It was 25 years ago when I first time I became aware of a place called Sausalito. Pepperidge Farm had just come out with a macadamia and chocolate chunk cookie named after the city.
I never imagined that I'd eventually live in San Francisco, a 10 minute drive away from that mythic place.
Now, we are just 10 minutes away from warm summer days, 10 minutes away from paddle boarding on calm waters, from the loveliest of lemon mousses, my favorite design shop, and an invigorating morning jog to the ocean. Don't get us wrong, the famous waterfront suffers from too many tourists, but can you blame them for making the pilgrimage to the namesake of the famous Pepperidge Farm cookie? It is a beautiful destination after all. —L.M.L.
Where to Stay in Sausalito
(Courtesy of Casa Madrona)
The Mansion at Casa Madrona
This stately hillside Victorian, once a B&B, has recently been rehabbed into the exclusive, upscale wing of the Casa Madrona Hotel. Fresh coats of white paint, fluffy four-poster beds, deep blue textiles, and old brass maritime instruments give the rooms a subtle nautical feel, although the priceless views of the bay—with sailboats bobbing about, wet-suited paddle boarders dodging helms, and kayakers pausing mid-row to gaze at frolicking seals—really drive the point home. Large parties can reserve the luxurious, 5,000-square-foot Alexandrite suite, complete with professional kitchen, expansive outdoor patio (seen above), and private fitness center, for their shoreside revelries. Book a no-frills Swedish massage at the nice, but decidedly bare-bones, spa for a relaxing way to pass the late afternoon before heading to dinner just down the street. While The Spa is currently under renovation, give the front desk a ring to find out which services are available (415)-332-0502 —L.M.L. // 801 Bridgeway (Sausalito), casamadrona.com
The Inn Above Tide
Opened in 2005 but beautifully spruced up in 2018, The Inn Above Tide is a coastal charmer with killer views. Plus, the recent addition on a luxury suite and a revamp of two more by designer Antonio Martins makes this spot well worthy of a romantic staycation. If you're staying in a suite, you'll find your room through a private entrance that opens onto tasteful seaside splendor—think grey silk wallpaper, heated tile bathroom floors, a rainwater shower, soaking tub, expansive patio, an indoor/outdoor fir\eplace, and cozy lounge chairs that swivel so you can choose your favorite among the jaw-dropping views of the city and the Bay. Get our full story here. —Sarah Chorey // 30 El Portal (Sausalito); rooms starting at $415 for a double can be reserved at innabovetide.com.
Where to Eat + Drink in Sausalito
This U.S. Army post turned posh waterfront stay has a few delicious dining options. Just back from a hike? Sate your starvation with a hearty burger and a prickly pear Post Ranch margarita among locals at the casual Farley Bar. Named for a San Francisco Chronicle comic strip character, the lounge has a swank interior and fire pits on the porch where you might catch the day's last rays slipping behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Fancier dinners are served in the hotel's restaurant, Murray Circle, or for a select few at the Chef's Counter—for more on the latter, read Nick Czap's review for 7x7. —Trevor Felch // 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker (Sausalito), cavallopoint.com
Don't be fooled by the row of rental bikes parked on the sidewalk outside Scoma's—this iconic seafood restaurant isn't just for tourists. This Sausalito classic has been a local hangout for decades. Come for the fresh seafood dishes—including a rich scallop risotto and a crab cake burger with creamy cole slaw—and stay for the view of the Bay. —A.K. // 588 Bridgeway (Sausalito), scomassausalito.com
The exceptionally delicious Italian trattoria was something of an urban-tourist legend to my mind, that is until I had one bite of the luscious sweet corn custard. I marveled at the miraculously tasty linguine. Until I almost asked, in my best Oliver Twist voice, for more lemon mousse, but then realized that even a trough full of the velvety pudding would not be enough. The delectable dishes left me wanting just one more bite of absolutely everything. Whatever you do, do not miss out on a negroni from Tony "Negroni" Diiorio, who's been tending bar here for over 30 years. —L.M.L. // 777 Bridgeway (Sausalito), poggiotrattoria.com
Celebrity chef/author Joanne Weir's Copita—hailed for its margaritas and lamb birria—has stepped up its game with a refined weekend brunch menu courtesy of chef Daniel Tellez, who hails from Mexico City. Start your exploration of Sausalito with the Chilaquiles Montados or the Enfrijoladas, scrambled egg fried tacos drenched in black bean sauce. Wash it all down with a cocktail from the tequila bar. —A.K. // 739 Bridgeway (Sausalito), copitarestaurant.com
With a classic name for a classic dive bar, Smitty's is the place to get your jug of ale amongst the locals. Dating back to the 1920s, the town's oldest bar keeps us coming back for the shuffleboard, billiards, a juke box, and an all-around carefree vibe. —Trevor Felch // 214 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), smittysbar.com
If you're in the mood for some of the Bay Area's best sushi, Sushi Ran is a veritable landmark, serving more than 30 varieties of fresh fish for over 30 years. Chef Taka Toshi prides himself on expert slicing skills and artful presentations, but there is cooked Japanese and Pacific cuisine too for folks who don't love raw fish. The tuna tartare rice "crostini" with spicy aioli is superb, and the miso-glazed black cod is a must among the hot offerings. —A.K. // 107 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), sushiran.com
For a laid-back lunch that promises soft naan dipped in buttery masala sauce, this small Indian Cafe has a menu full of tasty classics such as saag paneer, chicken tikka masala, samosas, and hot lamb curry. — A.K. // 43 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), yelp.com
Because a burger and fries is always a good idea, we recommend you refuel at F3, a casual eatery, from the owners of Sausalito's Le Garage, that serves American staples with a French spin. Don't miss the steak frites with sauce béarnaise and a French onion burger with soup and cheddar fondue. —A.K. // 39 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), eatf3.com
Beach club vibes rule the day at this Bridgeway hot spot where patio seating, a bocce ball court, and a swath of warm sand make for a fantastic mini-escape from the city on a sunny day. Grab a beer or a glass of rosé, order a crispy pizza (we love the heirloom tomato), and spread out your blanket for an extra-special picnic. Go early—space fills up quickly. — A.K. // 1250 Bridgeway (Sausalito), barbocce.com
Ask anyone where to find the best crab roll and they'll most likely point you toward Fish, a restaurant known and loved for its sustainable sourcing practices. The sweet Dungeness crab meat on a toasted roll needs nothing more than a bit of butter and a sprinkling of minced chives, but it comes with a huge portion of fries too. Don't sweat the line—it's worth the wait. And bring cash—they don't take credit cards. —A.K. // 350 Harbor Dr. (Sausalito), 331fish.com
Mexico meets Natucket at this colorful snack shack where lunch means simmered pork or Baja-style fish tacos, as well as fajitas, chicken- and goat cheese-stuffed chiles, and other Mexican classics. Cool the spice with a cold Mexican beer or a homemade agua fresca. —A.K. // 1115 Bridgeway (Sausalito), salsalitotacoshop.com
Located in the unassuming, industrial part of Sausalito, Seahorse serves such Tuscan coastal dishes as zuppeta di Moscardini, octopus steamed in seafood broth, and their signature Cacciucco, a seafood stew that hails from owner Mauro Dosolini's birthplace of Viareggio. Go for dinner and join in as things heat up on the patio—evenings bring salsa and tango classes. Check the calendar for live entertainment. —A.K. // 305 Harbor Dr. (Sausalito), sausalitoseahorse.com
Are you a morning person? The cappuccinos here come with expertly made latte art courtesy of skilled baristas. Fuel up for the day with an avocado toast or a fresh vegetable hash. If not, this Bridgeway spot is a lunchtime staple for healthy salads—we recommend the Cibo salad with corn and nectarines. Eat on the patio or grab a refreshing lemonade and cross the street to the marina for an al fresco lunch with a view. —A.K. // 1201 Bridgeway (Sausalito), cibosausalito.com
Just around the corner from the crowded Bridgeway shops is Driver's Market, a local grocery store with well-curated products from small-batch olive oil to local cheese and handcrafted chocolate. Fresh deli menu features sandwiches (try the North Bay, with roast beef, melted cheddar, horseradish crème fraîche, red onion and roasted red peppers), wraps, and bagels, plus juices, smoothies, and kombucha on tap. Few indoor and outdoor tables make Driver's Market the perfect pitstop to have a peaceful break. — A.K. // 200 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), driversmarket.com
Our disinclination for touristy waterfront shopping notwithstanding, Munchies Candy draws me in with barrel after barrel of fresh (read: super soft) saltwater taffy in an eclectic assortment of flavors, from mango to molasses. There are other confections from which to choose—jawbreakers, circus peanuts, and Sunkist fruit gems (my childhood kryptonite)—so be sure to stock up. —L.M.L. // 607 Bridgeway (Sausalito), sausalitoshop.com/munchies
The Best Shopping in Sausalito
About five years ago, I made a rather impetuous decision to stop living like a college student. I dumped all my Ikea dinnerware at the local Goodwill and stocked my shelves soon thereafter exclusively with Heath Ceramics. It cost me three freelance checks, but I've never regretted it. The brand's midcentury design heritage, plus the glorious heft of each lovingly handcrafted piece, elevate even burnt Pop Tarts. I often swing by the Sausalito factory to browse the seconds—priced at a 20 percent discount, whatever imperfections they may have are likely too small to notice. Just chalk it up to wabi-sabi. I do.—L.M.L. // Book in advance for free factory tours, offered at 11:15am on Fridays and 11:45am on Saturdays and Sundays; 400 Gate Five Rd. (Sausalito), heathceramics.com/sausalito.
Treasure hunters will love this quirky antique shop, hidden on Caledonia Street and stuffed to ceiling with memorabilia like old vases, porcelain, flags, vinyls, books, paintings, and furniture. The owner, for whom the shop is named, also displays and sells his own paintings inspired by nature and his travels. You can take a virtual tour of his studio here. —A.K. // 333 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), johnwilmer.com
Part spacious studio, part eclectic shop, and part events space with an outdoor lounge, Studio 333 is a good place to pop in for a cocktail party or trunk show and to admire work from local designers. Keep an eye out for works from local artists, including the colorful glass objects Kathleen Walbridge and mixed media pieces by Kerri Warner. Looking for a fab spot to host your next fete? Inquire about rates and availability here. Also stop by the downtown Sausalito outpost of Studio 333 for upscale souvenirs (hats, jewelry, soaps, candles) all made by local artists. — A.K. // 333 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), studio333.info
While Natasha Kolenko's studio isn't technically open to shoppers, we recommend you take a peek at her website and Instagram for some serious floral magic. Kolenko arrangements, defined by their mix of modern and whimsical elements as seen in asymmetrical arrangement of delicate peonies above, are showstopping accents for any occasion. —A.K. // 225 Locust (Sausalito), natashakolenko.com
If you're in the market for a lovely piece of handmade jewelry, check out local designer Sarah Swell's shop for baubles with a sightly rugged feel inspired by California nature. Each creation takes up to four weeks to make, but a one-of-a-kindhammered band is worth the wait. Also shop a selection of fine home goods, including Brooklyn-made wall hangings and candles crafted in Maine. — A.K. // Tuesdays through Saturdays, 215 Caledonia St #102 (Sausalito), sarahswell.com
The atelier and showroom of fashion-design duo Jill Giordano and Brian Scheyer offers a behind-the-scenes peek into the process of making clothes. Gr.Dano's women's collection is "architecturally inspired," with mostly solid colors and cleans lines that guarantee garments will be timeless and suited for any occasion. — A.K. // 42 Caledonia St. (Sausalito), grdano.com
Hikes, Beaches + More Ways to Play in Sausalito
Morning Sun Trail
Rise, shine, and arrive at the trailhead for a short but steep 0.3-mile climb to one of the Bay Area's best views of the sunrise, looking east toward Angel Island. —Trevor Felch // hikingproject.com
Post sunrise hike, savor the early morning (read: fewer tourists) at Bridgeway's Vina del Mar Park at the heart of town with a lovely fountain, statues, and palm trees to greet the ferry. The adjacent Cascais Plaza opened in June 2018 with a special focal point: a calçada compass rose mosaic donated by Sausalito's sister city, Cascais, in Portugal. // sausalito.gov
On most days, the bay is calm enough for a nice stand-up paddle excursion. While hardcore surfers sneer at SUPers, the leisurely sport is a great workout. If you attempt even the simplest yoga asanas on the board, you'll soon appreciate how much your core is at work. Yes, you'd rather be doing this on the warm waters off Maui's Wailea coast or on the Riviera Nayarit in Mexico, but trust us, Sausalito ain't too shabby. Rent boards or take classes from Sea Trek. — L.M.L. // 2100 Marinship Way (Sausalito), seatrek.com
Granted, you could just walk across the street from the Mansion at Casa Madrona to stroll along the waterfront and cringe at the overseas barge-fulls of, um, crap that's being shamelessly peddled to tourists with vacation money burning holes in their pockets. Barring such relentless bad taste, it's a perfectly lovely stroll. But, for the winning combination of wilderness and walking (or jogging), drive just 10 minutes to Tennessee Valley, for a 1.7-mile hoof to the ocean, with nary a kitschy snowglobe or etched cheeseboard in sight. —L.M.L. // nps.gov/tennessee_valley
If you haven't seen the floating homes, you haven't been to Sausalito. Perched on pontoons and connected with jetties full of plants and DIY art, Sausalito's famous houseboats comprise one of the most unique neighborhoods around. While some are gated off, several of the piers are open for a stroll to peepers—just be sure to respect the natives. For a closer look, mark your calendars for September 24, 2016, when the Floating Homes Association hosts its annual tour, complete with guided presentations and snacks . —A.K. // 1 Issaquah Dock (Sausalito), floatinghomes.org
Marine Mammal Center
This nonprofit in the Marin Headlands researches, rescues, and rehabilitates marine mammals—mainly seals, sea lions, and otters—from all over Northern and Central California. Docent-led tours ($10, Fridays through Mondays) will teach you more about monk seals than visiting an aquarium ever will. There are also opportunities to "adopt" the rescued animals as well as to volunteer. —Trevor Felch // 2000 Bunker Rd., Fort Chronkhite (Sausalito), marinemammalcenter.org
You're probably not going to be tempted to swim at Rodeo Beach—water temps hover around 55 degrees—but you'll be plenty distracted by the scenery: a lagoon, funky rocks that jut gracefully out of the water, old military forts on the surrounding hilltops, and uniquely colorful minerals shining in the sand at your feet. —Trevor Felch // parksconservancy.org
(Courtesy of Marin CVB)
Located just one famous bridge away from a world-class city, Marin County is the Bay Area's outdoor entertainment center for those who like blue skies. For more information, go to visitmarin.org. Thank you to our partners at Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau.