San Francisco Bay Area: Golden Gate, Street Cars and Alcatraz

GUEST ARTICLE: With its famous street cars and endless slopes, San Francisco has the feel of a cosmopolitan European city without the congestion. You might even forget you’re in the United States with so many public transport options and the prevailing green is good mentality.

san francisco, california republic and american flags

Getting from San Francisco International Airport to the middle of town couldn’t be easier using Lorries Airport Shuttle service. Just pre-book online ($US 15), let them know when your flight arrives and they’ll pick you up and take you to your accommodation.

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The Fisherman’s Wharf YHA is located nearby the historic Fisherman’s Wharf precinct, a tacky tourist strip featuring a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, American fast food outlets, seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and chain hotels.

But don’t let this put you off. The hostel is situated in the Fort Mason Reserve, a quiet parkland with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island just a stones throw away.

If you’re a backpacker looking for a quiet hostel close to the Bay and amenities like a Safeway Supermarket, the F-line street car and some restaurants, then this is the place.

san francisco street car

Dormitory beds start from $US 26. Dorms are very simple and rustic, featuring old wooden bunks, large under bed lockers and old wooden windows.

The price includes: a basic waffle/bagel and juice breakfast at the in house Café Franco, lockers, WiFi, parking, linen and a comprehensive walking tour led by a keen and informative local. Guests can also make use of the large kitchen and dining area, lounge room, games room and laundry facilities.

A highlight on the Fisherman’s Wharf strip is the Boudin Bakery where you can sample some original San Francisco sourdough with a view of the waterfront.

Kids will lap up the activities and shops that surround the city’s premier tourist attraction, the heavily touristy Pier 39. Adults might want to swing by the Hard Rock Café.

Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge if you want to save yourself about US$30 hiring a bike from popular local operators such as Blazing Saddles or Bay City Bike.

Alcatraz Island viewed from red Golden Gate Bridge cables, San Francisco, California, Western United States of America

Walking allows you to pause and snap away from all the different angles possible without having to jump off a bike every few minutes. Make sure you visit the North and South viewing points on either side of the bridge to get the best views.

Just note that if you’d like to visit the quaint town of Sausalito across the bridge, cycle or drive as a road replaces the footpath beyond the North viewing point.

If your stomach is rumbling by the time you reach Sausalito, head over to the Sausalito Bakery & Café (571 Bridgeway, Sausalito) or Giovanni’s Pizza‎ (629 Bridgeway, Sausalito) for a tasty budget bite.

If you’ve walked the bridge and want to save your legs while treating your eyes to amazing views across the Bay, hop aboard the Golden Gate Ferry, voted one of the worlds’s leading ferry trips.

golden gate bridge san francisco

Alcatraz Cruises offers a great service to and from Alcatraz Island. The Early Bird cruise (US$26 adult) includes a brilliant self-guided audio tour narrated by former prisoners and wardens enabling you to re-live the trials and torment of inmates without the crowds.

escape from Alcatraz Island

You can easily spend up to 4 hours exploring the island and taking in the sweeping views of the Bay that the prisoners could never enjoy. If you’re lucky, you might also catch a guided tour of parts of the island open to the public.

Night cruises are also available. If you visit the island during the day it is advisable to take some food and drink with you.

If you’ve booked a ticket aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr train service and haven’t picked up your tickets, you can do so at the Ferry Building Bus Station, located on 101 The Embarcadero.

From here, an Amtrak connecting bus can take you across the Bay Bridge to nearby Emeryville station where you can begin your rail journey.

To view more of Pranav’s photos from around the world visit his Flickr PhotoStream

This article has been written by Pranav Bhatt. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University. He has an interest in world travel, cricket, politics, technology and the media.

If you’ve travelled somewhere off the beaten track, can write well and have good quality photos I encourage you to contact me and I’ll consider publishing your travel diary here including generous attribution and links back to your website as thanks for your contribution

3 Replies to “San Francisco Bay Area: Golden Gate, Street Cars and Alcatraz”

  1. A very useful article for travellers who intend to visit San Fransisco. Details about various types of accomodation and transportation are given. I would say good one for us(I’m a Danish). Will come over there this year.

  2. I’ve seen the Golden Gate Bridge get destroyed in so many movies, that I feel like it shouldn’t even exist in real life.

  3. Wow that looks like it can be an amazing trip! Especially taken with a big group of friends. I will be looking up more so that I can make this possible in the near future. Thank you for opening up my eyes!

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