5 San Francisco Sights That Are Better by Boat

After I don’t know how many rain dates it finally happened, the stars aligned for two back to back beautiful days on the water.  Hazzah!  The glassy conditions and clear views made for the perfect weather to introduce Giota to boating.  And it just so happened to coincide with my Dad’s visit.  We’re talking some serious star alignment here people.

Having now had the opportunity to explore San Francisco over land and on the water, I can tell you that some parts of the city are simply better by boat.  My Rhode Island self wants to tell you that everything everywhere is better by boat but that may or may not be true.  In the spirit of honesty – here are five parts of San Francisco that are truly better from a boat…

#1 Alcatraz


The island looks small from shore but up close in a boat, it feels tiny.  Not until I was close enough to read the “don’t help the prisoners escape” sign did I truly appreciate just how little the island really is.

Alcatraz Warning Sign

The steep incline makes a lot of the island unusable while aloe plants and buildings take up the rest of the space.  The words compact and minuscule come to mind.  It would absolutely suck to be confined to such a small place but I guess that’s what you want for a prison locale – small and isolated.


I’ve heard amazing things from friends about the island tours but haven’t had a chance to take one yet.  It’s on the to-do list.  In the meantime I really enjoyed getting to see Alcatraz without having to deal with the hassle of crowds or ferry schedules.

#2 The Sea Lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions at Pier 39

After Alcatraz we spun back around to visit the sea lions at Pier 39.  Notice all the people on the pier?  I bet there are more people than sea lions at Pier 39 by the middle of the day.  We skipped battling for front row viewing and instead watched the sea lions as they circled the boat.  With all the barking and hardcore lounging they reminded me of giant dogs.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

We ran across a few sea lions eating fish and oh man do those sea lions have some teeth.  Wouldn’t want to get in a fight with one of them, especially when the males weigh an average of six hundred pounds.

Sea Lion at Pier 39

Notice the dock tipping?  Yeah… SIX HUNDRED POUNDS.

#3 SS Jeremiah O’Brien

SS Jeremiah O'Brien

Alright so to be honest, I haven’t had the opportunity to check this one out by shore yet.  But I feel like the SS Jeremiah O’Brien is something that should be admired from a small distance – too close and you won’t be able to see the whole thing at once.  It’s a quarter of the length of Alcatraz but unlike the tiny island, it seems a lot bigger from a little ways away.  I learned on our cruise that my father’s father was stationed on the same class ship during World War II.  For all you history buffs out there, the SS Jeremiah O’Brien is a Liberty ship that launched in 1943 and is one of the few surviving ships from the Normandy D-Day invasion.

#4 All the Other Boats

Sailboats on San Francisco Bay

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien wasn’t the only boat we saw.  The sailboats were out in force for a mix of races and leisurely enjoyment.  Aside from a large cruise ship and the ferries, we were one of the only power boats out there.

Sailboat on San Francisco Bay

I guess San Francisco is more of a sailing city.  With the strong breezes and expansive waterways I can understand why.  Maybe when we retire to our yacht one day we’ll sail it back to California.

#5 San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

Of the entire day, the one part of San Francisco that was most accessible by boat was the stunning bay itself.  The views of the water from the water exceeded any views from shore by far.

Sailboat on San Francisco Bay

The bridges made for the perfect backdrop to an enchanting afternoon spent bouncing around different nooks and crannies like Angel Island and Tiburon.  Fingers crossed that the stars will align again soon for another great boat day to admire more of San Francisco.

And now for a shout out to the people who made our awesome outing possible.  You guys rock.  Thanks again for such a fun time – can’t wait for more adventures, whether it’s on this coast or the right one!

The Captains

The Crew


  1. Ooh how fun! I haven’t done any of those by boat. I mean, Alcatraz, sure, you gotta get there by ferry, but then we spent most of our visit ON the island heh.

    • Carol Anne Says: March 2, 2016 at 3:41 pm

      I highly recommend boating around the Bay if possible – just being on the water is a blast in and of itself.

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