North America - 19 min read

Fisherman’s Wharf, SF Travel Guide (Activities, Restaurants, Parking)

Jessica Langille

Jessica Langille, Updated October 26, 2022

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Are you looking for family-friendly attractions in San Francisco? Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the best tourist attractions in the city that has fun for all ages.

This area has waterfront restaurants, unique museums, an aquarium, and other fun attractions. It’s also where you can find Pier 39. A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete unless you visit Fisherman’s Wharf.

There is a lot to see and do at Fisherman’s Wharf. If it’s your first time visiting, you may not know where to begin. The best time to visit San Fran is from September to November.

Today, we’ll discuss everything you should know for a great trip to Fisherman’s Wharf. We will discuss some of the best attractions, the history of the wharf, and nearby accommodations. Keep reading to learn more.

Is Fisherman’s Wharf In San Francisco Safe?

Fisherman’s Wharf is generally a safe area to visit. It’s a trendy tourist area, and many of the visitors bring children along with them. San Francisco has a very low crime rate, with Fisherman’s Wharf being one of the safest places in the city.

That being said, the area is known to have car break-ins. If you leave your vehicle in the parking area for the day, always make sure the doors are locked. You should also avoid keeping valuable items in your vehicles while you’re at the wharf. This will reduce your chances of a break-in.

A Little History Of Fisherman’s Wharf

OpenSFHistory

One of the reasons that Fisherman’s Wharf is such a popular tourist attraction is because of its history. There was an earthquake and fire in 1906 that caused a lot of damage to parts of San Francisco. The wharf was created from the rubble of the buildings that were destroyed during this disaster.

It’s not just the accident that caused this wharf that makes this place interesting. There is a lot of history behind this wharf, which makes it important to the community.

Fishing Fleet History

The fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf have been passed down through the generations. Today’s fishing fleet is organized by the grandsons of previous fishermen. It’s a business that has remained family-orientated and is viewed as the heart of the wharf.

In the early days, the fishing fleet mainly consisted of lateen-rigged sailboats. The following generation of the fleet introduced more boats with gasoline-powered engines. However, the third generation of fishing fleets consists of fishing boats with diesel engines and modern technology.

Cable Cars History

San Francisco is famous for cable cars. Tourists look forward to going for a ride on one when they visit the city. The cable car was designated a historic landmark of San Francisco in 1964. There are still cable cars in operation today and Fisherman’s Wharf is on its route.

The idea for cable cars goes all the way back to 1869. After Andrew Hallidie (an engineer) witnessed an accident with horses and a carriage, he came up with the idea. His goal was to eliminate animal cruelty in the transportation industry. While there were some difficulties with financing, the project finally came to life in 1873 with the first running cable car.

49-Mile Scenic Drive History

The Downtown Association of San Francisco created the 49-Mile Scenic Drive in 1938. San Francisco has always been a beautiful city. The goal of this drive was to attract more travelers to the city by highlighting some of the best parts. Along this drive, people can see attractions like Cathedral Hill and Jackson Square, among many more.

Dungeness Crabs History

Dungeness Crabs celebrates harvest season for crab fishermen. Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for its fresh seafood. One shellfish that’s extremely popular in the community is crab. The fishing season for crab typically starts towards the middle of November. It’s a tradition for a priest to come and bless the fleet before they take off for crab fishing season.

Locals look forward to the first fishing fleet of crab season. The first harvest gives them a sneak peek at what they can expect for the season.

Bayside History Walk

The Bayside History Walk features historic signs along the water. If you want to learn more about the location’s history, the historic walks are one of the most enjoyable ways. These signs showcase what makes the Fisherman’s Wharf community so special.

One thing people notice right away about these signs is the numbers. As you’re walking, you’ll notice the numbers aren’t in a sequence. Instead, they are numbered by category. Some of the topics you can learn about from these historic signs include Building The Seawall, Italy Harbor, Tides of Shrimp, Saving The Bay, and more.

What To Do At Fisherman’s Wharf

People of all ages can find fun activities at Fisherman’s Wharf. There’s a diverse selection of attractions and activities to keep visitors entertained. You won’t get bored when you spend the day here. In fact, there’s enough to do to keep visitors busy for days.

Shopping

There are ample shopping opportunities at Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39 is one of San Francisco’s shopping hotspots with many unique stores to visit. However, you will be able to find a lot of interesting shops and boutiques throughout the wharf area. This includes shops like Christmas in San Francisco, Anchorage Square, and Ghirardelli Square.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll enjoy the variety of candy shops at Fisherman’s Wharf. At the Ghirardelli Square shopping center, you’ll be able to find the Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience and the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream 7 Chocolate Shop. Along Beach Street, you’ll be able to find Ghirardelli Chocolate On-The-Go.

Real Old Paper is a must-see shop if you’re visiting Fisherman’s Wharf. This shop specializes in curated posters from pictures taken by photographers around the world. The shop owner has gathered every single photo used on the posters from his trips throughout the world.

To find a list of stores at Fisherman’s Wharf, check out their website!

Museums

Fisherman’s Wharf is an excellent destination for a curious mind. There are several museums in the area that cover different niches. The area also has an art gallery, the Cannery Gallery at the Academy of Art University, showcasing pieces by local talent. If you enjoy art, you can also feel like a kid again at the Cartoon Art Museum.

There is a Madame Tussauds museum, where you can enjoy the wax figures of well-known celebrities. Visitors can also stop in at the Truhlsen-Marmor Museum of the Eye and the Musee Mecanique.

Get your tickets to the Madame Tussauds at Fisherman’s Wharf by clicking here!

Umbrella Alley

For an instant mood booster, you should visit Umbrella Alley. This hotspot at Fisherman’s Wharf is bright, colorful, and one of the most eye-catching attractions. You will be able to enjoy several famous murals at Umbrella Alley, including Greetings From San Francisco and California Dreaming.

The coolest attraction at Umbrella Alley is the Summer Of Love Monarch Wall. This colorful mural features a giant 3D monarch butterfly. Visitors come from all over the country to get their picture taken in front of it.

Bike Rentals

There are several companies along Fisherman’s Wharf that provide bike rentals and bike tours. This is a great way to enjoy the sights and keep yourself active. The Bay Bike Trail leads visitors through Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s so much to see along Fisherman’s Wharf and bike tours are one of the best ways to experience it.

So, how do visitors arrange a bike rental? You will have the option of arranging a guided bike tour or a self-guided bike tour on your own schedule. There are two companies at Fisherman’s Wharf that offer bike rentals and tours, Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals & Tours.

To reserve your bike or segway, click here!

Tours

Reason

If it’s your first time visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, a tour is a great way to see what the area has to offer. There are several different types of tours available at Fisherman’s Wharf. Bike tours are the most popular type of tour offered. However, if you want to sit back and enjoy the sights, you can enjoy San Francisco Electric Tour, Big Bus Tours, or GoCar Tours.

Big Bus Tours take people throughout the city of San Francisco. This tour aims to give people the full experience of the city. There are 20 locations that this tour takes visitors to so they can see San Francisco’s best attractions and landmarks.

GoCar Tours is a new way to take a tour of Fisherman’s Wharf and San Francisco. This is one of the most unique city tours in the US. Visitors get to travel in GPS-guided cars as they see the heart of the city. To make this tour even more interesting, the GoCars tell a story as they travel throughout the city. These cars are the first developed story-telling GPS-guided vehicles.

San Francisco Electric Tours takes people on a tour riding segways. Visitors have been enjoying the segway tours since 2004. The tour guides are passionate about what makes San Francisco a unique city. They go the extra mile to make this tour fun and memorable for everyone that comes along.

To book a tour at Fisherman’s Wharf, click here!

Cruise

Another way to enjoy the sights of San Francisco is on a cruise. There are great companies from Fisherman’s Wharf that offer cruise tours.

Red and White Fleet

Red and White Fleet is one of the top cruise companies in San Francisco. There are two different cruises that visitors can choose from, Golden Gate Bay Cruise and Bridge 2 Bridge Tour. Each tour is narrated so visitors don’t miss a thing.

  • Golden Gate Bay Cruise is a 1-hour cruise. This scenic adventure takes visitors between Pier 43 1/2 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Visitors will get to see several landmarks while learning more about the city’s history.
  • The Bridge 2 Bridge Tour is a 1.5 hours cruise. This is a great cruise to consider if you want to learn more about the famous bridges, historic architecture, and geology of the bay area. The tour takes people along the entire waterfront of San Francisco. The highlight is getting to see both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge.

Blue & Gold Fleet

Another amazing cruise company to consider is Blue & Gold Fleet. These cruises are very entertaining for visitors that are interested in hearing more tales of the city’s unique history. They offer 2 different tours, San Francisco By Cruise Adventure and Escape From The Rock Cruise.

  • San Francisco By Cruise Adventure is a 1-hour cruise. This cruise travels along the San Francisco waterfront. Guests can enjoy a narrated tour as they see some of the city’s historic attractions along the water.
  • Escape From The Rock Cruise is a 1.5-hour cruise. This cruise is a great option for true crime buffs. The narrator tells true stories of Alcatraz’s most notorious criminals. Guests can learn about their attempts to escape prison and what landed them there in the first place.

To book a cruise of San Francisco Bay, click here!

Restaurants

There is a great selection of restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf. The best part is, many of them are waterfront. This allows guests to enjoy a mesmerizing view as they enjoy their meals. Of course, you can expect some of the best seafood in California at these restaurants and food stands. The seafood restaurants will have your mouth watering during Dungeness Crab.

Seafood isn’t the only type of food you will find here. There is a cuisine for all cravings here. Fans of Biscoff cookies are in for a treat. Along Pier 39, they can grab a coffee and sweet treat at Biscoff Coffee Corner. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, the dessert shops along Fisherman’s Wharf won’t disappoint. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Experience takes desserts to the next level.

Fisherman’s Wharf is also a great place to find breakfast restaurants. Eight AM Cafe and Eagle Cafe have amazing breakfast menus. These restaurants are a great way to start off a day of fun at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Sea Lion Center

You can’t talk about Fisherman’s Wharf without mentioning the sea lions. If you want to see the sea lions in person, you will need to head over to Pier 39. The winter months are the best months to see these animals. Every winter, the sea lions can be found residing around Pier 39, with more sea lions every winter. It’s estimated over 900 sea lions appear every winter.

During the summer months, they were known to migrate to the Channel Islands. However, over the years, more sea lions have begun to stay at Pier 39 year-round. This allows visitors to spot them during any season that they visit San Francisco.

Escapology

Trip Advisor

Escape games are becoming a popular tourist activity throughout the US. Many popular tourist destinations across the country feature their own take on the escape game. When you visit Fisherman’s Wharf, you can solve your way through Escapology. This premium escape game can be found just between Fisherman’s Wharf and North Beach.

This challenging game tests people’s skills to see if they have what it takes to escape. They will look for clues that will help them solve puzzles. You must solve the puzzle to unlock the locks and escape the game.

To reserve your entry to Escapology, visit their website!

Aquarium Of The Bay

Aquarium of the Bay allows visitors to explore the world of San Francisco Bay. There are over 20,000 sea creatures that you could spot while taking a tour of this fascinating attraction. Guests can walk through clear tunnels where they get to see moon jellies, bat rays, and other sea life swimming overhead.

There’s always something fun going on at the aquarium. They host daily specials, where guests can learn about specific animals, participate in hands-on feeding, and join in discussions about sea creatures and natural resources.

To reserve your tickets to the Aquarium of the Bay, visit their website!

Street Performances

If you plan to visit Pier 39, you could catch a free street performance. There is a stage located at the Bay end of Pier 39, which is right by the sea lions. There are acts scheduled daily, so guests can see something new each time they visit. However, you will have to check out the Pier 39 website to see the schedule for times and acts.

So, what type of street performances can you see here? Nothing is off-limits. You can enjoy musical acts, magicians, jugglers, dancers, acrobats, and even sword swallowing, among many other talents.

The Cheese School Of San Francisco

Locations throughout Fisherman’s Wharf offer many classes for visitors that want to learn more about a particular subject. The most exciting school to book a class at is The Cheese School Of San Francisco. Whether you’re an expert on cheese or simply enjoy a good charcuterie board, you will get a kick out of this place.

If you have the time, you can arrange to take a class at this school. There is also the option to book a tour or enjoy a cheese plate. People love this school because it’s the one place where they can learn by eating. If you’re interested in visiting this school, it’s open Friday through Sunday.

To book a class at the Cheese School of San Francisco, visit their website!

How To Get Around At Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is very easy to get around. Since many of the attractions are nearby each other, visitors can do and see a lot traveling around on foot. After all, there are several hotels, restaurants, and attractions around the wharf to keep visitors entertained. However, if you do want transportation, you will have many methods to choose from.

San Francisco is a very interesting city to visit. There are many attractions throughout the city that people want to visit. If you’re staying at Fisherman’s Wharf, you may be interested in spending a day or two touring San Francisco. We have good news for you! It’s very easy to get to other neighborhoods in San Francisco from Fisherman’s Wharf.

One question we get asked a lot is if you need to rent a car when visiting Fisherman’s Wharf. You won’t need to rent a car if you plan to stay at the wharf for the majority of your visit. However, if you want to see many other places throughout the city, you may find it convenient to use a rental agency.

For transportation that works on your schedule, there are several taxis and ride-share programs in the area. You can also use transit systems, like San Francisco Municipal Transportations Agency, Caltrain, or Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Parking Rules and Costs

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the busiest tourist attractions in San Francisco. If you want to get a good parking spot, you will have to plan accordingly. After all, there are probably a lot of other people that are thinking the exact same thing. While the location may be very busy, there are several parking lots to choose from.

When choosing a parking lot, it’s best to consider which locations you plan on visiting. This will help you choose a parking lot that’s close by. You should also prepare to pay a fee based on how long you park for.

Want to know our secret to make parking less stressful? We use Spot Hero to reserve a parking spot ahead of time. Not only does this guarantee you an available spot, but you can also get discounts and flat rates.

Beach & Hyde Garage

Address: 655 Beach Street | Reserve A Spot: Beach & Hyde Garage

Beach & Hyde Garage is one of the best places to reserve a parking spot. This parking lot is safe, clean, and has better rates than others in the area. You will have the option between street parking and garage parking. If you plan on parking for less than 2 hours, you will use street parking. For parking over 2 hours, you can use the garage parking lot.

Street parking is free if the space is used for 30 minutes or less. For street parking that’s between 30 minutes and 2 hours, the rates vary between $1 to $12. Keep in mind, these rates are only effective from Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, all street parking is free. Prices for garage parking vary from $10 to $20.

Pier 39

Address: 2250 Powell Street | Reserve A Spot: Pier 39

Pier 39 is one of the most visited places along fisherman’s Wharf. If you’re visiting this area, we strongly recommend reserving a spot. This is because you will have the opportunity to get a flat rate discount of $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends.

So, what are the rates if you don’t book ahead? On weekdays, parking rates are $10 per hour or a flat rate of $50. On weekends, the price is $12 per hour with a flat rate of $60. However, if you’re visiting the area just to dine at one of the restaurants, you may be able to arrange 1 free hour of parking. (This deal is only available at participating restaurants)

Visit our article on Pier 39 Parking Rules to get directions, and instructions for the easiest parking experience!

Visitor Tips

  • Don’t bring valuables. This is especially true if you’re using one of the parking garages. If you purchase any valuable items, make sure you leave them at the hotel. This is recommended so your car doesn’t become the target of a break-in.
  • Pack extra layers. Fisherman’s Wharf can get foggy. When this happens, the temperature can significantly drop. Having extra layers with you will help you stay comfortable.
  • Keep your phone out of sight. Picket pocketers are getting more crafty these days. Visitors have had their phones taken just by placing them on the table. Any time you’re not using it, make sure it’s tucked away in a secure area.
  • Bring reusable bags. There’s a 10-cent charge per bag at all shops in San Francisco. While that sounds small, it can add up if you do a lot of shopping.
  • Read the signs at parking areas. Some parking areas have attendants on duty, while others are self-serve.
  • Purchase a pass. Visitors can buy a Clipper Card or multi-day MUNI pass. This is a great way to save time and money on public transportation. you’ll have access to buses, street cars, cable cars, and the ferry.

Hotels Located In Fisherman’s Wharf

Are you looking for a place to stay? There are several hotels located right in Fisherman’s Wharf. You will be able to book a room that’s within walking distance of many of the attractions you want to visit during your stay.

North Point Street is close to Pier 39. There are several great hotels on this street alone. If you plan to spend most of your time along Pier 39, you may want to book a room at Holiday Inn Express and Suites Fisherman’s Wharf, Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square, or Hotel Zoe Fisherman’s Wharf.

Beach Street also has some top-rated hotels to consider. If you want to visit attractions in this area, you’ll be impressed by the hotel choice. There’s the Courtyard by Mariott San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, Hotel Zephyr, and Kimpton Alton Hotel.

How Far Is San Francisco Airport To Fisherman’s Wharf?

It is just over 15 miles from San Francisco Airport to Fisherman’s Wharf. This is approximately a 34-minute drive. If you are not renting a car, the easiest way to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from the airport is by a taxi or rideshare program (like Uber). The average price of this trip is between $35 and $45.

Interested In Other Activities in San Francisco?

Shopping, going to restaurants, and experiencing new attractions with the family can be fun. But if you’re in for something more active, there are some beautiful hikes you can take in San Fran.

And, if you want to stay in a traditional hotel near Pier 39, you can always go for a treehouse rental. Of course you’ll have to find one nearby. While there may not be any in San Fran, we found beautiful ones in San Jose, like this cozy rental.

Well, whatever you end up doing, don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

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