As much as we love our nature adventures out in the middle of nowhere, we also enjoy exploring interesting cities. But in San Francisco, the pickings are slim when it comes to accommodations for RVs. In fact, there’s only one RV park in the city, and with unfavorable reviews and a hefty price tag, it didn’t appeal to us. I had almost given up on the idea of visiting San Francisco with our trailer when I happened upon just what we were looking for, across the bay in Greenbrae.
Taking The Ferry To The City
Marin RV Park is an easy 10-minute walk to the Larkspur ferry terminal, where a high-speed ferry delivers you to the beautifully restored 1890 Ferry Building, the iconic landmark of the San Francisco waterfront.
The ferry building is a gourmet paradise of local food purveyors—from there, the city unfurls before you, and you can explore at leisure on foot or by public transportation.
If you enjoying walking, San Francisco is your place. We racked up at least 12 miles each day, exploring the waterfront, the interesting neighborhoods, beautiful gardens, historic buildings, and museums.
The third day, we gave our feet a break and biked from the RV park to the city, an exhilarating and gorgeous 21-mile ride that took us through Sausalito, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and along the waterfront. We hopped on the ferry with our bikes (after yet another terrific meal at the ferry building) and sailed home.
We spent three full days in the city, exploring from early morning to evening. It wasn’t nearly enough time. Now that we know how easy it is to visit San Francisco from across the bay, we’ll be back!
Here, the highlights of our San Francisco adventure:
The Ferry Building
With an abundance of fabulous cafes, gourmet offerings, and a twice-weekly farmers market, the Ferry Building Marketplace is an attraction in itself. It’s a convenient place for a meal when arriving or leaving by ferry, and the food choices are among the finest in San Francisco. Our favorites: Hog Island Oyster (excellent fresh seafood), The Slanted Door (creative Vietnamese), and il Cane Rosso (Italian style gourmet rotisserie). Blue Bottle Coffee is a good place to start out on chilly San Francisco mornings.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
We didn’t know this existed but were happy to stumble across it in our foray along the waterfront. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park includes a Visitor Center with terrific displays of San Francisco’s maritime heritage. Across the street, a variety of interesting historic ships are moored at Hyde Street Pier. Walk a bit further, and you’ll come to a structure that looks like a beached ocean liner. It’s the Aquatic Park Bathhouse building, built in 1939 by the WPA. It’s an extraordinary Art Deco structure, and the inside has recently been fully restored with fanciful brightly colored undersea scenes originally created by WPA artists.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge and along the picturesque waterfront is a blast. We biked from the RV park though lovely Sausalito—fair warning: It’s a long and steep uphill climb to the bridge (actually, it’s awful, and I complained all the way). But the scenery is spectacular, and once at the bridge, it’s a long, mellow ride along the waterfront back to the ferry building, where you can hop on the return ferry to Larkspur. If you don’t have your own bikes, you can rent them at the Ferry Building and ride in the opposite direction. It’s a great adventure and I’m happy we did it, Sausalito hill misery and all.
The Cable Cars
You have to ride the cable cars at least once. Motoring up the steep hills of the city in the grinding, clanking historic cars is vintage San Francisco. The cable car operators are apparently chosen for their personalities as well as their skills, and their commentary makes for an entertaining ride. The views of the city from the top of Russian Hill are grand.
Built in 1933, the Art Deco-inspired Coit Tower is renowned for the beautiful rotunda of murals created by WPA artists. The murals were painted by 25 of California’s leading artists of the 1930s, and include images of farmworkers, industry, and city scenes. It’s a fascinating panorama of life in the Great Depression as viewed by the artists, many of whom had radical “leftist” political ideals.
Golden Gate Park
Definitely one of the jewels of San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is an oasis in the city. In a half-day in the park, we explored the Botanical Garden (meandering trails through 55 acres of gardens of plants from around the world) and the Conservatory of Flowers (a gigantic Victorian hothouse filled with ferns, orchids, and other exotica).
We also spent a couple of hours in the lovely de Young Art Museum and wished we had more time there. Golden Gate Park is not walking distance from the ferry building, but a city bus delivers you right to the entrance.
About the RV Park
Don’t expect spacious sites, trees, and grassy seating areas at Marin RV Park. What you do get is easy access to the city, a quiet and well-managed park, and friendly hosts. A bonus is that the park backs up to the Corte Madera Wildlife area, where we discovered a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl foraging in the marsh with their young. It was a great place for our adventures in the city.