Ahhh, Sausalito. They call it California’s Amalfi Coast, and with one short trip it was easy to see its appeal to visitors from all over the world.
The distinct laid-back vibe and gorgeous year-round weather made for a perfect weekend getaway to this tiny seaside town north of San Francisco. While it’s not quite Positano, it is without a doubt beautiful in its own right.
This was our first solo trip without Evelyn. The plan was to fly out to California and meet Matt for the Ravens-49ers game in Santa Clara that Sunday. To sweeten the deal, we decided to extend the weekend with an impromptu getaway.
I contemplated a short while on where we should go. Napa? Monterey? Half Moon Bay? With so many beautiful cities in close reach, it was hard to pick just one. Finally, because we didn’t want to travel too far and really just needed some good food and relaxation, we decided on Sausalito.
A relatively sleepy town at night, Sausalito becomes booming with tourists between the hours of 11 am and 5 pm, thanks to the ferries that make their daily journey across the bay from Pier 41. It’s a small town, easily walkable to say the least, with its main appeal being its easy breezy atmosphere. Visitors can sit patio-side for hours, enjoying the perfect weather and a view of the San Francisco skyline.
We arrived ahead of schedule, thanks to fairly easy traffic for a Friday morning drive straight through San Francisco. We made it to the Golden Gate Bridge by 10:30, just as the fog had lifted above the skyline. We stopped at the Golden Gate Vista Point on the north side of the bridge, and as we expected, hoards of tourists were already there breaking out the selfie sticks. We, of course, snapped a few obligatory selfies of our own. With the sun directly in our eyes, we had to take a few to get it just right.
After our nearly 100 selfies, we hopped back in the car and made our way down the winding road that led into Sausalito. We drove down Bridgeway first, “main street”, getting ourselves acquainted with the layout of the city.
With some time to kill before lunch, we made our first stop at the San Francisco Bay Model, a huge warehouse-sized working model of how the bay’s tides push in and out and affect the greater bay area’s ecosystems, water supply, etc. It was actually formerly used by the Corps of Engineers, before a little thing called computers made it much easier to track the models digitally.
While my nerdy self couldn’t resist the idea of being inside a giant map, the whole thing was horribly boring and underwhelming, and we left after about 15 minutes. I didn’t even take any photos inside, but I did get a few of the marina from it’s lookout deck.
Carrying on, we ventured up the hill next, heading up Easterby street to get a closer look at some of the houses perched on the hillside.
Some literally stood on stilts, something I’m not sure I would feel so comfortable with given the likelihood of earthquakes around this part of the country. Those views though…well, that’s worth the risk, right?
The streets twisted and winded up the side of the hill and the more we drove, we found ourselves going in circles, running into the same streets again and again. We passed by a cute little chapel, and I made Matt pull over to check it out.
Back at the bottom of the hill, I convinced Matt to stop by the Galilee Harbor houseboat community after eyeing this adorable bank of colorful mailboxes.
The path leading up to the dock was nothing short of a community junk yard, but a sign at the entrance welcomed visitors.
Matt was not so impressed by the dilapidated houseboats, and I’ll fully admit myself, it was a very odd place. I could never imagine making a permanent home for myself there. But I’m all about seeing how different people live their lives and where they call home. This was definitely different.
Back on dry land, it was finally time for some lunch! We ventured through the old shipyards along Liberty Ship Way to a converted auto shop that is now Le Garage, serving casual French bistro fare.
I wanted to enjoy the sun (even if it was shining directly in my face), so we settled at a small bistro table along the marina. Of course, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a bottle of rosé on such a fine day!
After a light lunch and lingering a while to enjoy the last sips of our wine, we headed back to the busy southern stretch of Bridgeway that is home to a majority of Sausalito’s touristy restaurants and shops.
While browsing in Games People Play, we found an adorable little book about San Francisco that I had to add to Evelyn’s collection. I decided then and there that it would be my mission to buy her a new book from every city we visit.
After we exhausted every shopping opportunity on Bridgeway, we took a break on the rocks outside of Barrel House Tavern to watch the next ferry coming in. The San Francisco skyline felt like just a stone’s throw away, but yet still so far out of reach. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, with the sun shining and a nice breeze coming off the bay that kept it a perfect 70 degrees.
It was finally time for us to check into our accommodations for the night, so we made our way back to the car. Our anticipation had been building all day for this. That’s because we weren’t going to be staying in any old hotel for the night, we would be staying on our very own floating hotel: a real authentic Sausalito houseboat!
After a couple hours of settling in and relaxing, and a quick trip to CVS for some Dramamine (yes, I did get seasick), we got ourselves ready for our 7 o’ clock reservations at Barrel House Tavern. Our boat-owning airbnb host Henry had made special note in his guidebook that it was sort of the scene in “Sausy” at the moment.
When we arrived, we made our way up the stairs to the dimly lit dining room and were seated at a window table overlooking the bay, with San Francisco lit up in the distance. We enjoyed a nice meal, but before I could even finish my wine the Dramamine was hitting me hard. We uber’d back to the boat and I fell right to sleep with the help of the gentle rocking waves.
I slept all night, and hard, with the help of the Dramamine. Morning broke and there was not a single alarm or baby’s cry to wake us. If only I hadn’t started feeling seasick almost immediately again, I might have stayed in bed a little longer. It was almost 8 am; super late by comparison to our usual 6 am wake up call.
We rose from our little houseboat and packed up for a scenic morning drive, deciding to head north first to the Muir Woods. I had heard so many great things about this area and since we were up and about a little earlier than expected, we figured we might as well see it for ourselves. So we loaded the car, grabbed a quick macchiato at Cibo across the street, and headed north.
We drove through Mill Valley (stopping at Starbucks for a coffee refill) and up the winding Panoramic Highway that led us to the Muir Woods Visitor Center. We most certainly weren’t in the proper attire for a miles-long scenic hike, so we opted for a drive through and quick photo op instead.
Next, we drove back down the 101 south in search of the Marin Headlands and the Point Bonita Lighthouse. We tried to time our arrival just right to coincide with the opening of the tunnel that led to the lighthouse (which is inconveniently limited to 12:30-3:30 PM, Saturday through Monday).
We parked the car and noticed another couple walking the short 1 mile hike with their baby in an infant carrier. I felt a bit sad thinking “Surely we could have brought Evelyn with us, this couple did it!” We followed their path for quite a while, and by the time we reached the tunnel it was only noon; the tunnel wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes. We waited as we watched the fog and mist slowly roll over us, clouding our view of San Francisco.
The cute family we were following decided not to wait around and turned back to go up the hill. I did a double take and excitedly whispered to Matt, “Those are famous people!” Yes, that adorable little family was Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford to be exact, on a Saturday morning hike with their new baby girl (who, coincidentally, I found out later is also named Evelyn). If only we had had our Evelyn with us, we might have had the perfect material to strike up a conversation! But alas, I doubt Carey and Marcus were much interested in chatting anyway…
About 10 minutes after noon, the misty rain started. “Perfect, just perfect,” we thought. We stood there shivering as we watched our beautiful view slip away more and more. A national park guide arrived to stand guard at the tunnel door and we thought, “What the heck is he waiting for? Let us through!” But so it goes, and we waited patiently for the other volunteer park workers to arrive at precisely 12:30 to open the way for us.
Through the short tunnel came another path to follow before we finally reached the bridge to the lighthouse. A few people at a time, we were allowed to cross over to the very end of the peninsula where the unassuming lighthouse stood. While there wasn’t much to the lighthouse itself, the unending views and untouched scenery that surrounded it were peaceful in their simplicity.
After taking it all in, we began our hike back up the dirt path. About halfway through our trek, the misting stopped and the fog lifted just enough to regain a glimpse of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
When we arrived back in town, it was still cold and rainy, and definitely not the right kind of weather for the outdoor patio seating at Salsalito Taco Shop, where I was hoping to stop for a light lunch. So we decided some warm Italian pasta was more in order. We decided to check out Poggio, a well-loved Italian restaurant on Bridgeway, for an afternoon drink and comfort food.
We cozied up at a small table along the open windows, shielded from the rain, but still close enough to feel the energy of those passing by on the street.
After our late lunch, the sun was finally coming out, so we strolled down Bridgeway to the Magridal Family Winery tasting room. I didn’t really know much about the place, but I knew there was wine involved and that was enough to persuade me. Our sommelier introduced herself as Yemi, a quirky Georgia transplant now living full-time in Sausalito.
She explained to us a little about the Madrigal family and their contributions to the Napa Valley wine region, which has included designing and managing some of Napa Valley’s most prestigious vineyards. Yemi gave us generous pours of each wine, and even threw in a couple extras here and there. She explained each wine by “pairing” it with her favorite musicians. In her words, their rosé was like Michael Jackson; it changes over time. The verdot, Bob Marley, because everybody likes it. And the cab? That’s Jay-Z, because it only gets better with age.
We asked Yemi how she felt living in a city with so many tourists, and she replied it simply didn’t feel that way to her. “They come in for the afternoon and are gone by the evening,” she said. The true locals all know each other, so it’s like living in a small town. She even has a favorite neighborhood dog that she leaves water and treats out for from time to time. Yemi suggested we check out Caledonia Street, since that’s where the locals really hang out. We just so happened to have dinner reservations at Sushi Ran for the evening and would be headed that way soon.
We made a quick stop at the car to plug the meter and make a call to check on Evelyn. She was doing just fine with her aunties, as we expected. We sat in the silent car for a brief moment, reflecting on how crazy our life had become and enjoying the stillness, if only for a few minutes.
And then we were off once again, this time to catch our dinner reservation at Sushi Ran. We strolled down Caledonia Street past the array of bistros and dive bars. The atmosphere was much more chill, nothing like the hustle and bustle on Bridgeway.
Sushi Ran is famous for having the freshest fish, flown in daily from Tokyo. I had only wished we weren’t still so full on pasta and wine. This was one of the best sushi restaurants in the country after all! Instead, we could only muster up the stomach space for a couple of sushi rolls. I polished off my Awamori cocktail and we were in and out just before sunset.
As we drove back over the Golden Gate Bridge into the city, I couldn’t help but feel truly grateful for this amazing opportunity we’ve been given. We have made sacrifices, of course. The time apart from each other is hard. But having the opportunity to visit a California seaside town on a random weekend in October? That makes it all worth it.
Do you have a favorite seaside getaway?
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