Tour San Francisco Bay

MainTour San Francisco California Vacation Adventure

[ Overview / Bridges / Islands / Alcatraz / Ferry Service / Wildlife Refuges / Tourism Services ]

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Region Overview

San Francisco Bay is one of the largest natural deep-water harbors in the world. There are 22 islands and 5 major bridges. Entrance to the ocean is through the famous and scenic Golden Gate. The shoreline both north and south is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The northern part of the harbor is seperately called San Pablo Bay. Primary tributaries to the bay are the Sacramento, Napa and Petaluma Rivers.

Best Bets for Tourists:

Tour Bay Bridges

Golden Gate is the main entrance to the majestic San Francisco Bay. The world famous Golden Gate Bridge was built (1933-37) across this entrance connecting US Hwy 101 from the city of San Francisco with Marin County to the north. The main span is 4,200 ft and total span is 9,266 ft. It is one of the largest single-span suspension bridges ever built. Two massive towers rise 746 feet above the water, the world's highest bridge towers. Clearance for water traffic is 220 feet which easily accomodates the largest ships in the world. A full-time painting crew constantly is at work to maintain the distinctive coat of international orange. Bridge toll is $3 for southbound traffic.

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the main link between San Francisco and the East Bay Cities. The bridge (Hwy I-80) is 8.4 miles long (including approaches) of which 4.5 miles is over navigable water. The East and West spans connect to a double-deck tunnel running through Yerba Buena Island (which is a U.S. Coast Guard Station). This bridge was damaged and closed temporarily in the 1989 earthquake but has since been repaired. $2 Toll charge for westbound traffic only. Info (510)286-1148.

Three other big toll bridges span San Fransico Bay:

Tour Bay Islands

See below for the most famous island of all - Alcatraz.

Treasure Island, U.S. Navy Reservation in the middle of San Francisco Bay, is connected to causeway to Yerba Buena Island which is reached by the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Visitors can drive to this island to see the Treasure Island Museum [Notice: Closed indefinitely.]

Tour Alcatraz Island

Island located in San Francisco Bay is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Originally built as a Spanish Fortress, it served as a US Military prison (1859-1933) and as a federal maximum security penitentiary (1933-63). It was home to such notorious prisoners as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz).

Today it is a museum with a self-guiding trail, cellblock tour and special ranger programs.

Access to the island is by tour boats that depart from Pier 41 on Fisherman's Wharf daily 9:30 to 4:15. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.

Harbor Ferries and Cruise Tours

Tour Wildlife Refuges

These locations are very good choices for Bird-watching and observing other regional Wildlife.

  • San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in the far north of the bay.

  • San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in the far south of the bay.

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