Sausalito, California

Photo: en:User:Squirrel 22 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sausalito.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: en:User:Squirrel 22 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Sausalito.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You just spent the day exploring San Francisco. You rode the cable cars and walked along the waterfront. You browsed the shops in the Ferry Building Marketplace and ate lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant. You explored Golden Gate Park and wandered through the Japanese Tea Garden. Now you want to relax. You’re not the night owl that you used to be, so the clubs and the bars aren’t enticing you to stay in the city.

Sausalito, across San Francisco Bay, is a peaceful alternative. The picturesque town was a shipbuilding center during World War II and a transit hub before the Golden Gate Bridge was built. Wooded hills tumble down to the tidal flats along the shore. It’s now an artsy village with a yacht-filled harbor, houseboats, and small shops. The ferry and water taxis pass Alcatraz Island as they run back and forth to San Francisco. While the views of the city skyline are unmatched, particularly at night. Best of all: there are not one, but three, amazing places to spend the night.

Photo: Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa
Photo: Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa

Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa sits on the hillside overlooking Richardson Bay and Belvedere Island. It was originally built in 1885, turned into a hotel in 1906, and recently renovated to become a comfortable retreat. Hillside cottages have four-poster beds and mahogany furniture. The nautical theme extends to the room’s sea-glass shelves. Plus French doors lead to the balcony and a view of sailboats gliding through the bay. Book a Rosemary Ocean Polish at the spa. Eat Northern Italian dishes, featuring herbs and veggies grown on site, at Poggio Trattoria. Then enjoy the salty air as the water sparkles at sunset.

Photo: cavallo point – the lodge at the golden gate
Photo: cavallo point – the lodge at the golden gate

Your second option is also a historic location. Miwok tribes once lived in Horseshoe Cove. It later became Fort Baker, a U.S. Army post that was active through World War II. The former officers’ residences are now Cavallo Point, a lodge with perfect views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Stay in a historic room with a cozy sitting area and a gas fireplace. Or choose a hillside contemporary room with floor-to-ceiling windows, bamboo furniture, and radiant floor heating for those chilly nights when the fog rolls in. Then join other guests for a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley and watch the bridge light up.

Photo: The Inn Above Tide
Photo: The Inn Above Tide

Or stay directly on the waterfront at the Inn Above Tide right near the ferry terminal. The inn’s concrete-and-timber building was built near an old sea wall. Decks, filled with teak furniture, hang over the water. While Alcatraz and Angel Islands stand in the distance. Go kayaking along the shoreline to see Sausalito from the water. Borrow a bike to ride into the hills for perfect photos of the city. Mingle at the wine-and-cheese reception when you return. Then relax in your king deluxe fireplace room. You’ll be on your balcony, trying to find sea lions and migratory birds through binoculars, until it gets dark.

Tomorrow you might catch a Giants game at AT&T Park, go hiking in Muir Woods, drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, or go wine tasting in Sonoma. But right now, you’re going to relax on your balcony and enjoy this amazing view of San Francisco. The twinkling lights look even better from afar.

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