Perfectly arranged on a secure little bay harbor, Sausalito is undeniably lovely. Named for the ‘tiny willows’ that once populated the banks of its creeks, it’s a tiny settlement of pretty houses that tumble neatly down a green hillside into a well-heeled downtown. Much of the town affords the visitor uninterrupted views of San Francisco and Angel Island and, due to the ridgeline at its back, fog generally bypasses this charmed spot.
Sausalito began as a 19,000-acre land grant to an army captain in 1838. When it became the terminus of the train line down the Pacific coast, it entered a new stage as a busy lumber port with a racy waterfront. WWII brought dramatic changes when Sausalito became the site of Marinship, a huge shipbuilding yard. After the war a new bohemian period began, with a resident artists’ colony living in ‘arks’ (houseboats moored along the bay). You’ll still see dozens of these floating abodes.
It’s easy to imagine the town as a small seafaring center populated by fisherfolk, as it once was, but there’s no denying that Sausalito today is a fiercely fashionable tourist haven, jam-packed with both junkie souvenir shops and costly boutiques. It is the first town you encounter after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, so daytime crowds usually turn up and make parking difficult. Ferrying over from San Francisco makes a more relaxing excursion. A coffee, a quick shopping stroll and a walk along the bayfront are enough to satisfy most day visitors.