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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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