23 Fun Facts about Sausalito California to Know Before you Visit
Located a couple of miles from San Francisco, visiting Sausalito, California will make you feel like you have been transported to the other side of the world. The city is built like those you may find in Spain or Italy along the Mediterranean Sea, with tiered streets and houses overlooking the bay views. The Bay Area in California is known for its fun neighborhoods, and Sausalito is no exception.
The history of this little coastal city is very fun and enticing—it started as a fishing town for Mediterranean migrants moving to California and then became a refuge for artists after World War II. The city is beaming with natural beauty from its location nestled alongside San Francisco Bay.
There are plenty of activities to do in Sausalito that you can easily make a visit here a day trip on a weekend or spend a couple of days and stay in the town. No matter how long you plan on staying in the town, here are some of the best fun facts that will help you navigate the culture and history of Sausalito on your next trip!
- It’s a very small town. There are less than 8,000 people within the city limits, which further gives you the feelings of being in a Mediterranean town. Originally, this was a Coast Miwok settlement, who were taken advantage of by European settlers. Unfortunately, a lot of the artifacts from the Coast Miwok settlement were looted and destroyed before the 20th century.
- There is an annual Sausalito Arts Festival. Held each Labor Day, this is one of the longest running outdoor arts festivals in the United States and is open from Saturday to Monday each Labor Day weekend. You will be able to find delicious fine foods, fine art, and live music at the family-friendly festival. More than 150 artists are typically showcased each year and the categories of art range from mixed media to ceramics, to drawings and paintings and so much more. There are winners and honor mentions for each category and being at the festival means you get an up-close look at the best pieces. (The Festival has been postponed due to travel shutdowns)
- The artistic community lives on houseboats. As you walk along the piers, you will be able to visit the houseboat moored here and can even take a tour during the Floating Homes Festival to enter the award-winning homes. These quirky and colorful homes, that just happen to float, date back to post-World War II when writers, musicians, hippies, and artists all flocked to this area of California. It is well worth walking around the docks to look at the houseboats—they have amazing landscaping and fun colors and designs that make each of them stand out. Please be respectful of the residents.
- Boats have always been a thing in Sausalito—this was a shipbuilding center during World War II. Following the end of World War II, the bayside town became an artistic and wealthy enclave and a tourist destination. And before that, the city was known as a fishing village and harbor where Portuguese and Italian fishers set up their businesses—today, their descendants are still participating in this industry.
- The city was named when California was part of Mexico. Back when California was a part of Mexico, Sausalito was actually called Saucelito, which is what the Spanish called the willow trees in the area. This was an area where ships in San Francisco would come to replenish their fresh drinking water supply before heading back out into the ocean. The current spelling was adapted when California was taken over by the United States in the second half of the 19th century.
- You can visit marine animals being rehabilitated. At the Marine Mammal Center, you can see the rescued marine animals that are in the process of being rehabilitated at this research facility. They have worked on elephant seals, dolphins, seals, sea lions, and even whales! These animals have either been injured or separated from their mothers. After treatment from the facility, those animals that can be released back into the wild will be. Located close to Sausalito in the Marin Headlands.
- That sound that you may hear at night is the sound of the humming toadfish mating. These fish were formally discovered in the 1980s when people living on houseboats complained of a weird humming sound during the night. These are nocturnal and they make loud, drumming sounds when they are mating during the summer months.
- See the tall Redwood Trees at Muir Woods National Monument. Located close by in northern San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument has trails through ancient, and very tall, redwood trees. One of the more challenging ways to hike to the park is from the nearby Dipsea trail. The Dipsea Trail also has amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, and nearby Mount Tamalpais.
- You can easily tour and walk around the Sausalito waterfront. Most of the popular areas are very close to the bay and the piers and have a lot of attractions for visitors, like hotels, restaurants, and shops. From the Bridgeway Promenade you can see the San Francisco skyline and the ferry pier at Downtown Sausalito. Nearby is Caledonia Street which is a “secret” spot residents will frequent since it’s a bit outside the very touristy central area.
- The tunnel that goes from Sausalito to the Golden Gate Bridge is named after the late beloved actor, Robin Williams. Before being named officially the Robin Williams Tunnel, the tunnel was known as the Waldo Tunnel. Part of the reason the tunnel was named after Robin Williams was due to the rainbow border at the entrance to the tunnel, which reminds people of his character Mork’s suspenders from the hit show “Mork and Mindy”.
- Learn about the estuary in the area. The Richardson Bay sanctuary supports the eelgrass and undisturbed intertidal habitats important to the health of San Francisco Bay. Richardson Bay is a designated important Water Bird area and the waters are a protected “no discharge” zone due to the marine life here, such as mollusk and harbor seals.
- Across Richardson Bay is Tiburon and Belvedere. There you can see the hillside mission church, Old St. Hilary’s. Located on a hillside above Tiburon, this is one of the last Carpenter Gothic churches left standing. It was once used as a school and a town hall and is now an event hall. Made of redwood, the church still has its original amber glass windows, stained glass art, and a ceiling made of Douglas fir. Also in Tiburon is the Railroad and Ferry Depot Museum inside the old San Francisco and North pacific Railroad Station House and Depot.
- Viña del Mar Park is the best-known and most photographed park in Sausalito. Featuring two Elephant Sculptures and a beautiful fountain relocated from the 1915 Pan Pacific Fair and Exposition. Originally made of heavy-duty paper mache the Elephants and Fountain were recast in concrete.
- Visit the most famous bridge in the world—the Golden Gate Bridge. This suspension bridge is one of the Wonders of the Modern World, at over a mile long and 65 stories high. More than 80 years old, this is the most photographed location when visiting the Bay Area.
- Sausalito is home to Fort Cronkhite, an old army post and coastal artillery that was active during World War II to protect the Bay Area. The Fort was home to radar sites, gun batteries, and more and is now a part of the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are also a lot of hiking trails and nearby Rodeo Beach.
- Venture out into Marin County and see the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The area has 19 different ecosystems and is home to more than 2,000 different plants and animals. This is the world’s largest urban park. Major attractions that are included in the Nation Recreation area include Muir Woods, The Presidio, and Alcatraz Island.
- A bit bit fantastical India inspired architecture floats in a Sausalito harbor. The Taj Mahal houseboat is located at the end of Johnson St. north of downtown. Built in the mid 1970’s by Bill Harlan. Harlan was so much in love with the Taj Mahal that he made a flating home designed to look like it so he could live in it. Please note: the home is not open for visits by the public, and respect the neighbors privacy whenever visiting the docks in Sausalito.
- Enjoy a meal at Copita Tequileria y Comida. This seasonal Mexican restaurant can be found in downtown Sausalito. It is seasonal because the food is made from scratch using only locally sourced ingredients and traditional cooking methods, giving you the most authentic and tasty Mexican food in the Bay Area. The menu does use tastes that are unique to the area too, like seared mahi mahi with salsa and pineapple pico de gallo. The bar has more than 100 tequilas and mezcals, so you can enjoy a cold drink while dining.
- The US Army Corps of Engineers house their functioning hydraulic Bay Model here. When you visit the Bay Model, you will be able to see what the complete bay-delta system is like. You can visit on your own or come for a tour.
- Over 120 years old, Battery Spencer Is a concrete gun battery with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can visit this lookout spot by heading up to the Marin Headlands. This was originally a site that guarded the Golden Gate Bridge with M1888 rifles, and it was deactivated as a military site in 1943.
- During Prohibition, Sausalito was a hub for bootlegging. Considering the location of the city and the bay and ocean being right there, it would make sense that bootlegging would have been a great industry for the city during Prohibition. The 1942 film “China Girl” that uses footage of Sausalito showcases how rum runners used the city.
- Sausalito has three sister cities on three different continents. The oldest sister city is Vina del Mar in China, established in 1960. The main plaza in Sausalito is named after the sister city. The second city was Sakaide, Japan, established in 1988 so the two cities could set up a youth cultural exchange. And the newest sister city is Cascais, Portugal, in 2013, to establish a youth sailing exchange.
- The city is still home to many working artists. If you want to see the working artists of Sausalito, there are many artists in residence and you are able to see their work during showcases at the ICB Industrial Center Building.
Whether you are going for a weekend or for a couple of days, it is well worth it to spend time in Sausalito, California!
When visiting San Francisco, remember that there are countless places to visit and sites to see just outside of the city! We encourage you to get out there and discover something new. San Francisco Jeep Tours can help you see all the important landmarks of San Francisco while also taking you to see some of the stunning natural landmarks just outside the city including Sausalito.
Take advantage of a San Francisco Private Jeep Tour; adventure is waiting, and you can’t pass it up! Here are a few we recommend: