Boat Tours and Ferry Rides in San Francisco

Get on the Water in San Francisco

Since this is the city by the bay, as a visitor you should get out on the bay, right? San Francisco has a number of places where you can get out onto the water, or close to the water to see the sites. Here's a list of places to visit by the water and also where you can catch a short cruise on the bay.
Financial District and Embarcadero
Financial District and Embarcadero
San Francisco's Financial District is where you'll find most of the city's skyscrapers. Famous buildings include the Transamerica Pyramid and the Ferry Building. This area is busy on any given weekday and there are a number of popular Happy Hours after work, but the neighborhood quiets down quickly at night. There are some nice romantic spots and restaurants that couples can enjoy in the neighborhood.

The Embarcadero is the waterfront area by the Financial District. It's lined with piers that look out over the San Francisco Bay. By the Ferry Building there are also wine bars and cafes, as well as a weekend farmer's market.
San Francisco, CA
Kirby Cove Beach
On the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, in the Marin Headlands area, this small southern-facing beach has fantastic views looking out towards the bridge and the city, as well as the ocean. You'll have to walk about a mile and climb some steps to get down here, but when you do, you'll be alone for the most part.
San Francisco, California
If you're looking for more information about San Francisco, read Best Places To Enjoy A Picnic In San Francisco and Budget Friendly Neighborhoods in San Francisco.
Ferry Building
Ferry Building
This historic building has been converted into a shopping area with great restaurants and local vendors who sell produce, cheese, and more. There's also a weekend farmer's market in the area that's fun to browse.
1 Ferry Building, Financial District and Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA, 94111
Marina District
This neighborhood has built up on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, with the only remaining building being the beautiful Palace of Fine Arts. Head to the nearby Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture on a Friday night to enjoy Off the Grid, which is a large food truck gathering. This is also the neighborhood where you'll find the Michelin-starred restaurant, Atelier Crenn, with it's award winning menu that changes seasonally.
San Francisco, CA
China Beach
This is one of the most scenic beaches in the San Francisco area. As it faces north looking towards the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, beachgoers here will have nice views looking onto some classic San Francisco scenery as well as out to the ocean. The beach here is flat and somewhat wide with room to lounge, or play, although it's not very long. Bring a chair and you can enjoy a good book in a quiet setting. It was once frequented by Chinese fisherman which is where the name came from. To get here head to the parking lot on Seacliff Ave between the Presidio and Land's End park. And try not to gawk at the expensive houses on your way in.
Seacliff Ave, San Francisco, California
Angel Island State Park
Catch a ferry from Pier 41 to explore this beautiful state park. Nature lovers will enjoy the peaceful setting and photography enthusiasts will appreciate the views looking back at the city. This is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay and it has a number of great biking, hiking, and running trails. There are five different picnic areas, eleven campsites, and several nice beaches as well. There's also a casual restaurant on the island.
San Francisco, CA
Sausalito
Sausalito
Sausalito is a charming town in Marin County that sits across the by from the city of San Francisco. Visitors enjoy exploring the charming streets, shopping, and dining in one of the local restaurants. The town is also known for its Richardson Bay houseboat enclaves. Views from Sausalito are pretty spectacular as well, particularly as the sun sinks low.
CA
Pier 39
Pier 39
Pier 39 is the most popular pier in Fisherman's Wharf. It's a touristy area with a number of shops and restaurants, but people also head to the pier to see San Francisco's famous sea lions. They hang out on the nearby docks and entertain the crowds. The pier is also lined with seafood vendors and a couple of tourist museums.
Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, CA
San Francisco has plenty more to offer, so see also our other articles: The Best Art Museums in San Francisco and The Most Instagrammable Spots in San Francisco.
The Presidio
The Presidio
The Presidio historically served as a U.S. Army base but today it is a large green space and a public park. It's situated in the northwestern corner of the city at the gateway to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio is a national park that is controlled by the National Park Service and it runs between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, ending at Baker Beach. Within the park there are stunning views of Marin County and the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as a number of biking, hiking and walking paths. There are also plenty of places to enjoy a picnic or rest with a good book. The Walt Disney Family Museum as well as a golf course and several cafes are also found within the park.
The Presidio, San Francisco, CA
Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman's Wharf is a classic tourist's neighborhood in San Francisco. It's filled with souvenir shops where you can by t-shirts and other nick nacks. This is also where you'll find the famous Pier 39 with its many attractions including San Francisco's famous sea lions. Also in the area are a couple of museums, the famous sourdough and clam chowder restaurant, Boudin, and ferries to Alcatraz. Fisherman's Wharf is also the turn around point for one of the cable car lines.
San Francisco, CA
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
This recreation area (not to be confused with Golden Gate Park) is a beautiful natural area in Marin County that's across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city. It offers a beautiful escape from the city with walking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, and beaches. The area is known for its stunning views that look back on downtown San Francisco. The park is popular with photographers who want to capture that classic San Francisco shot.
San Francisco, CA, 94123
Lands End Park
Lands End Park
Lands End is a park that's located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It runs along the beautiful rocky shoreline and offers stunning views out over the water. It's located between the Sutro District and Lincoln Park and has a number of hiking trails that follow the coast. You'll also find a few small beaches such as Mile Rock Beach and Sea Rocks Beach. Also inside the park is the Legion of Honor art gallery, Holocaust Memorial, a golf course, the USS San Francisco WW2 Memorial, the Sutro Baths, and more. It's a nice place to explore, or find a space to yourself and enjoy reading or simply relaxing.
Seacliff, SF, California, 94121-1545
Embarcadero
The Embarcadero is the eastern waterfront area by the Port of San Francisco. There are a number of piers and iconic buildings, shops, and the famous Ferry Building. There area offers beautiful views of the water and the Bay Bridge.
Financial District, SF, California, 94111
Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is located on the West Coast of San Francisco by the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by the Golden Gate Park, the Richmond District, and the Sunset District.
1506 Great Highway, Sunset District, SF, California, 94122
Interested in more travel advice for San Francisco? Check out Places with Water Views in San Francisco and The Best Places to Enjoy the Water in San Francisco.
Baker Beach
Located in the northwestern part of San Francisco, Baker Beach is a public beach that is about half a mile long. The northern part of the beach is a nude beach.
Seacliff, SF, California, 94121
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island, located in the San Francisco Bay, once served as a federal prison from 1934 to 1963. Today it is a National Historic Landmark that offers tours that cover the island's history, the former prison, and the many famous prisoners that were held here. To get here, you need to take a scenic ferry ride from Fisherman's Wharf, and it's best to book ahead, especially on weekends.
West Road, SF, California, 94133-1312
How much do boat tours cost in San Francisco?

Prices for activities, things to do, and tours range from $34 to $366. The average cost for a tour or tickets is $106. A few of the best options are below.

Where to Stay in San Francisco

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