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
Map data (c) OpenStreetMap and contributors, CC-BY-SA

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

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.
1965 Al Scoma Way, Pier 47.

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.

Note: I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through some of the links on this page, at no extra cost to you. This helps me provide all the free information I post on this website.

Boat Tours From the Wharf

A number of boat rides and bay cruises leave from Fisherman's Wharf.

Tip: Goldstar often has half-priced tickets for many of the bay cruises and other SF activities. Check with them first before booking a tour. It's free to sign up, then you can see what's available. See goldstar.com.

Some popular boat tours:

  • Blue and Gold Ferry. Sail out under the Golden Gate and around Alcatraz. One hour, $27.99 ($3 off if booked online). See Bay Cruise
  • Adventure Cat. Sail the same route on a catamaran. 90 minutes, audio tour in 7 languages, drinks on board. $45. See Sailing Cruise
  • Rocket Boat. High speed, rock and roll, 30 minutes of zooming around the bay. Go under the Bay Bridge, and past AT&T Park. $28. See Rocket Boat.

For lots more information on the boats and tips about getting out on the water, see my page on 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.

San Francisco Bay Ferries

The Blue and Gold Fleet ferries leave from Fisherman's Wharf at Pier 41. You can take the ferry to Sausalito and explore the seaside village, or take the ferry to Tiburon, another pretty town on the bay.

The ferry to Angel Island leaves from here, too. (Plus the ferries to Oakland (Jack London Square), Alameda and Vallejo (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom).

For info on what to do and see on Angel Island (that big island in the middle of the bay), see my page on Angel Island.

Should you book the ferry in advance? No, you don't need reservations on the ferries. They don't fill up, and they have frequent departure times. The Blue and Gold ticket booth on Fisherman's Wharf is just to the left of Pier 39. See Blue & Gold Fleet for schedules and fees.

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, run by a non-profit organization. (The other SF aquarium, the Steinhart 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

It's $2 off to book online through City Sightseeing. See Aquarium of the Bay.

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, located at Pier 45. 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

The Dungeon is kind of fun, in a campy sort of way. It does give you an interesting glimpse into San Francisco's darker history. The acting is a bit hammy and the audience has to participate, but it's got some good scares in it.

I wouldn't recommend it for younger children, both for the scare-you-in-the-dark aspect and some racy situations. It is definitely creepy. My 25-year-old son enjoyed it more than I did, and wants to go again; judging by the reviews, most people seem to enjoy it.

You don't need reservations, but sometimes you can get some deals by buying tickets online. You can get a two-for-one deal (Dungeon plus Madame Tussauds), and discounts on the Dungeon, on the SF Dungeon website.


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.

The liberty ship was used in the filming of the Titanic. The scene with the water flooding the boiler room was shot on the ship.

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

The SS Jeremiah O'Brien is still a functional ship. You can go sailing on the ship on one of it's periodic trips. They don't sail often, but it would be quite an experience. I've watched it sailing around the bay and under the Bay Bridge during Fleet Week. See their sailing schedule.

Action!

Some of the more active tours leave from Fisherman's Wharf, as well.

Go Cars

The Go Cars, the little yellow cars with the self-guided GPS city tours, have a rental office here. Their other office for renting the cars is downtown. Having rented their cars at both locations, I can say it's a lot easier traffic-wise to do it from Fisherman's Wharf.

You can read an account of what our two Go Car experiences were like. We tried out both routes (and did something kind of dumb...oops) but had a great time. I posted images of the Blue and Red Route maps, so you can see where they go (going down Lombard Street was great!). See my page on the Go Cars.

For booking the Go Cars, go here. It's $5 off to book online.

Segway Tours

There are a couple of Segway tours of the waterfront and North Beach (which is right next door): a one hour tour and a two hour tour.

Bike Rentals

Bay City Bikes has bike rental offices at three locations on Fisherman's Wharf: 501 Bay Street, 2661 Taylor Street, and 2830 Jones Street.

One of the most popular things to do here is renting a bike and riding across the Golden Gate Bridge, then downhill to Sausalito, and taking the Sausalito Ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf. Gorgeous views, and not a difficult ride.

You can rent bikes for several hours or for the day; they have self-guided tours and city maps for the riders. You can save $2 on the all-day rentals by booking online. See bike rentals.

Tips to save money...

The attractions at Fisherman's Wharf can add up, but if you plan to see several things or go on various tours, you can save some money by using one of the passes. Takes a bit of wading to look at all of these!


The Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours

If you are planning a city tour, and want to see several attractions, the City Sightseeing Mega Pass is an option.

The Mega Pass gives you 1, 2 or 3 days on the Hop On Hop Off bus which takes you all over the city with a tour guide, and lets you choose from some of the most popular attractions. Fisherman's Wharf is one of their stops. It gives you easy city transportation, as well.

The list of attractions includes lots of the Fisherman's Wharf activities: the Bay Cruise, Rocket Boat, Go Cars, bike rental, Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Dungeon, Madame Tussauds, 7D Experience, Angel Island Ferry, Sausalito Ferry. Plus lots of other fun things like the Academy of Sciences, Exploratorium, Muir Woods tour or Sausalito tour.

See Mega Pass for booking details. It's $5 off to book online.

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
Map data (c) OpenStreetMap and contributors, CC-BY-SA


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 $2.75, exact change required. For ages 5-18, and 65+, it's $1.35.

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 #1: parking apps like Parking Panda and Spot Hero are handy tools that allows you to view the parking garages near Fisherman's Wharf and reserve a guaranteed space ahead of time. You can check online for the best prices and availability, and not have to worry about the garage being full or paying an arm and leg once you get there. The Fisherman's Wharf area garages can fill up during the high season.

Parking tip #2: park free at Fort Mason next door to the wharf (west side, towards the Golden Gate). Some are two-hour and others are four-hour spots. There aren't a lot of spaces, so it's sort of hit or miss, but sometimes it can work out. 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


In the Area...



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