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Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Visitor Guide to Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco

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Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf is at the top many visitors’ must-do list. It can be fun, but also boring and disappointing if you don’t know where to go. This guide includes the best stops, where to find the real Fisherman’s Wharf and how to save money on the attractions.

© 2006 Betsy Malloy Photography
Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Harbor Cruises at Fisherman's Wharf

©2004 Betsy Malloy
Fisherman's Wharf - San Francisco

Fishing Boat at Fisherman's Wharf

© 2006 by Betsy Malloy. licensed to About.com, Inc.

Once home to a fleet of more than 400 boats, nowadays Fisherman's Wharf supplies only a tiny fraction of the fish served in San Francisco restaurants, but a few vintage Monterey Hull fishing boats and modern diesel boats still work from here, and if you get up early enough, you can watch fishermen bringing in their catch.

Often tourist-packed, today's Fisherman's Wharf is home to sidewalk seafood vendors, souvenir shops and other attractions. While there's little "real" here, most visitors feel they haven't seen San Francisco unless they go. It's popular with all ages and interests.

Scenes from Fisherman's Wharf

Enjoy some of our best shots on this Photo Tour

Fisherman's Wharf Attractions

This guide includes attractions between Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square.

You have a lot of options for getting discounts for the attractions here, and we suggest that you do a little math before you buy. Options include the San Francisco Citypass or the Go San Francisco Card. which offers a lot of attractions all over town at a very reasonable price.

In geographical order, going west toward Ghirardelli Square:

  • Wax Museum: 145 Jefferson. This long-time Fisherman's Wharf attraction features celebrities, U. S. Presidents and others sculpted in wax.

  • Ripley's Believe It or Not: 175 Jefferson. Two floors of Ripley's famous oddities.

  • USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O'Brien: Pier 45, just behind The Franciscan restaurant. The World War II Balao-class Fleet submarine, restored to late 1945 vintage sits next to the Jeremiah O'Brien, a fully-restored, operating, World War II Liberty Ship.

  • Take a Rest: The quiet pier behind The Franciscan and across from the ships has nice benches, is uncrowded on even the busiest day and offers great views of Alcatraz.

  • Boudin Bakery: Housed in a two-story building that replaced the old bakery in the same location, Boudin's sells the best San Francisco sourdough bread. There's a cafe upstairs and you can take a self-guided bakery tour.

  • Tourists' Fisherman's Wharf: Jefferson at Taylor. A few fishing boats berthed along Jefferson and a cluster of seafood stands at the corner attract most tourists. The big sign at this corner makes a good "I was there" photo.

  • Musee Mecanique: Behind Fisherman's Grotto #9. Even the X-Box generation enjoys this collection of coin-operated musical instruments and antique arcade machines.

  • The Real Fisherman's Wharf: To see the less-tarted-up Fisherman's Wharf, turn toward the water at the alley next to Castagnola’s, walk past Scoma’s to the end of short pier, where you can watch some enterprising herons and egrets jockeying to steal fish from the local bait shop. To see fishermen bringing in their catch, come here EARLY, about 6:00 to 7:00 a.m.

  • The Cannery Shopping Center: Jefferson at Leavenworth. Originally a Del Monte cannery, built in 1907 and the world's largest fruit and vegetable cannery by 1909, today it houses a shopping and dining area. Upstairs restaurants have nice views.

  • San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park: Run by the National Park Service, the Hyde Street Pier museum provides a good overview of San Francisco's maritime history. Exhibits include the ferryboat Eureka (possibly the largest floating wooden vessel in the world), the C. A. Thayer and the Balaclutha.

Where to "Go" at Fisherman's Wharf

You'll find restrooms at Pier 39, in The Cannery and Anchorage shopping centers and at Ghirardelli Square. There's also a public facility in the parking lot behind Boudin's.

Review

We rate Fisherman's Wharf San Francisco 3 stars out of 5. It's an icon, but a tired one at best.

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Details for Visiting Fisherman's Wharf

  • Hours: Open daily
  • Cost: No admission fee
  • Location: Jefferson Street between Powell and Hyde
  • How Long: A slow walk takes about half an hour. Allow more time for souvenir shopping, seeing attractions or eating in a Fisherman's Wharf restaurant
  • Best Time to Visit: Any time

Fisherman's Wharf is about halfway between the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. The historic "F" trolley goes there, and the cable car stop at Mason and Bay (about a block away) is less busy than the one at Hyde Street below Ghirardelli Square, but the best way to get here depends on where you're coming from. Check out all the other options.

Driving? Expect to pay $15 per day and up for parking, enough to make you rethink whether that "cheap" hotel further away is such a bargain when you add car rental and parking costs. Scarce parking meters have a one-hour limit and non-metered spots require a resident permit.

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