Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco

posted by Sharon Odegaard 36 Comments
Fishermans Wharf San Francisco

A visit to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco is a must. Of course it’s touristy and can get crowded, but if you go a bit off the main path and venture beyond the official boundaries of Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s lots of fun.

The piers of the wharf were built on the rubble of the 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco. The fishing industry thrived both before and after the earthquake. Many of the boats sitting in the harbor are generations old. Seafood take-aways and restaurants line the street, and Boudin’s bakery and restaurant continue to produce their famous sourdough bread here. Want to get the most out of your time? Besides eating, which is a given, here are a few ways to enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf and the area nearby.

Visit the Ferry Building

Ferry Building San FranciscoThis building opened in 1898 and it’s just what it sounds like – the place where ferries run from the city to points across the bay. It fell into disrepair but was revitalized after the earthquake of 1989 resulted in the modernization of the waterfront. Today the building houses offices and shops. You can pick up coffee and a pastry and wander along. Ferry Building San Francisco The Ferry Building is at Pier 1. From here you can make your way down to Fisherman’s Wharf, which starts at Pier 35.

Hop on a Street Car

You can take a cable car to the wharf, and many folks do. I love taking the Powell-Hyde line from Union Square down to the wharf. The hills give you quite a view as you descend to the bay. Once at the wharf, you can also ride vintage street cars. They’ve been collected from a variety of cities and countries. Look for the signs on the car that tell where they originally ran.  Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoYou can ride from the Ferry Building to any point along the wharf. Enjoy the ride!

Play Games at the Musee Mecanique

This is a newly-opened interactive museum of 20th-century penny arcade games, recently moved to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Located at Pier 45, the museum is free. You can play most of the arcade games for a quarter. Many places to exchange bills for quarters are found throughout the building. More than 300 items are in working condition, collected by one man over decades. Kids who play with electronic devices will find these old machines fascinating. Hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, but the website notes: We will stay open later if the crowds demand it, Fun Doesn’t Sleep! Musee Mecanique Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoMusee Mecanique Fishermans Wharf San FranciscMusee Mecanique Fishermans Wharf San FranciscMusee Mecanique Fishermans Wharf San Francisc

See Chocolate Being Made at Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoThis place is an official San Francisco city landmark! It’s famous sign lights the night and welcomes ships as they arrive at the wharf. The history goes back to when Domingo Ghirardelli moved to San Francisco in 1852 and opened his candy-making factory at what is today known as Ghirardelli Square. The plant was spared damage in the 1906 earthquake, so business has been booming here for more than 160 years. The main factory moved awhile back, but you can still see the basics of the process of turning cacao beans into candy bars. Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoGhirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San Francisco

Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San FranciscoAnd you can still slurp down a hot fudge sundae here. We visited twice in 3 days! Ghirardelli Square Fishermans Wharf San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf offers food, fun, and history. If you can, visit on weekdays to avoid the crowds. You’ll have a great time wandering and exploring here. Fishermans Wharf San FranciscFishermans Wharf San FranciscFishermans Wharf San Francisc


Read More About San Francisco

San Francisco Hidden Gems to Explore
Iconic Hotels of San Francisco
Exploring San Francisco with Kids
Walking the Golden Gate Bridge
Touring Alcatraz
Coit Tower — A San Francisco Landmark
Riding San Francisco’s Cable Cars
San Francisco at Christmastime
Finding the Filbert Stairs







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Su-sieee! Mac at

Once upon a time the Musee Mechanique was by the Cliff House. I loved going there to play the games. I love your SF posts. They get me remembering my life there. 🙂

Esther at

Oh I loved Fishermans wharf when I visited it years ago!! Your photos look beautiful. Found this post via #WeekendWanderlust

Tamar Strauss-Benjamin at

For sure on my bucket list!

Sylvia D. at

Sharon, Thanks for sharing and have a great week. Sylvia D.

Carol at

Love Fisherman’s Wharf – such a fun place to roam.

Allison at

This is on my bucket list. I’ve wanted to visit San Francisco for a while now. #WeekendWanderlust

jesh StG at

Can you believe it, almost live for 3 years across from the bay, but still haven’t visited Fisherman’s Wharf. Did visit Lake park twice though:) I would smile like your grandkids with a Sundae in front of me! Is it worth visiting the Chocolate Factory? Many thanks from All Seasons and reminding me to visit Fisherman’s Wharf soon! Have a great summer week:)

Marie-OR at

I just wanted to let JESHStig know that I look at your wonderful posts often and I have tried to comment but Google+ prevents me, just as it prevents a lot of people from commenting on my posts! Just wanted to let you know I wish that wasn’t so! I hope to get the problem fixed. Have an awesome week!/

A Shutterbug Explores ~ at

Oh, Sharon ~ thanks for the warm memories you deliver in your wonderful photography of San Francisco ~ what a place ~ favorite time for me was ‘riding the cable cars’ ~ who doesn’t love San Fran ~ ^_^

Photo Cache at

Love to walk around there, either showing visitors around the city or just us whiling a Saturday afternoon away. Great shots, btw.

April at

Love it! How I miss Ghirardelli!!! We only got to explore the Wharf in SF one time, but we used to live in Monterey, and that whole are is crazy beautiful.

Patrick Weseman at

Very nice. Used to walk it every morning when I taught at Gailieo High School, right near it. Take BART to the Ferry Building, take the F to where it ends, then walk to Gailieo. Love it in the morning.

Michele {Malaysian Meanders} at

That Musee Mecanique looks super fun. I would definitely need to stop there (and at Ghirardelli).

Keri | Ladies What Travel at

I had a flying visit to San Fran for work a good few years ago and always regret extending my trip. This gives me yet another reason to head back! #citytripping

Katherine at

Great post! There’s so much to see and do in that area of San Francisco! I’m yet to get to the Musee Mechanique, although it’s been on my bucket list for the best part of two years. This might give me the kick that I needed to get over there. #citytripping

Lolo at

I’ve never even thought about venturing inside that building! Who knew all that amazing stuff was in there!! Dually noted for next time! #CityTripping – Stumbled

Marie-OR at

Wonderful photos and info on the wharf! Really neat post, and oh, that chocolate factory…I am so there! 🙂

Jeanna at

You could easily do a post on Ghirardelli alone. Fantastic chocolate photo and vibrant yellow trolley.

bettyl - NZ at

These are some great places! I was there many, many years ago and fell in love with Ghirardelli chocolate! The other places look so interesting.

Kit Graham at

It looks like you had so much fun! I love SF and am going there next!

Kelleyn Rothaermel at

The wharf is so much fun!

Christine | The Journey of Christine at

This is one of my favorite places in SF! I remember going there as a kid and my dad getting my brother and I fresh crab-meat from one of the vendors, I was in LOVE!

Janice at

What an adventurous place. I was there when I was a teen. I don’t remember anything except that photo we took with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. I would definitely want to visit there now after seeing your post. I would especially like to visit that Ghirardelli store and the arcade place!

Lisa at

I enjoyed your post about Fisherman’s Warf. We took our kids there a couple of years ago when we did a San Francisco to LA tour of California. I don’t know if the Musee Mechanique was there when we visited but I know my kids would have loved it.

Ruth | Tanama Tales at

I really liked this area when I visited San Francisco. I think I remember it well because of a funny thing that happened. My husband bought half a dozen oysters and he placed them on a bench while he was taking out the seeds from a lemon. While he was doing that, a seagulls start to approach the oysters. I saw it on time and scared it away. But, my husband almost lost one or two of his oysters. #TPThursday

Kathy Marris at

Fisherman’s Wharf is a big highlight of San Francisco. We were intrigued by the seals at Pier 21 and we all enjoyed our traditional seafood chowder in a cob of bread. Also the views out to Alcatraz Island are spectacular. It’s such a pretty area to walk around.

budget jan at

What beautiful photos. I particularly like the one of the Museum. Great Depth. Thanks for linking up with Travel Photo Thursday.

Obligatory Traveler at

That looks like so much fun. I would love playing games in the Penny Arcade. Such a unique things to do, and of course, who doesn’t like ice cream.

Jenn | By Land and Sea at

We visited Fisherman’s Wharf a few years ago and, touristy or not, really enjoyed our time there! There is a lot to see and do and it’s a great place to explore.

Anisa at

Eventhough it is touristy I really love Fisherman’s wharf. I think my favorite thing is watching the sea lions at pier 39. I do really love the Ghiradelli store too. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

Anda at

This is one of my favorite spots in San Francisco. I love the little shops and cafés around the pier and the charming atmosphere. Thanks for reminding me how beautiful the Fisherman’s wharf is. #TheWeeklyPostcard.

Katy at

We had such a fantastic time at Fisherman’s Wharf when I first visited there as a teenager. I will always remember the Ghiradelli chocolate factory too – yum #FarawayFiles

Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) at

We could spend all day at Fisherman’s Wharf! In fact, we sometimes do. Somehow, though, we’ve never ventured into the Musee Mechanique – now that you’ve shown us what’s inside, we’ll have to do that on our next visit! And it’s always fun to see the street cars. They have so much character, and are so iconic. Thanks for sharing with #TheWeeklyPostcard and #WeekendWanderlust!

Elizabeth (Wander Mum) at

Plenty more reasons to visit San Francisco! I so want to go! Getting a ride on one of those yellow street cars would be awesome! Thanks for linking #citytripping

Erin Gustafson at

My extended family was just there this week and loved doing all these things. I had my 1st birthday at Ghiradelli! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) at

I just love San Francisco! You have captured some of my favorite places to visit especially riding the street cars and visiting the Ghirardelli Chocolate store. Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard


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