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A Complete Guide to San Francisco's Piers and Boardwalks
October 20, 2022 By CityPASS
Suppose you like walking down beautiful piers and boardwalks and soaking up the scenery. In that case, there are many breathtaking San Francisco piers to visit. Aside from stunning views, these piers offer great fishing, as well as shopping, dining, entertainment, amusements, attractions, and a glimpse of nature and sea life.
While there are numerous piers in the San Francisco Bay area, some stand out more than others and are home to some of San Francisco's best attractions. You can watch the sea lions, then check out cruises or bike tours to catch some of the city's best views. So, let's delve into some of the best piers in San Francisco.
Breathtaking and Notable Piers in San Francisco
Most of San Francisco's piers have numbers and run the length of Embarcadero Street. All odd-numbered piers are located to the north of the Ferry Building, and even-numbered piers are located to its south. Most of the waterfront attractions and activities are concentrated on the odd-numbered piers, running from Pier 1 north to Municipal Pier. Let's take a closer look at some of the most popular piers San Francisco offers.
Pier 39 and Hyde Street Pier at Fisherman's Wharf
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular spot in the bay, and for good reason. The pier has two levels filled with shopping and dining. Pier 39 is also home to a lovely group of local sea lions. You can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge from this busy pier.
Aquarium of the Bay, located at Pier 39, allows you to explore the local marine life below the bay. You can walk through tunnels under the San Francisco Bay and observe a diverse group of colorful animals, including blue rays and sharks.
Also at Fisherman's Wharf is the Hyde Street Pier, a floating museum where you can see some historic boats, some of which are National Historic Landmarks.
Pier 15 on the Embarcadero
Located at Pier 15 is one of the area's many museums, The Exploratorium, a hands-on science and human perception museum where you can tinker, touch and play with hundreds of exhibits in the science, technology and arts realms. You can step inside a tornado, turn upside-down in a giant curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge, and much more. The Exploratorium also offers dining and a museum store.
And for adults 18 and up, check out Exploratorium After Dark, featuring music, guest speakers, and other fun activities after regular business hours.
Pier 7 is long and skinny, and it’s lined with benches. Serving both fishermen and tourists, it offers great fishing as well as fantastic views of the city, with the impressive Transamerica building as its backdrop.
Piers 27 and 29 were the "America's Cup" locations, but are now primarily parking lots. These two public areas are good places to park your car when you visit. They are centrally located, so you can easily walk wherever you need to go nearby. When going fishing on the piers, these are prime parking locations.
Aquatic Park Pier
Aquatic Park Pier is a popular public fishing pier. You can fish for an extensive array of types of fish here, including crab, in the wintertime. The pier stretches out into the bay, and you can visit Aquatic Park.
In addition, the pier provides the perfect spot for viewing Alcatraz, Angel Island State Park, and other parts of the bay. The pier is older, but it still provides a beautiful view of many different areas, making it one of the most stunning San Francisco piers.
How You Can See and Navigate San Francisco's Piers and Attractions
Now that you know some of the most famous San Francisco piers, let's talk about how you can navigate around them and quickly get to the attractions. Walking is enjoyable, but there are other ways to take in the sights. For example, you might find looking into alternative transportation modes helpful if you have small children.
There are bay cruise ship tours, bike rentals, and guided bike tours so that you can travel however you want.
Blue & Gold Fleet San Francisco Bay Cruise
For over 40 years, the Blue & Gold Fleet has provided guests with bay tours. They offer a narrated one-hour cruise of the bay area as well as a 90-minute trip that sails the boat around Alcatraz. They also offer a ferry service to other parts of the state. They have special event cruises and seasonal excursions that you can check out. You can find out more information about their bay cruises at Pier 39.
Bay City Bike and Parkwide Bike Rentals
Bay City Bike offers guided bike tours, Alcatraz tours, and private tours. Or if you want to rent some bikes and do some sightseeing on your own, they offer rentals of city bikes, e-bikes and road bikes for adults and kids. They have three locations spread throughout Fisherman's Wharf. On a bike, you can see more in one day than you usually would. For example, you could take a bike ride to the California Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park and check out the living roof and rainforest.
Enjoy Beautiful Views in Between Attractions
If you're traveling to beautiful San Francisco, you need to check out San Francisco CityPASS® tickets for discounted admission to the city’s best attractions.
You can choose from two different packages depending on your needs. San Francisco CityPASS® tickets include four tickets. Visit the California Academy of Sciences and take a Blue & Gold Fleet San Francisco Bay Cruise, and choose two other popular listed attractions. San Francisco C3® tickets allow you to choose three attractions. No matter which package you go with, you'll absolutely save money by traveling with an affordable CityPASS® package.
San Francisco Lodging
To get the most out of your stay in San Francisco, we recommend finding lodging near San Francisco's top attractions. Use this map to find the right lodging for you: