If there was one word to describe California, it would be diverse; from its desert to mountainous landscapes, its metropolitan cities and whistlestop cowboy villages, to its weather, one can find anything and everything in this state. With this in mind, California was a natural choice when it came to choosing a destination for our road trip, and what better starting point than San Francisco?
With a reputation of being one of the world’s greenest cities, San Francisco is easy to walk around and explore, as long as you have calves of steel to take on its many hills! With a city of that size though, it soon became apparent that we needed to swap our two feet for two wheels. And so we rented some noble steeds from one of San Francisco’s many bike shops and meandered along the coast towards our destination: the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito.
Most cyclist start the route in Fisherman’s Wharf, where the old-timey storefronts make you feel as though you’re cycling back in time. It continues along the waterfront through the Presidio park, and the area around Torpedo Wharf is a great spot for panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as an early stop point for coffee, cake and souvenirs at the Warming Hut Bookstore and Cafe.
The San Francisco Bay Trail features numerous landmarks and scenic points that it is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. One in particular is Fort Point, a Civil War-era fortress that also doubles as a surf break – not one for the fainthearted to try.
After Fort Point there’s more scenic viewpoints and gardens to stop and meander around, but with the red arches so close in sight, I put my foot on the pedal and sped off over the bridge…
…and soon came to a crawling halt. Turns out, a lot of other people had the same idea, and the bridge was awash with walkers, cyclists and school groups in the afternoon heat. In any event, it gives you the chance to take in the panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and its islands, and the city’s skyline – not to mention, the architectural feat of the bridge itself.
The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937 despite claims that the city’s strong currents and tides, winds and blinding fog would make the bridge’s use moot. Today the pioneering spirit of the engineers and the bridge’s endurance has marked it as one of the ‘Marvels of the Modern World’. Moreover, the Golden Gate Bridge has grown to become the symbol of San Francisco, recognised the world over and after seeing it in the flesh, I began to appreciate why.
The bridge connects San Francisco with Marin County, on the other side of the bay. The San Francisco Bay Trail merges with the main road, where the fun continues through zig-zag roads through forests and quaint coastal towns. Some of the downhill sections contained such a steep drop it felt as though I had left my stomach at the top of the hill!
All that cycling deserves a break and a treat, and so if you are not organised enough to have brought a packed lunch and spot sea lions along the bay, then there’s something better waiting for you in the postcard-perfect coastal town of Sausalito: Lappert’s. This hawaiian ice cream chain boasts a wide variety of flavours that pay homage to its hawaiian roots; think macadamia nut, tropical fruits, etc. It’s not hard to see why it’s a popular stopping point for cyclists and walkers, and the seagulls too have developed a liking to it….
For many cyclists the journey ends in Sausalito, where you can take the ferry back to the mainland. For the more adventurous/energetic, the trail has only just begun. The San Francisco Bay Trail stretches 500 miles in total, taking in many of the city’s islands and coastal areas. In particular, it guides cyclists through the area’s historic sites and unique habitats, such as the railway lines and boardwalks over wetlands.
Having made it as far as Tiburon ourselves, we boarded the ferry and gazed at the Golden Gate Bridge as we made our way back to the mainland, happy to have explored this area in the footsteps (or is that wheels?) of those that flocked to San Francisco in the past; and envious of the locals that call this area home and can explore its nooks and crannies at their own leisure.