As locals, it’s easy to take San Francisco’s natural beauty for granted. Its prime location means the waterfront offers one knock-out view after another. From the pristine Presidio to the Embarcadero, enjoy vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Bay Bridge and beyond. And steep yourself in history along the way.
In 1835, the port of Yerba Buena was created by settlers from Northern California Missions. In 1846, during the Mexican-American war, California was declared part of the United States. In 1847, the port’s name was changed to San Francisco. Initially, the edge of the City was filled with a collection of docks and other buildings built on ships’ remains and that often fell into the muddy bay waters.
Today, there’s still work to be done to restore crumbling piers, but the waterfront remains a bustling destination for locals and tourists alike. Recently my husband and I explored some of what San Francisco’s waterfront has to offer.
Stay: The Fairmont Heritage Place is nestled in historic Ghiradelli Square. This high-end private residence club offers luxury two and three bedroom suites with fireplaces, full kitchens, spacious bathrooms and all the personal service you can imagine. Many rooms incorporate original brick walls. All have big windows with views that don’t quit.
Since this property offers ownership opportunities, you feel like you’re at home. Attention to detail is over the top: Staff will make arrangements for whatever you need (groceries stocked before you arrive), book fun things to do (try tasting caviar) and secure reservations at coveted restaurants.
At 5 p.m. join other guests for wine and cheese in the lounge. And in the morning, an array of hot and cold breakfast foods fuels you for the day.
The Argonaut is a boutique hotel in the Haslett Warehouse, another San Francisco landmark. (Built in 1907 as part of the Cannery, the warehouse once housed fruits and vegetables.) Exposed brick, lots of wood, and of course, everything nautical are integral in the hotel’s design. The lobby even boasts decks chairs!
Most of the rooms have scenic views; all are decorated with a blue and white theme. For yoga enthusiasts, there’s a mat and a dedicated TV channel. The Argonaut welcomes all sizes and shapes of pets, so don’t leave yours at home. Every evening relax with hosted wine in the lobby.
Inn at the Presidio is located in historic Pershing Hall — built in 1903 as quarters for Army officers. The building has maintained an intimate feel with a common living room and “mess” hall where guests gather for breakfast and for wine and hors d’ouevres in the afternoon. Find porches and rocking chairs on both the ground and second floors in the front of the building. There’s a deck and fire pit in the back.
The Inn is LEED Gold certified and aggressively embraces a green and local business philosophy. The modern rooms use warm colors and have comfortable leather furniture throughout. The décor incorporates photos and other memorabilia from military days.
Dine: The Presidio Officer’s Club is home to Arguello. This restaurant delivers with a casual vibe: Fantastic Mexican cuisine, superb line-up of tequilas, and décor (both inside and out) which pays respect to the Presidio’s heritage.
To start, margaritas: We savored the smoky Oaxacan with mezcal and the Clasica with pueblo viejo blanco tequila. The house made chips are the perfect accompaniment to tangy guacamole and kicked up salsas. The jicama salad has great flavor and texture and the tasty shrimp/squid/scallops ceviche is served in a spicy sauce. The whole shrimp al ajillo (with garlic and guajillo chilies) with cilantro rice is not to be missed. Our sweet ending was a luscious passion fruit curd.
Housed in the same historic warehouse as the Argonaut, the walls of the Blue Mermaid Chowder House are decorated with replicas of labels found on the myriad products in the old Cannery. Their seafood follows the “Seafood Watch” guidelines for sustainability. With six house made chowders on the menu, we had an interesting tasting: Dungeness crab & corn, New England clam, Manhattan clam, California clam, mussels & andouille sausage and shrimp & red pepper.
Forbes Island is an ideal location for a waterfront view of the city and the bay. A quick ride from Pier 39, the interior is laden with rich woods, nautical features (think gleaming brass and portholes) and offers a mellow vibe with its jazz vocalists crooning in the background. The island offers distinctive underwater dining rooms and relaxing areas at sea level. The Canadian salmon was moist and flakey and the luscious tarte tatin had vanilla ice cream melting over richly caramelized apples on flaky pastry dough.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: San Francisco Travel
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