers tend to return home with serious fish. Depending on the day and the season, you will catch different types of fish and you might end up staying in the bay or going out of the Golden Gate to fish in the sea.
There are many sport fishing companies that organize trips from various locations in the Bay Area. Tickets start well from $ 100, but you’ll likely bring home enough fish to make up the cost. You will also need a fishing license; talk to the company organizing your trip. As with any boat trip to open water, seasickness is a serious risk, so plan ahead by eating well and considering medication if you have a sensitive stomach. Diapers, sunscreen, water and snacks are essential.
Tip: Pay a little extra to have the boat staff clean and clean your fish for you, unless you’re an expert (and a punishment glutton). So plan a summer of fish fries and fish tacos!
There are LOTS of sport fishing companies in the area, from large to small, so look for the best fit. Some large companies include San Francisco Fishing Charter, Tiger Fish Sport Fishing and Emeryville Fish. A good little operation is Withers 2000. But there are many others; an online search is the best bet to see the different options.