Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sights of Fisherman's Wharf, 5/14/2016

The traffic around Fisherman's Wharf is awful on a Saturday in May! All of the public parking lots were full so we finally ended up parking at a garage near the Aquarium of the Bay that cost $40 for an unlimited amount of time. The public parking lots are $3 for every 15 minutes to a maximum daily amount of $45. Some restaurants, however, can validate your parking ticket providing you with 3 hours of free parking. Therefore, my advice is arrive early, park in one of the public lots, and plan to eat here. And there are oh-so-many fabulous restaurants specializing in seafood, of course!

We always enjoy checking out marinas when we are on the water. Our doggy, Sadie, enjoys it too!

Alcatraz Island can be seen from the wharf and is only 1.25 miles away. The first development on the island was a lighthouse and then a military prison in 1868. Alcatraz was a federal prison from 1933 to 1963, housing many well-known criminals of the era. The cold, shark-infested, turbulent waters of the San Francisco Bay kept prisoner plans to escape at a minimum. There is but one legendary, unsubstantiated, story of a successful escape.

Tours to the island (including the abandoned federal prison) are available from Pier 33. Today the island is managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It boasts the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the US.

On the south side of Pier 39 are the world-famous sea lions that began gathering here in 1989 after the Loma Prieta earthquake. With a plentiful supply of herring, some make this their year round home while others migrate south in the summer. In November, 2009, there were a record 1,700 sea lions on the docks here. These animals are smart, playful and you can hear their noisy "barking" before you see them. Males normally weigh about 850 pounds and are 7' long; females 220 pounds and 6' long. 

The Pier 42 Ferry Arch was originally built in 1914 to hoist railroad cars on and off of ferries for the Belt Railroad. It was also the departure point for prisoners bound for Alcatraz in later years. 

There are lots of street musicians in the area that draw large crowds. This unique guy is a self-described one-man band playing a guitar, base guitar, drums, etc., at the same time while singing well-known tunes.  

The San Francisco Maritime Park is located at Pier 45 and is home to the USS Pampanito Submarine and the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien. The crew of eighty aboard the Pampanito would sometimes go 2-3 months without a shower! There is also a memorial to the 52 submarines and their crews that were lost during WWII. John's dad served on a submarine in the Atlantic Theatre while in the Navy during WWII. I always find myself imagining what it must have been like to be in such a confined space, underwater, in one word, terrifying!

The Jeremiah O'Brien was on of the Liberty Ships of WWII. The Liberty Ships were built by high school students, black men and women from the south, immigrants, and women from all walks of life. It is one of the identical 2,710 ships built during WWII from 1941 to 1943 with the goal to build them faster than the Germans could sink them. They were designed in Great Britain but mass produced in the US. One could be built from keel to launch in just 60 days! This is the only one that remains of the historic Battle of Normandy. In 1994, the Jeremiah O'Brien sailed to France to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the victory and those that lost their lives on the beaches. 


With so many restaurants to chose from, we decided to eat at Alioto's where there was outdoor seating (so Sadie could join us). My clam chowder, sourdough bread, and crab sandwich was great (and a nice California white wine). John's fish and chips was a little underdone for him, but it tasted great.

There are plenty of museums with their employees standing outside trying to entice you to enter. Below is a Transformer at the entrance of the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum and a wax figure of Jackie Chan outside of Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum. We were not enticed....

The Cannery San Francisco is a historic remodel building about three blocks from Pier 39. It was a food cannery and warehouse for Del Monte Foods beginning in 1907 for 30 years. At the time it was the largest fruit and vegetable cannery in the world with 2,500 employees productions 200,000 cans of Del Monte brand food per day. The 4-star Argonaut Hotel, retails stores, and restaurant and bars are now here. 

The Powell-Hyde Cable Car line begins at Market Street, stops at Union Square, and ends near Ghirardelli Square at Fisherman's Wharf. There was a very long line to ride to ride it when we were here Saturday afternoon

Dominigo Ghirardelli purchased an entire city block in 1893 as the headquarters and primary manufacturing site for his chocolate products. When the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was purchased in 1960, the buildings were purchased by local investors and converted into restaurant and retail space. The iconic Clock Tower houses the main chocolate shop today on the first floor.

We walked down to the beach at the Aquatic Park where the Maritime Museum and the South End Rowing Clubhouse can be found. South End Rowing Club was founded in 1873 and has produced world-class athletes in rowing, handball, swimming and running and exists today. We were astonished to see at least 8 people swimming in the bay (without wet suits!) Some have become well known by swimming the English Channel and by swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco...both amazing feats.  

From the beach we were able to see the Balclutha, a steel-hulled, full-rigged ship built in 1886 in Scotland. She was acquired in 1954 by the San Francisco Maritime Musem and subsequently restore. 

At this point we were ready to head home, but I made one last stop when I saw that the National Park Service has a Visitor Center for the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. During our travels I have really come to appreciate the well-curated exhibits found in many of the National Park Service sites.  

There is sooooo much to see at Fisherman's Wharf...this post covers only the things we stopped to see as we meandered through the area. After John and Sadie patiently waited for me to visit the Golden Gate NRA Visitor Center, we made our way back to the car and our current home in Novato, CA.

You can pick up a map of Fisherman's Wharf pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area. It is a huge tourist attraction. But it also appears to be a place where locals go to enjoy the food, shopping, entertainment, and an afternoon of fun along the water. I don't think any visit to San Francisco is complete without grabbing a bite to eat here.

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