This is one of my favourite cities. Angus Fox gave me a tip which proved to be excellent. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Prison and the city are best seen from a boat. There are lots of tourist boats that cost a lot of money. Angus told me to use the Blue & Gold Ferry Company's commuter ferry boats instead. One of the best routes was the ferry boat that called in at Tiburon on the other side of the bay. If you didn't want to pay the high cost of San Francisco hotels an ideal solution was to stay in one of the motels in Tiburon that over look the sea and commute into the city.
San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
If you come to San Francisco on a weekend break, and you are looking for a nice place to take a stroll, then you should walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes there are a lot of tourists, and it is a very touristy thing to do, but you cannot beat the views. Bring a warm jacket as it can get cold and windy. You may even get stuck in a cloud of fog. Be aware that the bridge may sway up to 27 feet with the strong winds.
Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous landmark of San Francisco. It crosses the entrance of the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. It's an impressive sight spanning some two miles between the exclusive Presidio neighbourhood of the city proper with scenic Marin County to the north. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world at its completion in 1937. It is part of the famous highway One Californian coast road that offers lots of rugged natural seascape views.
Many tourists are surprised and disappointed to see that it's painted primer red. They expected to see a golden bridge. The bridge's name does not come from the colour it is painted but rather from its location. The waterway from the Pacific to the Bay of San Francisco is called the Golden Gate. The red color is kept in good condition up by a team of 25 painters that use a thousand gallons per week. The bridge is constantly being painted to maintain it in a good condition. This is what your vehicle toll money goes towards financing.
The building of the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the most revolutionary structural engineering projects of its time. The construction of the bridge is also remembered because so few people died during the building process as compared to similar bridge-building attempts in the past. You can drive over the bridge or go by bike. The best way to see the grandeur of this magnificent suspension bridge is to walk from one side of the bay to the other. You will meet lots of joggers and in the summer you will see sunbathers on the beach, people having a picnic and you can watch the sailing boats on the water. The Golden Gate Bridge sometimes gets enveloped in sea fogs.
The MUNI bus 18 stops at the Toll Plaza viewpoint. A more dramatic way of getting to the bridge is to walk along the Bay coastal trail and let the bridge come progressively closer. Once at the Fort Point Lookout, there is a trail that runs up through a rocky outcropping to the Toll Plaza viewpoint with various views along the way, including a nice area with picnic tables away from the masses at the top. The classic view if from up there and there are some nice gardens to frame the bridge too
If you want to see the Golden Gate Bridge from sea level you can take one of the many boat tours that are offered on Fisherman's Wharf. They are expensive. You can get nearly the same view if you purchase a much cheaper commuter ferry boat return ticket to the other side of the bay. The views of the city are great. I took the commuter ferry boat to Tiburon. Consider going out on these boats at night as the city skyline transforms into an attractive twinkling vista.
Golden Gate Bridge has been the site for more suicides than all the landmarks in the world combined. Three months after the bridge's opening ceremony in 1937, the first person jumped over the four-foot rail into the water, 220 ft below. Since that day, there is an average of two suicides per month. In 70 years of the bridge's history and over 1600 cases of jumpers, there are only 26 survivors.
Golden Gate Bridge viewing points
As you head north over the Golden Gate Bridge, you'll see a sign indicating a Vista Point on the left. The narrow exit will descend a bit to the right of the road, leading to the free car park open daily 7am to 7pm with a with a 4-hour wait limit. The southeast parking lot is metered daily till 9pm. Drive to Fort Point, near the foot of Golden Gate Bridge, for a breathtaking view.
I think Fort Point is San Francisco's most underrated tourist attraction. It is a real gem. Check opening times as they vary. Some days the Fort is closed to the public. Bring warm clothes as it can get very chilly near the water, even when the sun is shining. Fort Point protected San Francisco harbor from Confederate & foreign attack during & after the U.S. Civil War. Fort Point is located underneath the southern side of the Golden Gate bridge at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. It is five stories high and made primarily of brick. Admission is free.
The views from the top floor are great if a bit windy. The spiral staircases leading up to the top are a little precarious. Civil War reenactment groups are often at the fort. On windy days with high waves days, surfers try to catch rides about 100 yards away from the Fort in the cold bay water.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on Fort Point in 1853. At first is was built to guard against Spanish and French ships who might be after California's newfound gold. It was completed just before the American Civil War, and was able to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile Confederate warships. Plans specified that the lowest tier of artillery be as close as possible to water level so cannonballs could ricochet across the water's surface to hit enemy ships at the water-line. The fort is now protected as Fort Point National Historic Site, looked after by the National Park Service.
Throughout the Civil War, artillerymen at Fort Point stood guard for an enemy that never came. The Confederate raider CSS Shenandoah planned to attack San Francisco, but on the way to the harbor the captain learned from a passing French ship that the war was over.
The original plans for the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s called for the fort's removal. Chief bridge engineer Joseph Strauss toured the fort when plans were being made to demolish it to make way for the Golden Gate, and said, 'While the old fort has no military value now, it remains nevertheless a fine example of the mason's art. He changed the plans to save the fort.