A little city by the water, just north of San Francisco, Sausalito has a rich and intriguing history. From bootleggers—including the infamous Babyface Nelson—running rum and operating speakeasies and sending contraband goods on the midnight ferry into San Francisco during Prohibition, to its iteration as a cultural mecca post-World War II, Sauasalito has intrigued us for decades. Alan Watts, Shel Silverstein and Otis Redding are a few of the more prominent names to grace its streets.
In 2022 the rent is higher—some might say scandalously high—and rum is readily available without fear of legal repercussions. Sausalito is still a mecca for views and to-dos. See a few not-to-be-missed spots below.
Sausalito Bakery & Cafe
In keeping with Sausalito’s European feel, this green-fronted cafe offers sidewalk seating and gorgeous views of the Bay. Stop in for a coffee and a delicious pastry in the morning, or in the afternoon for a glass of wine and a sandwich. This is the place to bring a sweetheart, a friend or to dine alone with a good book and great views. Sitting outside is highly recommended during the summer months.
Women-owned Equator Coffee is a true Sausalito gem. Founded by three girlfriends in their garage in 1995, this coffee roastery and cafe offers phenomenal, sustainably-sourced coffee and is a must-visit if in the area. Ambience is dreamy, with floor-to-ceiling windows that look straight out onto the harbor, and the breakfast and lunch menus—with offerings ranging from almond-butter banana waffles to bacon breakfast burritos—are mouth-watering. Don’t forget to take some coffee home; the French Laundry blend is highly recommended.
Firehouse Coffee and Tea
Another great spot for the cafe-lover, Firehouse Coffee and Tea is located next to the Southern Marin Fire Station, hence the name. Wifi is available, the vibe is cozy and inviting, and in addition to their curated coffee selection they also offer 11 hand-selected local teas. This is a sweet spot for an afternoon cuppa.
Joinery is a special spot and worth a trip to Sausalito in and of itself. A communal-style beer hall and rotisserie that opens right on to the water, it’s difficlut to say if the vibe or the food are better—no wait, they’re a clear tie for first. When dining, do not fail to order the Joinery burger, to which blue cheese and bacon should be added, or the Porchetta sandwich, with split-roasted pork loin, cracklings and drippings. This is an amazing early-dinner/late-lunch spot, perfect for after a long bike ride or hike. Watch the sunset over one of the best burgers in a 50-mile radius.
Cool name, stellar views, beautiful menu. The Trident faces San Francisco, Alcatraz and Angel Island, and is housed in a building originally built as the San Francisco Yacht Club, hosting, in 1927, yacht races, regattas and galas. Purchased by the Trident Trio in the 1960s, it became The Trident—a musical venue, natural foods restaurant and hangout spot where Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Clint Eastwood were often seen. In 1971, The Trident was featured in the Woody Allen film Play it Again Sam. This spot, as legendary as ever, still boasts the incredible art and decor it had in the ’60s, and sticks to the same local- and natural-food credo. Come feel the vibes and enjoy a breathtaking salmon tartar.
No Name Bar
A hangout spot for artists, authors, creatives and locals since its doors first opened in 1959, No Name Bar truly is a Sausalito special. In pre-Covid times it offered live music every night and a lush garden patio. Things are looking up, and the music is back at No Name. So, stop in for a real Sausalito evening, and listen to the music.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a Sausalito dive bar in this list. Smitty’s is the place. Play a game of pool, shuffleboard or darts and then slip some quarters in the jukebox. This is the place to make a friend and have, as the website proudly proclaims, “damn fine drinks.” No hassle, nothing too fancy, just a good time.
Bubble Street Gallery
Located in downtown Sausalito and owned by artist Daniel Merriam, Bubble Street Gallery is a whimsical dream of an art space. Merriam is renowned for his romantically surreal paintings, and Bubble Street is his emporium to celebrate the realms of imagination from whence his work comes. This Neo-Victorian- and Steampunk-inspired gallery is very much worth a visit. As Merriam himself says, “There is no greater amusement park than the imagination itself.” Prepare to be transported.
Hanson Gallery Fine Art
Also right downtown, Hanson Gallery Fine Art is a great curation of classic work and exceptional modern artists, from Pablo Picasso to Alexander Calder. A great spot to stop and explore the myriad treasures of the art world, perhaps before having a coffee and pastry at Sausalito Bakery & Cafe to reflect on the artwork.
There’s so much to do and see in this sweet and historic town, and the views are unbeatable. Sausalito is the place to be.