Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

By Lee Foster

(Update Note: My ebook SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area  has been released for $3.99 on Amazon at The ebook parallels my app on this subject available for $3.99 from Apple and Google See an announcement of the ebook on my website at The app has also been announced on my website. I have  answered some questions about the app. The app works on smart phones and tablet devices, but not on laptops or desktops. The ebook can be read on all devices.)

I am releasing here the content in this new travel ebook/app in ten alphabetical “clusters.” Each cluster will have 12 sections of the total 120 in the ebook/app. This is alphabetical release 9 of 10. Other clusters released now include: cluster 1  cluster 2 cluster 3 cluster 4  cluster 5 cluster 6 cluster 7 and cluster 8.

This release on a website will not have the full functionality of the app structure, including its Google maps showing you contextually all the subjects around you. The ebook version is convenient because you can carry the content around with you in one small package and not require  connectivity. The 10 releases on this websites will show the text and photo of all the items, the full “SF A-Z” content listings, but will not be able to present, as the app and ebook do, all subjects in a clickable Table of Contents menu as grouped in an area (such as Embarcadero) or in the themes/subjects (such as Culture/Museums). However, after the 120 subjects are released, I will post the Table of Contents Outline and will post each of the 120 items individually to give a “website ebook” approximation of the app and ebook.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

So, here is the ninth release:

SF A-Z, Alphabetical cluster 9 of 10: 


Pescadero is a small town and beach on the San Mateo Coast that takes its name from the Spanish word for “fishmonger.”

The town has charm and a destination restaurant, Duarte’s Tavern, which has been serving up fresh local seafood for generations.


Your Best Shot: The interior of Duarte’s restaurant or your plate of fresh seafood here would be a fitting photo. Walk up and down the main street and some other photos of village life may present themselves, such as a view inside a craft furniture store.

Get to Pescadero by driving south along the San Mateo Coast on Highway 1 and turning inland on Pescadero Creek Road.

However, before turning in, pause to enjoy Pescadero Beach, one of the largest along this coast. Pescadero Creek enters the ocean here. Birders love the Pescadero Marsh, where more than 180 avian species have been counted. There are walking trails.

From Pescadero, some travelers will continue south to take in the nearby architectural landmark Pigeon Point Lighthouse and the elephant seal-rich Ano Nuevo State Park.

When traveling north from Pescadero toward San Francisco, a scenic backcountry road alternative is Stage Road.

As you leave Pescadero there is an interesting tour possibility at Harley Farms. This goat cheese operation produces a high-end cheese, packaged in baseball-size balls with flower petal décor. You can see the goats, take a tour, and buy some tasty cheese. 

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 


Address: Pescadero, CA 94060

Phone: None 

Price: Free

Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay 

San Francisco’s Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay, adjacent to Pier 39, presents a spectacular introduction to the wondrous creatures and habitat of the Bay and Delta environment, a critical ecosystem in Northern California.

The exhibits will please all ages. A focus on the local environment and its incredible richness makes this aquarium special. Long, clear plastic tunnels allow a visitor to see fish and other sea creatures both above and to the sides, creating an underwater experience that immerses a viewer in the subject.

Your Best Shot: An image of creatures, such as sharks, swimming outside the plastic tunnel on all sides of you can be a satisfying memento of the day. The eye level presentation also allows striking close-up photos of many Bay water creatures. 

A Discover the Bay exhibit greets you upon arrival. This crowd favorite includes beauties of the Bay, such as bright orange Garibaldi fish and green moray eels. A swirling school of anchovy fish prompts a visitor to wonder how they keep so evenly spaced in a swift-moving cluster. A jellyfish exhibit shows the moon jellies and Pacific sea nettles that are the main local jelly species along the California Coast.

There are touch-the-creature opportunities for young children and more complex laboratory presentations for older children and adults.

All visitors come face to face with the largest predator in the Bay, the sevengill shark. They also make the acquaintance of all five shark species that live in the Bay. A shark feeding tour, equipping the visitor with a bucket of fish, is another favorite behind-the-scenes option for an extra fee.

Besides the exhibits, special talks, tours, and theater presentations may interest you. All details are on the website. A paid behind-the-scenes tour informs on how the Aquarium keeps its 20,000 sea creatures healthy.

Parking is convenient at the Pier 39 garage. The historic F-Line trolleys/streetcars arrive right at the front door as part of their Embarcadero and Market Street loop.

After the Aquarium of the Bay merged a few years ago with The Bay Institute, a nature appreciation organization, the mission of the Aquarium as a force for environmental change became central.

An exhibits on river otters celebrates efforts to restore the Bay ecosystem. River otters are seen as an indicator of the improving Bay water quality and fecundity, just as the health of sea otters along the coast is an index of the food-chain abundance in the ocean.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39


Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-623-5300

Price: Admission charge, moderate

Pier 39 Sea Lions 

The sea lions at Pier 39 are a destination in themselves. Somehow, in 1989, a few sea lions made a beachhead on a boat anchorage at the marina on the west side of the pier.

Then a few more followed them. Gradually an entire invading army of sea lions claimed the territory, barking triumphantly.

In winter, from Pier 39, you can look down on about 900 of them from Pier 39. Most are males who hang out here, feeding on herring in the Bay, before venturing to the Channel Islands for the summer.

Your Best Shot: Bleachers built for sea lion observation give you a good position from which to photograph the pinnipeds or take a wide-angle selfie with you in their domain. 

If the winds are blowing in your direction, you will have olfactory evidence of the sea lions’ presence.

A Marine Mammal Interpretive Center on the deck above the viewing bleachers tells the sea lion story. Check out their webcam ( at any moment to see how many local flippered residents are lounging on the sailboat slips. Sea lions live up to 25 years and the large males may reach 850 pounds. Naturalists from the Center give talks about the aquatic mammals at the bleachers.

Sea lions are a large member of the pinniped group. The name sea lion was given to them colloquially because of their barking, which sounded like a lions’ roar. The barking chorus can be intense. All social interactions within the group are duly reported. Males can be touchy about any other males invading their space, especially if breeding opportunities are imminent.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 29


Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133 

Phone: 415-981-7437 

Price: Free

Pier 39 Shopping 

A striking Dungeness crab sculpture greets you at the entrance to Pier 39. The festive crab sets the mood for the place, a shopping mecca with 90 specialty shops and 14 full-service restaurants. Other attractions here are the resident sea lions, the view of Alcatraz from the end of the pier, and next door the Aquarium of the Bay.

Your Best Shot: The crab could be your first photo in a collection of public art on display in San Francisco. Other major public sculptures are found along Fisherman’s Wharf. Additional interesting visuals can be collected east of the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero. Consider the sculptures themselves, plus you and the sculptures. 

Pier 39 is a 45-acre complex adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf that offers shops, plus views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge. Fog Harbor Fish House is a restaurant that serves sustainable seafood and offers a view of the Golden Gate. Wipeout Bar & Grill is an example of a lively “surf theme” restaurant with a kids’ menu including mac and cheese.

Watch for the street-performer stage, a carousel for young children to ride, and a trampoline attraction for older children. A California Welcome Center on the upper level assists visitors with regional information.

Check out the website (see below) to print out a Fun Pack coupon good for two hours of free parking ($9/hour) in the large garage across the street from Pier 39. Take the coupon to the California Welcome Center to get the parking validation.

Pier 39 is a favorite site for festive events, such as viewing July 4 fireworks or watching carolers sing during the December Christmas/Holiday time.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 


Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-981-7437 

Price: No charge to browse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, sometime called a Light Station, is one of the major architectural legacies among lighthouses along the U.S. Pacific coast. By all means make time in your schedule to see it if you can.

Built in 1872, this brick structure is the second tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. It is located along the San Mateo Coast five bucolic miles south of the Pescadero turnoff. The total distance is 50 miles south from San Francisco on Highway 1.

The 115-foot-high lighthouse is named after an ill-fated ship, the Carrier Pigeon, which ran aground here. The shipwreck suggested the need for a beacon to guide the busy sea commerce that developed, especially after the Gold Rush. The site is now a California State Historic Park.

Volunteers offer interpretive explanations, more likely on weekends, so consider yourself fortunate if someone knowledgeable is there to inform you.

Your Best Shot: Close-up photos of this edifice make an engaging photo, but long shots from the bluffs south of the lighthouse can also be striking. You may want to get both an objective photo of the lighthouse and a selfie with the structure in the background. Morning light will fall on the lighthouse. In afternoon it will be backlit. 

Wooden houses on the site function as an all-ages hostel, similar to the Point Montara Lighthouse hostel.

Pigeon Point has informative signage explaining the lighthouse rationale, based on shipwrecks. The Fog Signal Building itself now displays the station’s Fresnel lens. The ingenious lens could magnify and project a small kerosene light far out to sea. Light station keepers were called “wickies” because they managed the wicks of the kerosene lamps.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 


Address: 210 Pigeon Point Rd, Highway 1, Pescadero, CA 94060 

Phone: 650-879-2120 

Price: Free

Point Reyes 

Though Point Reyes is one of the great nature outings near San Francisco, there is also a historical/cultural mystery there for you to discover and solve.

Where is the precise spot that the English swashbuckler, Sir Francis Drake, landed his ship, the Golden Hind, for repairs in 1579? It was somewhere here on the Point Reyes coast. Drake’s ship was literally sinking with the weight of plundered Spanish silver.

He said he left a brass plate marking the spot. Maybe you could find it. The word “hind” meant female red deer and referred to the coat of arms of one of Drake’s backers.

Your Best Shot: If you fancy yourself as a modern-day explorer and want to aim your phone-camera or SLR camera at beauty, my main suggestions would be go to Chimney Rock and to Limantour Beach, both enticing seaside locations. Don’t rush the exploration. Stock up with celebrative food and drink in advance. You could spend a few hours in each location. Get yourself in the image and your fans will know that you are at Point Reyes, one of the loveliest seaside panoramic destinations in the world.

California, San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands
California, San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands

Point Reyes National Seashore, at 71,028 acres, is “Point of the Kings” in Spanish, the language of the country that made the historic investment to control California. Drake, an Englishman, may be been the first European to set foot here, but England never made the commitment to settle California. Spain had the multiple incentives to save souls, accumulate wealth, and expand its empire.

Be sure to stop by the excellent Visitor Center at Point Reyes maintained by the National Park Service. The rangers can alert you to several other attractions here, including the Earthquake Walk, showing how the earth pulled apart 16 feet in the great 1906 Earthquake, and Kule Loklo, a replica of a Miwok Native American village.

If You Go: 

Area: North to Marin County 


Address: Point Reyes National Seashore, Inverness, CA 94937 

Phone: 415-464-5100

Price: Free


San Francisco’s Presidio National Park is a transformed former military base in San Francisco that is now a glorious national park.

The Presidio occupies a forested green open space at one of the world’s choicest real estate locations, adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the ironies of California history is that the military requirement to commandeer prime locations around the Golden Gate for their strategic importance has now resulted in a massive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with natural landscapes saved from mundane urban development.

The Presidio nurtures the spirit of the modern urban person in need of outdoor refreshment. The Presidio also protects a few endangered species of plants and animals, such as the Presidio clarkia wildflower, which has nowhere else to survive.

Your Best Shot: Some of the most engaging photos to be made at the Presidio are of the Crissy Field walk, adjacent to the Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Three nations, in a 200-plus-year period, used the Presidio as a strategic military base, following its long use by the original Californians, the Ohlone Indian people, who appreciated it as a cornucopia for their hunter/gatherer culture.

The Spanish arrived in 1776 with Franciscan Junipero Serra leading the religious conquest, which was accompanied by a military garrison or “presidio.” Mexico eventually exerted its independence from Spain, so the Presidio was briefly in Mexican control. The long American military use peaked in WWII, when the imminent threat of a Japanese invasion and supplying the Pacific military operations were the defining concerns.

Be sure to stop at the new William Penn Mott Jr. Presidio Visitor Center, located in Building 210 Lincoln Blvd at the bottom of the Main Post Parade Ground near the corner of Montgomery St. Displays will orient you to what to see at the Presidio.

The Parade Grounds of the Main Post, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and the Crissy Field walking path are a few of the main Presidio attractions.

If You Go: 

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio 


Address: Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone: 415-561-4323 

Price: Free

Princeton-by-the Sea

Princeton-by-the-Sea is part of a cozy and approachable cluster of attractions between Montara Beach and Half Moon Bay, centered at the Pillar Point Harbor turnoff. This is a fun area in which to poke around.

As you proceed south from Montara Beach, some entities to consider are the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, good for tide pool viewing, and the Point Montara Lighthouse, once a working lighthouse but now an all-ages hostel.

The area has been famous for its Titans of Mavericks surfing competition, but the organizers have had some fiscal troubles, so stay tuned about Mavericks’ future. The nearby ocean floor topography creates remarkably high surf waves a half mile offshore. Competitors fly in from all over the world when the call goes out that the waves are optimal. The Bluff Trail lets you gaze out to the ocean area where Mavericks takes place.

Turn in to Pillar Point Harbor and look around. This is Princeton-by-the-Sea. There are several good restaurants and the Harbor Village mall for shopping.

Your Best Shot: There’s always a lot of action among the small boats in the harbor, starting at the Johnson Pier. Be ready to photograph if something interesting appears before you. This might be fishermen returning with a catch of Dungeness crab. Put yourself in some photos of the boats to set the scene.

The harbor is the San Mateo Coast’s main launch point for commercial fishing, deep-sea sport fishing, whale-watching cruises, bird-watching expeditions, and kayaking.  A paved path along the water delights bicyclists and walkers.

Moving south towards Half Moon Bay, several small public park beaches invite exploration.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 


Address: Princeton-by-the-Sea, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 

Phone: None

Price: Free


A visitor exploring San Francisco has many pleasant options when thinking of restaurants/bars/hotels.

Your Best Shot: You might ask, “Can you guide me to a couple of sites that combine all three components? I want a restaurant, with interesting food and a view, plus a bar where I can linger, and maybe it would be in an iconic lodging.” Two contenders come to mind. They are the traditional Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and the new Cityscape at the downtown Hilton. Both are selfie-worthy and offer dramatic photo views of San Francisco from above. 

The classic hotels of San Francisco are each a world unto themselves. The Westin St. Francis, Mark Hopkins, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, and Hyatt Regency are a few in this select class.

San Francisco has also been a leader in the boutique hotel movement, offering high touch personalized service at a small-scale property. The Joie de Vivre and Kimpton groups are both headquartered here and have multiple properties in San Francisco and California.

Among restaurants, the scene continues to support both the classic visions and the experimenters who want to put their name on a new culinary presentation. Tadich’s Grill has been around since just after the Gold Rush and Café de la Presse will always offer its classic French dishes. But Gary Danko and other celebrity chef restaurants salute innovation and their signature dishes.

Among bars, a special iconic place in the pantheon goes to the Buena Vista, where Irish coffee was introduced to Americans. Arguably, the most San Franciscan type of bar would be the wine bar, considering the state’s dominant role in American wine production. Peter Chouinard’s Bluxome Street Winery tasting room at Ghirardelli Square is one such place, where you can sample delicious Sauvignons and pinot noirs.

Some of these mentioned entities have their own write-ups in this presentation. Others are part of a larger subject.

San Francisco 49ers 

Memories of past great teams, resulting in Super Bowl victories, inspire fans of today’s San Francisco 49ers football team.

A glorious past helps the follower to accept the dismal present. As everyone knows, fortune can change quickly in sport. 

Your Best Shot: Memorable photos can be made if you are in the stadium, looking down at the gladiators, recording the contest. 

The 49ers have been one of the legendary franchise dynasties of the National Football League, so fans always await in down times a return to the euphoria of the glorious past. The golden era was the 1980s and early 1990s, when the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 14 years, four of them in the 1980s.

The dynasty began with the appearance of Coach Bill Walsh in 1979, followed by the acquisition of quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, plus pass receiver Jerry Rice. Coach Walsh strategized to develop a “West Coast offense” of short pass gains that proved difficult to defend against.

During the glory years, the 49ers played at windy Candlestick Park in southern San Francisco. In 2014 they moved to the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

If you take the 49 Mile Drive self-tour through San Francisco, you pass close to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. Kezar was the original home of the 49ers. The setting has a quaint and retro feel to it, recalling football before the modern era of huge television emphasis and multi-thousand fan seating. The San Francisco 49ers joined the NFL in 1949.

Sports fans in San Francisco have three main options for professional teams. Besides the football 49ers, there are the baseball Giants, who play in a handsome stadium along the Embarcadero. The basketball Golden State Warriors now play at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, but will likely re-locate to a new stadium on the San Francisco waterfront.

The following information is for the 49ers.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside


Address: 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara, CA 95054 

Phone:  415-464-9377 

Price: Expensive, for game day tickets, if the team is winning

San Francisco Airport 

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) lies 13 miles south of San Francisco along the Bay, east of Highway 101 at Millbrae. The airport is easily accessible with the BART rail system, an excellent option compared to driving to the airport.

As befits a world-class airport, the scene at SFO continues to evolve. Four runways bring in and take out about 50 million passengers a year.

Your Best Shot: An impressive piece of public art at the airport can be an intriguing image. Get the shot of the art object and then an image of you with it. Art object possibilities at the terminals can be seen on the SFO website (below).

Recent developments include a futuristic new control tower, which opened in 2016. Terminals 2 and 3 have been refurbished. The public art on display at the airport is impressive, though harried travelers may scarcely notice it.

Developments on the horizon will be an in-airport hotel and an ever-better range of restaurant choices. Today’s traveler can sometimes do deals with nearby hotels, such as the El Rancho Inn in Millbrae, to stash their cars for free for a travel period and get a shuttle to the airport. The total cost is one night’s lodging at the hotel.

At the south end of the airport there is a parking lot for folks who like to relax in their cars and see the magic of giant planes taking off and landing from the four runways. 

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside


Address: San Francisco Airport, SFO, San Francisco, CA 94128 

Phone:  650-821-8211

Price: Free

San Francisco Giants 

The San Francisco Giants are The City’s highly successful baseball team.

They won the World Series in 2014, 2012, and 2010.

Wikipedia asserts that the Giants have won more games than any other professional baseball team (See

The Giants play ball at AT&T Park, a handsome stadium on the Embarcadero adjacent to San Francisco Bay. I remember how a fleet of fans would hang out in the water in their kayaks to catch Barry Bonds’ record home run ball. Bonds hit the most home runs in a single season (73 in 2001). I happened to be there the electric day when he hit #71.

Your Best Shot: You are permitted to wander around the stadium during the game. Make your personal 7th inning stretch a walk to a high point in the arena behind home plate. From there you can get a shot of the diamond, the outfield bleachers, and San Francisco Bay. And, best of all, you can put yourself in some of the images to record your own fan-of-the-day selfies.

Maybe the mascots Lou Seal and Crazy Crab have the magic that propels forward this winning team.

Outside the stadium is a sculpture to the beloved Giants player, Willie McCovey. He was one of the greatest power hitters of all time. McCovey’s swing generated 521 home runs, 231 of which he hit in Candlestick Park, the former stadium for the Giants. No player hit more home runs in that stadium. One homer, from September 16, 1966, was measured as the longest ever hit in that stadium.

If You Go: 

Area: Embarcadero


Address: AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107 

Phone: 415-972-2000

Price: Expensive, if the team is winning

See Lee’s four Northern California books/ebooks on his Amazon Author Page.
See Lee’s books/ebooks
on his Amazon Author Page and in Independent Bookstores


Aside from this ebook/app, I publish other books/ebooks about San Francisco and Northern California. One is titled The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco. My main book/ebook on Northern California is Northern California Travel: The Best Options. Those volumes, including some more on California, can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. My further books on Northern California are Back Roads California and Northern California History Weekends. One of my California books, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, is now available as an ebook in Chinese.




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