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Sailing on San Francisco’s harbour

  • San Francisco, California, United States of America (USA)

Last updated: 28 April, 2024

Known for its strong winds, spectacular scenery, barking sea lions, and rich maritime history, the largest estuary in the U.S. already stands-out as a fine place to sail. Add showstopping landmarks the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to the mix, and you’ve surely got one of the world’s premier places to sail.

Suitable for all levels and ages, sailing here is a tranquil, sometimes exciting, means to soak up the views and take in the panoramic beauty of this extraordinary bay city.

If you have more time, there are sailing courses available too, designed to teach ‘you the ropes’ (pun intended). What better place to learn to sail?

While you're there

Take a stroll along the Sausalito waterfront, which inspired singer Otis Redding to write his iconic hit song, (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay. Head to Venice Gourmet, an incredible delicatessen serving up everything from caprese sandwiches to hot pastrami and cheese. Dine onsite or have a waterfront picnic of your own.

Logistics

Price from: £50
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 8+
When: All year around
Duration: 1.5-3 hours

Getting there & doing it

Basic 1.5-hour sails with Adventure Cat and the San Francisco Sailing Company depart from Pier 39 (see Viator links below).

If you want something more imaginative – sunset or full moon cruises, picnics on Angel Island, and more interesting boats – head to SF Bay Adventures in Sausalito. If you want to learn to sail, try the Modern Sailing School & Club, also in Sausalito, which has beginner courses taught on 30-32-foot keelboats.

You can either drive over the Golden Gate Bridge (around 30 mins, no traffic) to Sausalito, take the direct Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry from Pier 41 in Fisherman’s Wharf (30 mins). Or cycle over the bridge.

Operators will provide some warm clothing e.g. jackets, if needed, but go prepared. It can get cold on the water, whatever the weather might seem, and temperatures on SF Bay can change in an instant.

When to do it

You can sail all year round – obviously, it’s heavily weather dependent and pointless in fog. San Francisco has its clearest skies in March, September, and October.

The longer days of summer are best for watching the sunset below the Pacific. Sunset or full moon evening sails allow appreciation of the bridges and city skyline, lit up to dramatic effect.

Who to go with: organised tours

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • San Francisco

Experience the beauty of San Francisco during a 1.5-hour catamaran cruise over San Francisco Bay. Sail away from bustling city and enjoy photo ops from the vantage point of the water. You’ll coast past the city skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Sausalito. Enjoy panoramic views from inside or take a seat on the trampoline nets to heighten your adventure.

Price $69

Min age 0

Rating 4.87 / 5 [503 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

For a relaxing afternoon on the water, hop aboard the Privateer, a truly traditional sailboat, for a semi-private 90-minute cruise of the bay, complete with beer and wine. This double-masted, teak-decked, bronze-fitted beauty holds more than 28 passengers but is limited to just 16 during the pandemic so you'll get plenty of personal attention from the skilled and friendly crew as the Privateer glides over to Alcatraz and Angel Island, passes by charming and picturesque Sausalito, parallels the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and sails past the famous San Francisco skyline on its way back to Pier 39.

Price $99

Min age 0

Rating 4.83 / 5 [352 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

Whether you want to kick off a fabulous date night or wrap up an enjoyable afternoon, this two-hour sunset sail is just the ticket. Step aboard the gorgeous traditional vessel to take in the sights at the most bewitching time of day. You'll sail past Alcatraz, hug the coast at Sausalito and experience the full grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sip two servings of your choice of included beer, wine, soda or water as Privateer cruises along the spectacular San Francisco cityscape, while the sun sets and the lights of the city come to twinkling life.

Price $129

Min age 0

Rating 4.79 / 5 [319 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

Have a once-in-a-lifetime experience by sailing under and around the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Sail off to the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline, Sausalito, Angel Island, Tiburon, and Marin Headlands. You'll also sail around Alcatraz and all the way to the Oakland Bay Bridge. Enjoy your choice of two drinks: Champagne, mimosa, beer, wine, soda, or water. Please note that this is not a narrated tour however the crew are accessible through out the sailing trip to answer any questions you may have.

Price $129

Min age 0

Rating 4.89 / 5 [49 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • San Francisco

Imagine sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and seeing wildlife. Celebrate your special event under the romance of sailing. Private sailboat cruises are a great way to celebrate your special event. All the events can be customized for you! There will be just you and your group on the boat.

Price $695

Min age 0

Rating 4.86 / 5 [15 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >