Going ashore in San Francisco

San Francisco

If your vessel calls the port of Oakland and you can afford the ‘luxury’ of a few hour break, you have to go outside the terminal and visit the city of San Francisco, one of the most famous, vivid and colourful cities in the United States.

Situated on the Northern tip of a peninsula at the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the city of San Francisco is connected with Oakland via a beautiful and famous bridge – San Francisco – Oakland Bridge – which is one of the world’s longest steel bridges (13.5 km), but also through a very wide public transportation network which allows even short time visitors to enjoy most of the famous landmarks the city displays.

Going ashore in San Francisco

How to travel to San Francisco

If you decide to travel to San Francisco – after taking the necessary precautions regarding the time needed for reaching the city and coming back to the port – you have to know that a four- hour visit will only allow you to see few of the city’s famous landmarks, but it will make an impression you will never forget.

Walking inside the terminal is not permitted, but a shuttle bus can be called upon and it will take you to the gate in only 5 minutes. From there, a taxi can take you to the centre of San Francisco – if you want to travel in style – or to the train station from where you can continue your journey by train towards the city centre. If you choose to travel by taxi, you have to know that traffic can get really crowded during the day – at rush hour, but also due to some accidents – and it can become a real problem on the way back, especially between 4 and 7 pm.

To avoid getting stuck in the traffic, a better solution would be the train. From the terminal, a taxi can take you to the Bart Train Station in only 10 minutes and you will have to pay ~ 15$ for the ride. From the train station, you’ll take the train in direction San Francisco and you will get off at the 3rd stop – Powell Station – or at the 4th stop – Civic Centre Plaza.

What to visit in San Francisco

Nowadays, most cargo vessels have very tight schedules with short stays inside the ports. For this reason, it can be very difficult to find 5-6 hours available to go into the city and enjoy a pleasant visit. Sometimes, vessels stay longer alongside offering seafarers and passengers alike a great opportunity to wander around the city as regular tourists do. If you are one of the luckiest ones who can enjoy a full day away from the ship, you have a very long list of attractions to visit and plenty leisure activities to choose from. If your visit can last no more than 6 hours, you have only a limited number of attractions to see and the most famous of all these are:

The Historic Street Car;

Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39;

The Golden Gate Bridge and Park.

As the two tourist attractions are situated within short distance from one another and they can be covered in a 3-4 hour visit, a little more time is required to visit the Golden Gate Park or to cross the Golden Gate Bridge from one side to the other.

The best solution for crossing the bridge is by bike – which is considered to be tourists’ most favourite leisure activity while in the city. You can rent a bike for 10-15$ per hour – depending on the type – or for 32-75$/day (if your time allows it). You can have a ride on your own – across the bridge using the designated lanes – or you can be a part of a guided tour for which you will have to pay 55$ (bike for 24 hours rent included).

Bay Cruises San Francisco

If you are just a few hour visitor into the city and want to enjoy your time to the maximum, you need a well done plan and a lot of determination to stick to it in order to accomplish your goal.

Once you step out of the Civic Centre train station, you will need just 15 minutes to have a walk towards the Civic Centre Plaza and admire the beautiful Beaux-Arts architecture building which hosts the City Hall.

Going ashore in San Francisco

From there, if you take the Market Street towards the sea, you will arrive at Powell Train Station in ~ 15 minutes.

This area is the departure point for the Historic Street Cars which are considered National Landmarks and represent the only vehicles of their kind still in operation. The historic trams will take you up and down the streets of Nob Hill, offering you a wonderful experience and a funny way of travelling as well. You can choose one of the two lines – both with the same departure point and both going down to the sea – Hyde Street Line and Mason Street Line. You can buy tickets from the designated selling offices (before boarding) and one ticket is available only for one way ride.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

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At the end of the Mason Street Line you will find yourself in front of Fisherman’s Wharf – the city’s top rated attraction.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf is the centre for seafood restaurants – where you can try the famous steamed crabs – fishing boats, bay cruises, souvenir shops and numerous other tourist attractions like Madame Tussauds Museum, The San Francisco Dungeon, Ripley’s Believe it or not, San Francisco Maritime Museum.

Going ashore in San Francisco

 

Going ashore in San Francisco

Bay Cruises San Francisco

At Fisherman’s Wharf you can embark yourself on a cruise towards Alcatraz Island (Pier 33), Treasure Island or Angel Island. There are two companies which offer sightseeing bay cruises – Red and White Fleet (Pier 43) and the Blue and Gold Fleet (Pier 39) – during daytime, but also at sunset.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

 

Pier 39, a renovated cargo pier, is home port to the Blue and Gold Fleet and hosts two levels of shops, restaurants and other attractions, including Hard Rock Café and Aquarium of the Bay.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

But above all, Pier 39 is famous for its furry inhabitants – the Californian Sea Lions – who started to come in the area after the earthquake in 1989. At first, there were only 10-50 exemplars, but their number soon increased to a few hundreds due to a plentiful fish supply, with a record hit number of 1701 in November 2009. During the summer months, the Californian Sea Lions migrate south to breed and give birth to their offsprings, but a small group of sea lions remains on the wooden platform of the pier year round. The funny creatures attract millions of visitors every year and they became world wide famous, due to their playfulness and photogenic display of affection, quarrels and fights.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

If you do not have time to cross the Golden Gate Bridge (on foot, bike or other kind of transportation) you can at least admire it from a considerate distance – from any pier along the waterfront.

Going ashore in San Francisco

If you were lucky enough, you may have had the chance of admiring the bridge while entering the Port of Oakland with your vessel … like I did 7 years ago, on board HS Livingstone. Then, both our entrance and departure took place during day time and I could admire the Golden Gate Bridge from a close up, while passing under it, as well as Alcatraz Island, Oakland-San Francisco Bridge and Treasure Island.

Going ashore in San Francisco

Going ashore in San Francisco

This time, we entered the port more than two hours before the sunrise and I could only see a huge shadow and the flickering lights from the top of the bridge.

I am glad I had the chance of ‘tasting’ a little of San Francisco’s charm during a 7 hour visit around the city and I hope another vessel will bring me back to the city in the near future to continue my visit with other interesting landmarks.

Useful information:

– Average time required to travel to San Francisco from the Port of Oakland by train is one hour, including the time needed to reach the gate, waiting for a taxi, the trip to the train station, waiting for the train and the journey towards the centre. By car/taxi the journey may take less time (if an arrangement is done for you in advance), but you have to take into consideration the fact that traffic can get very crowded at rush hour. Travelling by car is by far more interesting – as it offers you a wonderful view of the city, especially while crossing the bridge – but travelling by train is usually safer and surely cheaper;

– You can buy the train ticket from the machines or from the cashier office and you’ll have to pay no more than 3.8$ for one way (only 3.2$ up to Powell Station).

– Take care of your train ticket as you will need it when going out of the station as well;

– When you come back from San Francisco by train, you have to take the train in direction West Oakland;

– A taxi ride from the Port of Oakland to the centre of San Francisco can take between half an hour and one hour and it costs ~ 50$.

– A single way ticket for the Historic Street Car costs 7$. If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery during the ride, you have to choose the seats situated on the sides (right or left). From these seats you can also stand up on the edges and admire the city from upright position, with your body hanging towards the exterior and your hands;

– If you want to buy some souvenirs to remind you of your visit or just small presents for your loved ones, you will find a very wide display at Fisherman’s Wharf. All the shops sell almost the same products, but the prices may differ a little, according to their location and proximity to the sea;

Fisherman’s Wharf is also famous for its Italian seafood restaurants with waterfront views. Vendors along Jefferson Street sell Dungeness crabs from steaming pots which can be served seated or ‘taken away’;

Going ashore in San Francisco

– If you arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf you have to spend some time watching the street artists performing live – acrobats, dancers, musicians, painters, magicians;

Going ashore in San Francisco

– For a complete shopping experience, you can visit the big malls situated close to the Powell Train Station or different brand shops located in Union Square;

Hayes Valley is another popular shopping destination in San Francisco and it is situated close to the City Hall (Civic Centre);

– For more info and suggestions about the city, you can visit San Francisco Visitor Information Centre, situated in front of the Powell Train Station.

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