Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf is a busy tourist area which has been usually shunned by SF locals, for decades. Located on the waterfront, it is the former headquarters of authentic fishing markets and fisherman, and it was fun when I first started going there 50+ years ago.

The most interesting part back then was the actual mooring area for the working fishing boats; the (mostly) Italian fishermen, going along the sidewalk past all the fresh fish and cooking vats of bubbly goodness and walking then to the “Balclutha”, a fabulous late 19th century sailing ship.

There were a few top-notch restaurants back then and my favorite was Dimaggio’s, owned by the famous New York Yankee baseball player, Joe Dimaggio, one time husband of Marilyn Monroe. I met him several times while dining at the restaurant; he was a gracious man. I don’t know what happened to the restaurant after Joe died, as Fisherman’s Wharf no longer entices me; it has mostly become a tourist trap. In this article, I am writing about the few worthwhile things left to do there, now.

Our other favorite restaurant was multi-generation owned Alioto’s, which is still there. Most of the other restaurants weren’t worth trying back then and aren’t now, either. But, if you are at the Wharf, try Alioto’s and be sure to get some authentic San Francisco sourdough bread there or along the way.

One plan is to be at the Wharf for a max of 3 hours and spend most of it eating. Go on the Park Service walking tour if it is a summer weekend and / or enjoy a boat cruise.

Go to the Wharf very early in the morning if you want a chance to see a little of what it used to be and take an early Bay cruise — most cost around $25 per person.

If you just want to look at boats, many fishing boats are between Alioto’s restaurant and Pier 47. Come back from your cruise / walk and eat, see the Balclutha and leave then or after just a couple of quick visits to the following places!

Best choices to consider:

___   For an unique cruise, consider the Adventure Cat catamaran, but only if it is a good sailing day. This craft is much more intimate with the bay than a much larger cruise vessel.

___   Take a National Park Service tour with Park Rangers, in summer, every Saturday and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Stroll with a Park Ranger to discover the 160 year history of this vibrant part of San Francisco’s north waterfront. Walk through the Aquatic Park Historic Landmark District, The Cannery, Hyde Street Pier and Fish Alley at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The tour is one hour and covers approximately one mile. The land has some gently sloping and uneven terrain. Be sure to dress in layers (some days it will be foggy and cool, even in summer and then bright sun will burst forth), wear sunscreen and definitely have good walking shoes.

Location: Argonaut Hotel Lobby, 495 Jefferson Street (at Hyde)
For more information: Call 415-447-5000
Website: Fisherman’s Wharf Park Ranger walking tour

___    Nearby is the 1930’s art deco Maritime Museum. It was originally  designed as a public bathhouse. Worth checking out: the WPA-era underwater fantasy mural, the anchor of the Independence and the hull of the scow Charles W.

___   The “Balclutha” on Hyde Street Pier (which features wooden boats, many from the early 1900’s). A tour of the pier is $2. Of the seven boats moored there, six are considered national landmarks.

The square-rigged “Balclutha” was just restored at a cost of $1.5 million; it was originally crafted in the famous shipyards of Clyde, near Glasgow, Scotland. The “Balclutha” made seventeen trips around Cape Horn. Look 360 and see if the ship is still moored where you can get shots of it with the Trans-America Pyramid in the background!

Other wooden boats in the collection are:  the “C.A. Thayer”, a lumber schooner from 1895 and the “Eureka”,  once the world’s biggest passenger ferry.

Then, moving on to Pier 45, the Liberty Ship “S. S. Jeremiah O’Brien” and the WW II “Pampanito” are moored there. The “Jeremiah” is the last Liberty Ship operating of two-thousand built, but you can see many more in the last of the Mothball Fleet on the Sacramento River, from the Highway 680 bridge in Martinez (there are no tours of these).

___   The Cannery, which used to be a real one canning fish (it’s been a shopping mall for decades), houses the tiny Museum of the City of San Francisco. The free museum has great information on the 1906 earthquake and motion picture history (the movie industry started in nearby Burlingame and later moved to Hollywood).

___   The Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory (now the famous shopping mall called Ghiradelli Square, but still company-owned) launched the wharf’s heightened visitor popularity when the company started there in the 1850’s. Be sure to visit the Ghiradelli company’s own Soda Fountain. It has amazing desserts using their own ingredients.

Come to Fisherman’s Wharf on the cable car, from downtown Union Square, or arrive by bus. For cable car: take either Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason. The best bus route is the #42 which is a downtown loop, but confirm that none of this has changed. San Francisco Buses

Do not come by car. The parking can be exorbitant and even then, hard to find!

Enjoy the waterfront.

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©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

One Response to “Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco”
  1. San Francisco Waterfront | The Cannery | Aquatic Park Says:

    […] I have already written an article about some of the area at: San Francisco’s Historic Ships […]

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