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Sausalito: Falling in love at the other end of the bridge

Ranch & Coast Travel Editor Elizabeth Hansen shares her tips for enjoying the quaint Northern California city of Sausalito

The Marin Headlands provide an up-close view of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge
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I’m well acquainted with San Francisco, but until recently I had only made a couple of brief stops in Sausalito, the much smaller city near the north end of the Golden Gate. What I found on a recent trip was a place so charming that I started planning a move, until I did a quick check on the winter weather stats and decided to keep my sunny La Jolla address.

Sausalito sits on Richardson Bay, an arm of San Francisco Bay, and enjoys a priceless panoramic view of “The City,” Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and Marin County’s other affluent communities: Belvedere and Tiburon.
The great views grabbed my attention, but it was the sense of community that won my heart. Longtime residents and new arrivals share a concern for each other and the environment. Many live in older, well-maintained homes and others dwell in one of the more than 400 houseboats moored in local marinas. Together, they are currently campaigning to convert a large parking lot into a green space.

More than 400 houseboats are moored around Sausalito
More than 400 houseboats are moored around Sausalito

Chain stores and eateries aren’t banned, but they don’t exist here because no one will patronize them. A Starbucks closed almost as soon as it opened due to the lack of customers. The grocery/deli on Bridgeway, where we picked up sandwiches, reminded me of San Francisco’s old world North Beach neighborhood.

Sausalito homes are stair-stepped down to the water
Sausalito homes are stair-stepped down to the water

It was our good fortune to stay at The Inn Above Tide, where large overwater decks provide panoramic bay vistas. Our suite was so close to the water that we could overhear kayakers’ conversations as they paddled past. In fact, I was fascinated by all the ways locals enjoy the bay. In addition to kayakers, we saw rowers, sailors, and even a group of women doing yoga on paddleboards.

The tony Inn includes 33 spacious rooms and suites, all with chic decor and most with fireplaces. Breakfast, sunset wine and cheese, and loaner bikes are complimentary. The Inn Above Tide enjoys an ideal location, close to the best restaurants and shops and steps from the SF ferry. innabovetide.com

Suites at The Inn Above Tide come with big vistas
Suites at The Inn Above Tide come with big vistas

More Than Just Another Pretty Space

On our first day, we headed out to the Marin Headlands, a gorgeous section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. During World War II, military personnel tasked with defending San Francisco Bay were stationed here. The buildings at Fort Cronkhite currently house the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Marine Mammal Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, and other organizations.

We walked the Coastal Loop Trail, which offers stunning views of wildflowers and the rugged sea, and paused to watch brave surfers tackling the waves. The Headlands also provides a very up-close view of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge with the bay and city in the distance.

The Marin Headlands is a popular area for hiking
The Marin Headlands is a popular area for hiking

Angel Island, which we could see from our deck, piqued my curiosity, so we took the ferry there from Tiburon. I had hoped to tour the old Immigration Station (think West Coast version of Ellis Island), but sadly it was still closed at the time of our visit. From 1910 to 1940, the station processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the majority from China. Angel Island State Park is the largest natural island in San Francisco Bay and boasts great trails and beautiful views.

Best Sausalito Dining

Yoshi Tome came from Okinawa, Japan in 1981 to do a six-month teacher exchange. He fell in love with Sausalito and decided to stay. Today he owns Sushi Ran, one of Sausalito’s best restaurants, which is the recipient of a Michelin star and many other accolades.

Fresh fish is sourced daily from Japan, so it’s not surprising that our favorite dishes were the signature Miso Glazed Black Cod, served with sautéed pea shoots, arugula, and whole grain mustard, and the Hamachi Kama, grilled yellowtail collar served with baby lettuce and yuzu-onion ponzu. sushiran.com

Sushi Ran
Sushi Ran

Nearby, Copita Tequileria y Comida was created by cookbook author Joanne Weir and 50-year Sausalito resident Larry Mindel, who share a passion for Mexico City-style Mexican food. My husband especially liked the Octopus Guajillo, and I enjoyed the Coconut Campechano with scallops, shrimp, flounder, lime, avocado, and chilies. Copita serves five styles and 60 different brands of tequila. The entire menu is gluten-free. copitarestaurant.com

After dining at Copita, I was glad it was just a short walk back to my comfy bed with the great view at The Inn Above Tide.

The Inn Above Tide is perched on San Francisco Bay
The Inn Above Tide is perched on San Francisco Bay
Featured Photo The Marin Headlands provide an up-close view of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridgejnjn

Two Comments

  • RC

    Reply

    Thank you for canceling your move to Sausalito from La Jolla. Our town is exactly how it is because the fewer that know about us the better. The snow during winter can get 5 feet deep at times the blizzards tornados and 9 point earth quakes are even more reason to stay south of the Golden Gate. Please include these often over looked details in your next article. Thank you for “visiting”

  • Aaron Roller

    Reply

    ” A Starbucks closed almost as soon as it opened due to the lack of customers.”

    Not true. It was a Starbucks since before 2006 when I arrived and always had plenty of customers. A few years ago it was remodeled and shortly after reopening it was a victim of a fire caused by a careless cigarette discarded in the alley.

    https://www.sausalito.gov/Home/Components/News/News/2800/

    “Chain stores and eateries aren’t banned, but they don’t exist here because no one will patronize them. ”

    Peet’s coffee, for example, was voted against by city leaders several years ago. They petitioned for the space now occupied by Bar Bocce. So the city does chain control which helps us keep local shops. Specifically formula chains are banned on the waterfront.

    https://www.marinij.com/general-news/20100112/peets-coffee-plan-rejected-in-sausalito

    A flattering article, but worth giving credit to the volunteers that lobby the city to keep it local. I’m not sure how Starbucks got in, but it was an exception it seems. The building that caught fire is still undergoing an extensive remodel.

    So glad you enjoyed your visit. Your comment about the weather being better in La Jolla is correct. No fact checking necessary:)

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