Staff Writer Rachael Medina
Rachael Medina is the senior content writer and operations manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests o…See full bio
The delicate mansions of Sausalito lie scattered down the hills, spilling out into the San Francisco Bay in the form of floating homes. Brightly colored buildings dot the landscape as the beautiful weather adds to the ambience, resulting in the Amalfi Coast equivalent of California. This moment of standing at the Sausalito waterfront and gazing at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge feels surreal in a way you hope will never end.
As you look across the water at the dazzling lights of San Francisco and take in the warmer weather of this must-see North Bay town, you will find it hard to believe that a short 30-minute ferry ride can take you from the San Francisco Ferry Building to this otherworldly place. A cool breeze flows in over the smooth waves, reminding you that you haven’t left the Bay Area—though the architecture of the homes, boutiques, and eateries may convince you otherwise.
Muir Woods National Monument, Point Reyes, and Sonoma are all within an hour’s drive, and with so many incredible oysters to be had in the region, endless road trips begin to flow through your mind. In this sense, the rocky enclave of Sausalito is able to satisfy your sense of adventure and also inspire future travels.
Getting to Sausalito feels like half the adventure. Whether you want to drive, bike, or walk across the Golden Gate or traverse the water on the Sausalito Ferry, the picturesque scenery will make you want to stay forever. While there are multiple ways to reach Sausalito, you’ll get the most out of your trip by driving from San Francisco and crossing the famous bridge into town. The beauty of the coastal city greets you as soon as you arrive, and with so much to do in downtown Sausalito, it can be difficult to figure out what to do first.
But you should start your vacation (or staycation) by driving along the water and up to the northeastern tip until you get to Laurel Whole Plant Organics. This second-floor studio is home to a host of skincare products formulated with ingredients gathered from within 100 miles of Sausalito, providing the perfect introduction to the region’s abundance and creating the luxurious feeling that comes with high-quality, seed-to-bottle skincare products.
After indulging in a few rejuvenating skincare items, familiarize yourself with Sausalito by walking around the houseboats. The floating homes are iconic local landmarks that should not be missed. Gaining fame from Otis Redding’s well-known song “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay”, the floating homes are a unique take on the trending tiny-home movement (and are ideal Airbnb rentals). As you start planning your next trip, venture down toward Vina del Mar Park to soak in the surprisingly pleasant weather just north of The City by the Bay.
Head to Copita for a decadent lunch of Mexican cuisine. While the warm wood tones and the colorful tiles may make you want to sit inside, choose patio seating for an alfresco experience that will make your time in Sausalito even more memorable.
Start off with the guacamole featuring serrano chile, cilantro, and onion—and make sure to add cotija cheese to it. Next, order a round of the crab empanadas, which are wrapped in plantain masa alongside tomatoes and peas and served with chipotle aioli; the dish perfectly encapsulates the flavors of Sausalito (with some Mexican flair, of course) and is only available seasonally, so jump on it if you see it on the menu. Ceviche and tacos take the stage next: Go with the fried pork belly taco and the coctel mixto ceviche, which will both rock your world.
Take some time to walk off your hearty lunch by strolling along Bridgeway, the main thoroughfare, to admire the distant landscape and revel in the fresh Bay breeze. Afterward, make a quick stop at Gabrielson Park and spread out a blanket, read, and take pictures of the stunning surroundings.
Once you have gotten your fill of the scenery for the time being, drive a few miles south to Sausalito’s Cavallo Point Lodge to check in for the night at this relaxing retreat. Get settled in your room, then make your way over to the spa for a 90-minute Himalayan salt stone massage and a 60-minute signature facial. Combine these relaxing treatments with chakra energy balancing for a restorative experience that will leave you feeling like an entirely new person.
Now that you are fully in vacation mode, get dressed up and drive north to enjoy a seafood dinner at Fish. If you are a bit early for your reservations, pop over to the neighboring Heath Ceramics to admire the shop’s large selection of dinnerware, tile, and home decor. When the time comes, head back to Fish and prepare your tastebuds for an explosion of flavor.
Begin with oysters on the half shell for a balanced burst of the sea. Served with house-made mignonette, lemon, and Tabasco, these chilled delicacies optimize luxury. The New England chowder bowl makes for a great next course; packed with potatoes, bacon, celery, onions, herbs, and surf clams, this creamy soup offers everything you’d expect from the San Francisco Bay. But for the main event, order the crab roll, a comforting classic featuring fresh seafood nestled inside perfectly toasted bread.
Take a break before dessert, but don’t leave without savoring the hot espresso and organic gelato of the affogato. After a full day of adventure, this treat is the ideal nightcap that will make settling in for the evening feel even more rewarding.
Waking up at Cavallo Point and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog feels like something out of a dream. After a restful night’s sleep, you will be ready to take on the day, so shimmy into your yoga clothing, throw on a sweater, and drive north to OnBoardSUP to test your balance on the Bay.
In the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga class, you will paddle out on the water and get comfortable on the board itself before jumping into the first yoga poses next to other ambitious souls trying this out for the first time. The 75 minutes seem to fly by, and before you know it, you are returning the board and attempting to regain your land legs.
To help steady yourself, head over to the Bay Model to see the 1.5-acre, 3-D hydraulic representation of the entire San Francisco Bay. Once used to test the impact of potential changes to the bay environment, this model is able to recreate currents and simulate the daily tidal cycle in under 15 minutes.
With your balance restored, a workout under your belt, and a grumbling stomach, it’s time to reward your efforts with a decadent brunch at Cibo. This farm-to-table eatery instills quality into everything it does, so you know the food is going to be good regardless of what you order. Considering sharing the poached eggs—served over brioche bread with a drool-worthy green salad featuring avocados, heirloom tomatoes, nectarines, ricotta, and balsamic vinaigrette—and the classic avocado toast offering a fun kick of citrus oil, poblano chili powder, poppy seeds, and ricotta. As you wait for your meal, sip a perfectly prepared latte and look out at the boats floating in the harbor.
Now that you are satiated, it’s time to set out to Muir Woods. This famed natural landmark is less than 10 miles from Sausalito, making it the perfect afternoon destination. On the drive over, take some time to check out the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where you can admire breathtaking ocean views before continuing your journey. Whether you are looking for a quick hike or a longer trek that extends into the late afternoon, you can find your ideal trail at Muir Woods.
The fresh air and tall trees of the forest are a wonderful change from the towering skyscrapers and pungent smells of San Francisco. Though Muir Woods feels so remote, it is incredibly accessible from the Bay Area’s various attractions and serves as a welcome respite. The tan bark and dusty trails contrast with the greenery of the old-growth trees, while the shade from the canopy keeps the hiking trails cool. The light mist felt around the small waterfalls and the chirping of nearby birds add to the magical ambience.
As you walk amongst the wildflowers, mosses, and ferns, a deep relaxation takes hold and makes you want to linger for the rest of the day. But the Sausalito to-do list calls, so the time has come to say goodbye.
On your way back to town, check out the Artists at Work open studio event at the Industrial Center Building (ICB) to get a feel for the local art scene. Displaying the work of numerous painters, sculptors, photographers, and other artists, the ICB reflects the local landscape from its picturesque location overlooking the Sausalito marina.
After a full day spent exploring Sausalito and its surrounding areas, it is time to savor a local, seasonal Italian dinner at Angelino Restaurant. Set the stage with an order of the rosemary focaccia before tempting your palate with the mushrooms, rice, and smoked mozzarella of the arancini. Continue on with the margherita pizza or the house-made gnocchi with sumptuous mushrooms and creamy butternut squash.
As tempting as it may be to fill up on the Sicilian ricotta cannolis or the tiramisu at the end of your delectable meal, make sure to leave room for dessert at the next stop: Lappert’s Ice Cream. This local favorite is known for having 260 flavors, a dedication to organic ingredients, and an affinity for Hawaiian-inspired pairings.
Swirls of pink salted caramel flow through a fudge and sweet cream base; Meyer lemon sorbet flirts with the untainted flavors of a smooth sweet cream; and Guittard dark chocolate balances out the complex notes of roasted coffee. Whether you try a scoop of the caramel coconut macadamia, Kona mocha chip, or Hawaiian sea salt caramel ice cream, you will feel transported to the tropics.
It’s hard to believe an entire weekend has come and gone, but a few final stops remain on the agenda before heading home. For the perfect send-off meal, enjoy brunch at Le Garage, where house-made berry compote and crème fraȋche top off brioche french toast and goat cheese–laced hollandaise is poured over ham, poached eggs, and an English muffin.
After eating as much as physically possible at this exquisite eatery, visit Pick Me Up Chocolate to grab a treat for the road. Choose between artisanal chocolate bars from San Francisco’s The Good Chocolate or Fresno’s Raphio Chocolate before returning to the hotel to finish packing and check out.
Instead of heading directly to the Golden Gate Bridge, go west and make your way to the Marin Headlands to check out the five-mile expanse of basalt bluffs and the wide open waters surrounding it. Take a short hike, go to Kirby Cove, visit Black Sands Beach, or check out Point Bonita Lighthouse before continuing your drive home.
With such an amazingly relaxing weekend in the books, it’s just a matter of time before you begin planning your next adventure. But where will your wanderlust take you next?
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