Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco

The #1 San Francisco Tourist Attraction


Fisherman's Wharf is the most popular San Francisco attraction. Then why do the natives avoid it like the plague?

This place has some kind of magnetic effect on our visitors that has us San Franciscans scratching our heads. We only come here when we have guests from out of town who drag us down here. But there are so many people from all over the world really love Fisherman's Wharf. What's the truth about this place?

fishermans wharf view
Fisherman's Wharf Area

Originally Fisherman's Wharf was the dock where the Italian fishermen brought their daily catch to be sold on the waterfront. This was the best place to get fresh seafood, right out of the bay. Clams, oysters, mussels and many different kinds of fish were brought in on the small fishing boats to supply the residents with food. Part of the catch was boiled, grilled or steamed right here on the wharf for hungry citizens.

And that part is still true. You can still enjoy some great fresh seafood at the stands along the wharf. Clam chowder, crab legs, steamed mussels, just pulled out of the water...delicious!

fishermans wharf san francisco marina fishing boats
Fishing Boats in the Fisherman's Wharf Marina

Fisherman's Wharf has become a playground for tourists, and that's OK. The tacky T-shirt and souvenir shops are there, of course, but there's also a lot of really fun things to do. The wharf area has a festive atmosphere that is rather contagious and I've actually been having a great time doing "research" for this site!

panorama of fishermans wharf, san francisco
View of the Waterfront from the Highrise Apartments

Things To Do at Fisherman's Wharf


  • Eat fresh seafood
  • Browse the shops
  • Take a bay cruise
  • Climb on old ships
  • Explore weird museums
  • Watch the street entertainers
  • Tour the aquarium
  • Watch the sea lions
  • And, of course, watch for the Bush Man

Pretty much everything is located along a few blocks of Jefferson Street, the main drag of Fisherman's Wharf.

fishermans wharf pier map with trolley stops

Catch of the Day

There are rows of stands where you can buy fresh seafood - crabs, fried fish, mussels, and more. Keep an eye out for the thieving sea gulls if you walk around with it.

fishermans wharf san francisco crab stands
Fresh Crab at the Wharf

You wouldn't think restaurants geared for serving large large numbers of tourists would be very good, but there are actually some with excellent food.

Fisherman's Wharf Restaurants

A couple of my favorites:

Cioppino's, serving a delicious version of their signature dish, cioppino (seafood stew in a tomato base). I had the best polenta I've ever had there, and the spaghetti carbonara was wonderfully rich and tasty as well. 400 Jefferson Street.

fishermans wharf san francisco restaurant cioppinos
Cioppino's Restaurant

Scomas: expensive, often a wait, but the food is scrumptious and they have a gorgeous view of the bay. From Jefferson Street next to Castanola's restaurant (near Jones Street), go down Al Scoma Way (looks like an alley next to the marina) to Pier 47. They validate parking for the Triangle Parking Lot at Taylor and Jefferson: 2 hours free 10 to 6, 3 hours free 6 pm till midnight. Reserve online at scomas.com, or call 415 771-4384.

SF Bay Cruises

These are great fun: a perfect way to see the bay, sail out under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island. One of my favorite things to do at the wharf.

san francisco bay cruise
Alcatraz, on a Bay Cruise

Both the Red and White Ferries and the Blue and Gold Ferries leave from piers at Fisherman's Wharf, as do the small fishing boats.

For lots more information and tips about getting out on the water, see SF Bay Cruises.

If you want to take the Alcatraz cruise where you get off the boat and explore Alcatraz prison, see my suggestions on visiting Alcatraz.

Alcatraz sold-out? Fear not. See how to get last-minute Alcatraz tickets.

Pier 39

Pier 39, the last pier in the Fisherman's Wharf area, is a mecca for shopping, entertainment and eating, and the goofy sea lions are there. Created for visitors, it is touristy, but it's got lots to offer. I've spent many enjoyable hours there.

fishermans wharf san francisco pier 39
Pier 39

The sea lions have colonized the marina right next to Pier 39; get a close-up view of them lolling on the docks!

fishermans wharf san francisco sea lions battle
Pier 39 Sea Lions

For tips on what to see and do there, see Pier 39.

Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco's aquarium at Pier 39 focuses on the wildlife of SF Bay, the folks living just off the dock. It's located at the entrance to Pier 39, and worth a visit. Sharks, otter colonies, and more. (The other SF aquarium is in the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.)

fishermans wharf san francisco aquarium of the bay
Coral Reef at the Aquarium

Entertainment

We're not talking high-brow; this is the waterfront, after all.

Weird Museums

Museé Mechanique is my favorite. Over 100 vintage mechanical games from the turn of the century, and some familiar electronic arcade games from the 1980's; you can play them for a quarter. An amazing collection and lots of fun. For all the details about the museum, see Museé Mechanique.

fishermans wharf san francisco musee mechanique
Museé Mechanique

Others "Museums"

There are also these three, all in the 100 block of Jefferson Street:

  • Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
  • Ripley's Believe It Or Not
  • San Francisco Dungeon

More Weirdness

It wouldn't be San Francisco without some serious oddballs.

fishermans wharf san francisco odd entertainer
No Comment

fishermans wharf san francisco hare krishnas
They're Baaack

fishermans wharf san francisco michael jackson
Michael's Back, Too

And of course, the Bush Man

fishermans wharf san francisco bush man

This is actually Bush Man II. The original Bush Man of San Francisco, Gregory Jacobs, passed away in February of 2014, after entertaining (and scaring) people at Fisherman's Wharf for over 30 years.

The current Bush Man, David Johnson, is carrying on the tradition. Schadenfreude lives. Watch out for a bush that shouldn't be there!

Explore the Historic Ships

There are two piers with historic ships you can climb around on for a modest entry price.

Hyde Street Pier

At the western end of Fisherman's Wharf is the Hyde Street Pier, with it's row of vintage ships. The three-masted Schooner is an interesting one to explore; you can see it in the photo at the top of this page.

Pier 45

At Pier 45, two U.S. Navy ships used in World War II are open to the public: a submarine, the USS Pampanito, and the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, one of the only two liberty ships still in existence.

It's fascinating to crawl through the submarine and see the small quarters men lived in for weeks at a time.

fishermans wharf submarine uss pampanito
SS Jeremiah O'Brien & USS Pampanito

The Two Faces of the Wharf

This is part of why Fisherman's Wharf gets a bad reputation:

fishermans wharf tacky shops
Not Pretty

But look the other way and you see a different world:

fishermans wharf pier 39 view
View of the Bay From Pier 39

Getting to Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is very accessible via public transportation; given the parking situation, that may be the best way to come.

Jefferson Street is where most of the action is.

bart to pier 33 map, alcatraz, fishermans wharfMap data (c) OpenStreetMap (and) contributors, CC-BY-SA

Muni Streetcars

The F-line vintage street cars that run all along the surface of Market street through the downtown go all the way out to Fisherman's Wharf. There are several stops along Jefferson Street, starting at Pier 39. Takes about 15 minutes from the end of Market Street, the Embarcadero stop.

From Union Square you can walk down Powell Street to Market and catch it there.

(Also see Map of F-Market Line and Bart Stations for the entire F-Line route).


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Insider Tip:


The F-line streetcars at Fisherman's Wharf can get extremely crowded, especially during the summer months. Leaving Fisherman's Wharf heading back towards Market Street or the Alcatraz Ferry?

The stop at Jones Street just off Jefferson is the end of the line, and the beginning as well. Everyone has to get off there, then it pulls forward a little and people can get on. That's the best spot to catch the trolley. If you try and get on at a later stop, there is a good chance the tram will be full and you won't be able to get on, or at best you will be really jammed in.

best stop to get on streetcar at fishermans wharf


Cable Cars

The two cable car lines that end at Fisherman's Wharf both start at Powell and Market.

The Powell-Hyde line ends at Beach Street near Aquatic Park and the Buena Vista Cafe, and the Powell-Mason line ends on Bay Street, about three blocks above the wharf (see map above).

fishermans wharf cable car
Powell-Hyde Cable Car Arriving at Fisherman's Wharf

Buses

There are four bus lines (19, 30, 47 and 49) that go to Fisherman's Wharf from different spots on Market Street. See maps links below.

City Transportation Maps

If you want the complete transportation picture, check out the transit map for bus, streetcar, BART and cable car routes in the downtown and Fisherman's Wharf areas. You can download the map at Downtown Transportation Map.

To check out the route for a specific bus, streetcar or cable car route, including live info on where the buses are on the route, go to route maps, click on "Live Map", and scroll down to the route you are interested in. Pretty cool!

A very handy website for getting around on public transportation in the Bay Area is 511.org. See how to get from point A to point B on their trip planner. Just plug in your beginning and ending locations. Also, you can get all the bus schedules here. Note: SFMTA is the bus and streetcar system.

Getting to Fisherman's Wharf from BART

If you are coming in on BART, it's easy to get to Fisherman's Wharf. Get off at any of the stops along Market Street (Embarcadero stop would be the most efficient), come up to the surface of Market Street and find the nearest trolley (F-line streetcar) stop. There's a streetcar stop at Embarcadero.

Fare for adults on the F-line is $2.25, exact change required. Ages 5-17, and 65 and over, is $0.75.

Parking at Fisherman's Wharf

Driving to the wharf is pretty easy, but parking is a bear anywhere near this area. Forget street parking. There are several parking garages at the wharf; they are expensive, but the one next to Pier 39 does give one or two free hours with validation, as do the coupons available at Pier 39 (see the Pier 39 page for details).

There are quite a few parking lots and garages a short walking distance away along the Embarcadero; see Embarcadero parking a map and details.

Parking tip: park free at Fort Mason next door to the wharf (going towards the Golden Gate). Some are two hour and others are four hour spots. It's about a fifteen minute walk to the wharf. Entry on Bay Street near Van Ness Avenue.


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Insider Tip:

Inside the magazine racks at Fisherman's Wharf, there are two free publications that are very useful:

  • Fisherman's Wharf Map: very-detailed map that shows the attractions, stores, hotels and transit stops.
  • Bay City Guide: info on the attractions, restaurants and tours. Plus maps of the city, Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, Golden Gate Park, BART, F-line, and ferries.

Also, both publications are full of coupons to save money on lots of the attractions and tours associated with Fisherman's Wharf (and beyond).


fishermans wharf free map
bay city guide


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