No visit to San Francisco is complete without a visit to the bay side and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. My trip there starts off from the northern bay area of the city from the palace of the arts. The area is served by MUNI buses services 28, 76, 43 & 30 from various points around the city, including downtown from union Chinatown and union square (service 30) which I came from. You can get a full listing of bus services from the Muni website itself. Alight the bus at the Richardson North Point area just not too far off from Jefferson beach.
The north point is a large recreational area popular with the locals, with me liking it as a non-touristy spot. It functions as a public beach front, marina and bay side beach walk. My journey there begins at the Crissy Fields across the Marina boulevard by the Yacht marina entrance to the Golden Gate Promenade dirt trail.
This promenade is essentially a bay trail running along the shoreline by the bay. It’s rather popular with joggers and mountain bikers alike. Do pack on some proper trail shoes as it’s a rather sandy path leading towards the Golden Gate bridge with exits along the sides to the various parks and beaches running alongside it. The place is surprisingly warm, or in other words- not that chilly to hang out in winter, with pretty much the warmer Californian weather mainly to thank. Given that warmer weather, much of the greenery is still retained at the nearby beach side parks and marsh area. Moving along the trail will bring you past the Crissy Field Airplane Hangars running alongside Manson Street.
The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (save the whales!) also resides here, together with the Warming Hut Bookstore & Cafe which sits in front of the north point wharf. The views of the Golden gate bridge from the bay just gets better with each passing step towards to it. The views from the wharf is no exception either. Here, you can sit back, and enjoy the sea breeze and occasional sea bird flying right into you. You can pretty much look back on the bay coastline which you came from too, as well as changing forward sights of the impending Fort Point towards you.
The Skyline of the San Francisco can be seen peeking over the horizon from here too. The wharf is a popular fishing spot and there was a handful of 5-6 fishermen on their catch when I was there on a midday. It’s from the end of the wharf here where you can properly appreciate the full Monty of the historical Fort Point sitting right beneath Golden Gate Bridge.
Fort Point (Link: Official website)
Heading along the marine drive, this small road here serves the route towards Fort Point alongside the Battery East hill site. Fort Point National Historic Site completed just before the American Civil War to defend San Francisco Bay against hostile warships. You might be familiar with it being featured in shows such as the Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller television series and The West Wing. Entrance is free and a donation to the national parks is recommended.
However, as the story told, the itself fort never saw battle and throughout the Civil War, artillerymen at fort stood guard against the Confederate raider (CSS Shenandoah) on hearing their plans to invade San Francisco- an enemy that never came after their captain turned around after learning of the war being over. The fort was actually planned for demolition when the golden gate bridge was to be built. It was not after the changes made the chief architect to the bridge design to accommodate the national monument where it was eventually built over the fort itself. This offers a unique view of the golden gate bridge below it. It’s not everyday when you get to see a bridge over and under it, a huge spectacle itself.
The fort’s design is plain and simple, with main courtyard being a large open space with a hauling crane for the cannons. And several side indoor coves on the perimeter of the Fort housing cannons and supplies. Much of Cannons on display at Fort Point Empty corridors are found beneath on the lower floors. These indoor coves also serve as internal storage areas housing cannon balls, gunpowder and high caliber rounds. The fort is 4 floors high in total, counting the roof. It’s up here on the roof where you will be treated by nice panoramic views of the bay, flaunted by the Golden Gate bridge. The top of the fort is home to the Fort Point Lighthouse which used to serve the outer bay area, it is now replaced by the Mile Rock Lighthouse.
Though the old fort has no military value now, it remains nevertheless a fine example of the mason’s art and is preserved and restored as a national monument. The fort is now protected as the Fort Point National Historic Site and listed in the national Register of Historic Places in 1970 by President Richard Nixonas. It is currently administered by the National Park Service as a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the gap between the Golden Gate and the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. It is both a vehicular and pedestrian bridge linking San Francisco on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula to Marin County.
A short walk from Fort Point back along marine drive to the Warming Hut Bookstore & cafe will lead you to a nature hill climb right up to battery park, it won’t be hard to spot the entrance to the climb just behind the cafe grounds. The uphill climb itself is a short few hundred steps, meandering along a mix of dirt trails and concrete pavements. Despite being sandwiched between 2 service roads, the area is a protected nature nesting area for birds and is surprisingly tranquil and devoid of tourists. It’s also up here where you can get nice quiet and breathtaking views of the bridge itself.
The Golden Gate bridge from Marine Drive:
At the top of battery hill is battery park, this is where the bridge’s visitor center, car park and pedestrian entrance to the bridge reside. This park lies on the south side of the bridge and the area is much like a tourist trap with parking space for several tour buses as well as a cafe and souvenir gift shop. It’s here in the park too where the story of the golden gate is told as an engineering achievement for it’s time with various information boards talking about the bridge’s development and construction. The statue of the bridge chief engineer Strauss can be seen at the park, in honor for the building and engineer in-charge for the overall design and construction of the bridge. A 93cm diameter model of the cross-section of the cable, containing about 28 thousand separate wires can be found beside Strauss’s statue.
On a more technical side, the Golden Gate was declared as one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world in 1937 when it was completed, but now it only stands at the eight longest and the second longest suspension bridge main span in the United States. But you can’t deny that it is easily one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, let be in the United States.
Having said that the bridge spans 2.7km and bridges the gap between San Francisco and what is now Marin County. Prior to that, ferries were used to transport people and vehicles across the San Francisco Bay from terminals near Fort Point itself. Humorously and almost derp-ly, contrary to the name, the Golden gate bridge is actually a matte shade of red and not golden in anyway, with the exception of the bridge reflecting in the sun.
Thankfully, the bridge is very much open to the public and not closed due to security scares like the bridges in New York. A 30 minute stroll will set you across the whole bridge via the bi-directional pedestrian side walkway on the right (heading north). The left lane is an express land for cyclists while the center road lanes are of course dedicated to vehicular traffic.
That’s all for the Bay side for now, next up, the museums of San Francisco!
- Chilling out in the city of San Francisco (Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf) (Photos: City Album)
- San Francisco Cable Car Museum, Palace of fine arts and Exploratorium
- Up the Twin peaks and the Castro district, San Francisco (Photos: Twin Peaks & Castro)
- Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point (Photos: Golden Gate Bayside)
- Golden Gate Park and Deyoung Museum (Photos: Golden Gate Park & De Young)
- Legion of Honor Museum (Photos: Legion of Honor Album)
- On the Alcatraz (The Rock) (Photos: Alcatraz Album)