Explore the fascinating highlights & history of San Francisco Wharf & Maritime National Park with this entertaining, educational, point-by-point Waypoint Tour - your personal tour guide for San Francisco travel adventure.
San Francisco Wharf & Maritime Park Tour
1 San Francisco
2 Pier 39
4 Fisherman's Wharf
5 USS Pampanito
6 Jeremiah O'Brien Ship
7 The Cannery
8 Maritime Park
9 Eureka Ferry
10 Hercules Boat
11 Alma Schooner
12 Balclutha Ship
13 Eppleton Hall Boat
14 C.A. Thayer Schooner
15 Cable Cars
16 Ghirardelli Square
17 Maritime Museum
18 Fort Mason
Welcome to beautiful San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park! The San Francisco Bay is the largest inlet on the California coast, covering an expanse 60 miles long and 12 miles wide. Actually an estuary containing a mix of fresh and salt water, the San Francisco Bay is fed by 16 rivers that flow through it and out into the Pacific Ocean. The composition of the Bay is what causes the famed San Francisco fog. When a northwesterly wind blows in from the coast, it stirs up the California current. This current mixes with the warm air on the surface and forms the fog. Home to several microclimates, the 49 square miles of San Francisco are largely unpredictable, and it is not uncommon to experience a change in temperature from one street to the next. Mark Twain is said to have observed: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."
The most visible landmark in this area is the Golden Gate Bridge, which traverses the two miles between the Bay’s coasts and connects the Marin headlands to San Francisco. Construction was completed in 1937 and, at that time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Its twin suspension towers each measured 746 feet and were the highest of any structure west of New York City. Despite the competition from the larger and more trafficked Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Oakland, Golden Gate Bridge still remains the icon of the San Francisco Bay.
During the gold rush of the mid-1800s, San Francisco was home to people from all four corners of the earth hoping to strike it rich. It was this diverse population that has given this area its unique and colorful flavor. Rich with history, culture and excitement, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Maritime Park are legendary, and definitely a one-of-a-kind experience.
Fort Mason & Marina Green
As part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Fort Mason has come a long way since its days in the military. In use for over 200 years, the fort was a major point of troop deployment during World War II and the Korean War. Always used for practical purposes, Fort Mason even served as a refugee camp for victims of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906.
Called Fort Mason since 1882, the location at Point San Jose, as this area was known, was originally little more than a field of sand dunes. Following the Spanish American War, however, the military realized the need for its own shipping facility on the San Francisco waterfront.
As the United States began establishing a presence in the Pacific, Fort Mason’s shallow cove was soon home to three piers and four warehouses. By World War II, the fort was the headquarters for the San Francisco Port of Embarkation and over 20 million tons of cargo and more than a million troops were deployed through here. Fort Mason loaded ships like the Liberty Jeremiah O'Brien, which can now be seen at Pier 45. Also active through the Korean War and the early 1960s, Fort Mason ceased transportation depot operations in 1964.
In 1972, due to legislation introduced and supported by Congressman Phil Burton, Ft. Mason and 34,000 acres of shore land were designated as a National Park. Known as the Golden Gate Recreation Area, it became the largest urban National Park in the world. As chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Phil Burton set a record for designating and protecting the nation’s parks, wilderness areas, and wild and scenic rivers. His National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 has been called the most sweeping piece of environmental legislation ever to pass Congress. While visiting Fort Mason, you can see a statue dedicated to Congressman Burton that has an inspiring backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge. Another must-see statue at Fort Mason’s Great Meadow is the Peace statue by Italian artist Benjamin Bufano, featuring a child within a larger statue which represents the peaceful blending of cultures.
Today Fort Mason Center, located in the historic piers and buildings of Lower Fort Mason, houses more than 40 nonprofit organizations, and is the setting for more than 15,000 meetings, conferences, performances, and special events each year. The Fort Mason Foundation is developing this unique cultural, educational, and recreational center in partnership with the National Park Service.
The San Francisco Bay front is rich with history and culture. It provides a glimpse into our past by giving us a historical perspective on commerce, trade, exploration, immigration and military endeavors. Given the diverse foundation upon which San Francisco is built, the area from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason is alive with the echo of days gone by, and filled with promises of times yet to come.