Sausalito takes its name for the "little willow" trees (Saucelito) which 18th century Spanish explorers found growing along its streams. Sausalito is a small town of only 7,500 residents, best known for its spectacular waterfront views. It's a quiet, charming town that some say reminds them of the Mediterranean.
Sausalito is best visited as a day trip or side trip from San Francisco, one of San Francisco's top-rated things to do. Find out what the rest are.
Things to Do in Sausalito, California
- Art galleries and souvenir shops along Bridgeway are Sausalito's most-visited attraction. Views from there across the bay toward San Francisco are so captivating that a friend once remarked: "It's like a dream."
- To get a different point of view, take a walk north along the waterfront, past the yacht harbor. Along the way, you'll find the Bay Model, a three-dimensional hydraulic model of the San Francisco and Delta covering more than 1.5 acres.
Sausalito's floating houses are one of its least-known and most fascinating points of interest. In fact, performer Otis Redding wrote his hit song The Dock of the Bay in this area of Sausalito, where he had rented a houseboat in late 1967 to get some peace and quiet. Use the Floating Homes guide to find out where to see them, when you can get inside and how you can rent one for a few days or more.
- The Bay Area Discovery Museum near the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge is a good place to take the kids, from toddlers to age 8.
Best Time to Visit Sausalito, California
Any time is fine for a Sausalito visit, but it's truly spectacular when the air is clear and San Francisco is visible across the bay. After dark, the town gets very quiet.
Annual Events in Sausalito
The annual Sausalito Art Festival, held over Labor Day1 weekend, draws a broad selection of artists and craftsmen.
Twice a year, the Industrial Center Building hosts Artists' Open Studios (May and December)
Sausalito, California Dining
Longtime favorite Sausalito dining spot Spinnaker has one of the Bay Area's best views. The best time to go is shortly before sunset so you can watch the lights come up in San Francisco during your meal. Unfortunately, in recent years, Spinnaker is getting a bit frayed around the edges. Their menu is the same as ever, but the surroundings need an upgrade, making it less appealing for an impress-your-honey kind of experience.
For a less expensive meal, get sandwiches from the deli on Bridgeway, take it across the street, take a seat on the rocks and enjoy the view.
Sausalito, California Lodging
While Sausalito is rich with charm, it's short on places to stay, and is usually visited as a day trip from San Francisco. If you want to stay overnight, we have stayed at - and liked - Cavallo Point Lodge. Other popular places to stay include Casa Madrona, The Inn Above Tide, Hotel Sausalito or Gables Inn. You can check prices on all of them at once using Tripadvisor.
POLL: How Do You Rate Sausalito as a Tourist Attraction?
Where Is Sausalito, California Located?An easy way to get to Sausalito is by ferry. You can catch the Golden Gate Ferry from the San Francisco Ferry Building (Embarcadero at Market) or Blue and Gold Fleet from near Pier 39.
By car, take US Hwy 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Exit at the first exit past the north vista point (Alexander Avenue) and follow the road downhill into Sausalito. Bicyclists can follow the same route.
Public parking is available at parking meters and in paid lots just off Bridgeway, on the north side of downtown.
1 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.