Explore San Francisco

4 Must-Do Activities on the San Francisco Bay

Get a taste of the bay at these coastal attractions.

In many ways, San Francisco is a city defined by its bay. Here are four marine-themed activities that take advantage of the city's seaside setting.


Saving the Seals

Marine Mammal Center
Elephant seals (©Marine Mammal Center)

The Marine Mammal Center in the majestic Marin Headlands rescues and nurses back to health more than 600 distressed animals each year. One of the largest hospitals of its kind to combine rehabilitation with a research lab, the center welcomes visitors, who can observe the animal care and work quarters. Exhibits and tours explore the interdependence between marine wildlife and humans. Currently on view is “The Ghost Below,” an enormous sculpture made from 450 pounds of all-too-prevalent deadly ghost net that was found in the belly of a sperm whale carcass. In the spring, patients typically include elephant seals, harbor seals and California sea lions. 2000 Bunker Rd., Sausalito, 415.289.7325


North Bay Gem

Marin Headlands
View from Marin Headlands (NPS/Kirke Wrench)

Just a quick trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands is a destination for beautiful hikes, historic sights and coastal views. Begin your adventure at Marin Headlands Visitor Center and see an exhibit showcasing the history of the indigenous Miwok people. If you brought a canine friend, be sure to check out the dog-friendly Rodeo Beach for beautiful ocean views and a perfect picnic spot. Nestled at the end of Rodeo Beach is Fort Cronkhite, an old military fort now housing the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, Marine Mammal Center and Headlands Center for the Arts. Perched on a nearby cliff, the still-active, 150-year-old Point Bonita Lighthouse is accessible via a hiking trail. Bring your camera to snap postcard-worthy pictures at Battery Wallace near the trailhead, one of the park’s most scenic spots. –Jessica Volk Marin Headlands Visitor Center, 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, 415.331.1540


The Celebrities of Pier 39

Sea Lion Center
(©Sea Lion Center)

The sea lions that hang out at the docks by Pier 39 have become a world-famous tourist attraction, getting millions of visitors each year. Now sightseers have the chance to not only see (and hear and smell) the 650 giant mammals, which started appearing at the pier out of the blue about 25 years ago, but also learn about the creatures at the new Sea Lion Center, operated by the nearby conservation-focused Aquarium by the Bay. Located above the dock and staffed by naturalists who give free presentations, the educational hub features a classroom and an interactive exhibit space with a sea lion skeleton, a great white shark replica and informative films. Embarcadero at Beach St., San Francisco, 415.262.4734


A Maritime Excursion

Wine Tasting on the Bay
Aboard "The Neptune". (©Wine Tasting on the Bay)

Wine Tasting on the Bay is a small, family-owned operation that combines two favorite local pastimes: cruising on the beautiful bay and wine tasting. A 1958 classic motor vessel dubbed “The Neptune” serves as a floating tasting room for California wines during the 90-minute journeys. Charters include the new Island Wine Getaway that travels to Treasure Island to taste at three wineries, and a McCovey Cove option that anchors to view Giant’s games on a 42-inch flat screen and serves ballpark food. Pier 39, Gate I, 415.859.7052