Fisherman's Wharf is a busy tourist area sometimes shunned by SF locals but there are more gems and treasures in this area than you may think. Located on the waterfront, it is the former headquarters of authentic fishing markets and fisherman and you can explore the maritime history of the area to this day. It is filled with souvenir shops, clam chowder stands, restaurants and crowds watching street performers but it is also home to a vintage arcade museum, an interesting chapel and lots of art galleries. You can easily spend a large chunk of your day here. Fisherman’s Wharf History
Fisherman’s Wharf was created by Henry Meiggs as "Meiggs Wharf" to serve the lumber trade. Meigg's wharf was always a spot for the fishing fleet, swimmers, and sunbathers. There was once a pig who could play cards, skateboarding penguins, and a greased pole for people to climb as a contest. Although you won’t see this pig here in the area today, what you will see are numerous other street performers entertaining you all around this area. From musicians and artists to escape artists and The Bush Man, there is never a dull moment in Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf Attractions
Some of the most popular things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf (other than shopping and dining) include:
Pier 39. Fisherman’s Wharf itself is located at Pier 43 but the neighborhood extends east to Pier 39 and West towards Ghirardelli Square and Hyde Street Pier. Pier 39 offers shopping, dining and entertainment as well as a chance to see and hear the sea lions that dock there and take some photos of a great view of Alcatraz.
Ghirardelli Square. This old chocolate factory now houses shopping, lots of chocolate tasting and other dining and often free musical entertainment in the courtyard.
Hyde Street Pier. Hyde Street Pier features wooden boats from the early 1900's. Of the seven boats moored at Hyde Street Pier, six are considered national landmarks. The square-rigged Balclutha was recently restored at a cost of $1.5 million. An inexpensive tour of Hyde Street Pier includes a video of the Thayer's final voyage in 1950. In addition to the tour, another fun feature of this attractions is that The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park features a free monthly public sing-along here called Chantney Sing on the first Saturday night of the month.
The Cannery. This is a shopping and dining hub in Fisherman’s Wharf but it’s also an entertainment center. The courtyard has free music daily during the afternoons. Plus there is a small museum called the Museum of the City of San Francisco that provides free information about such aspects of the city’s history as the famous 1906 earthquake and fire and the perhaps-less-known-but-equally-important motion picture history of the city.
Musee Mechanique - Vintage Amusements
Musee Mechanique. This is a vintage arcade museum located at Fisherman’s Wharf. Entry is free and it’s really fun just to wander in to see the many historic video games that are housed here. They all work and can be played for quarters. There are also photo booths here. Step outside the back of this museum and you will be right on the pier with a great view of the bay.
The “Hidden Gem” Attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf
Some of the things that you might not know about as a first time visitor to The Wharf but could enjoy checking out include:
Maritime Museum. This art deco museum was designed in the 1930’s as a public bathhouse. It includes an underwater fantasy mural, The Anchor of Independence and the hull of the Charles W.
Historic Boats. In addition to the boats that you can see from a tour of Hyde Street Pier, there are two historic boats at Pier 45 that you can tour for a fee: The Liberty Ship S. S. Jeremiah O'Brien and the WW II Pampanito. The Pampanito is restored to wartime condition but contains many low doorways and cramped compartments (avoid if claustrophobic). The Jeremiah and the Pampanito's guns are pointed right at each other. The Jeremiah is the last Liberty Ship operating of the two thousand that were built so visiting here gives you a chance to see something very unique in our history.
Boudin Museum. This small museum inside of the Boudin Sourdough Factory reveals some interesting food history of San Francisco. The best display shows what foods were born in The Bay Area (including the Martini and the Popsicle). You can also see the bread makers at work from this museum. There is a small admission fee.
Art Galleries. Once you start paying attention to the shops that are located in the Fisherman’s Wharf area you will see that there are a number of little art galleries tucked in amidst all of the souvenir stores. Beach Street is the best place to go to visit a number of these art galleries in a few short blocks.
Fisherman’s and Seamen’s Chapel. This small chapel is a memorial to people who were lost at sea. You can read their names on the bronze plaques that are located here.
Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most expensive places to park in San Francisco. There is also a heavy load of auto congestion and pedestrian traffic. Because of this, you should strongly consider taking a cab, cable car, or the bus to get to this neighborhood. Either the Powell-Hyde cable car or Powell-Mason cable car will take you all the way from Market Street to the Wharf in style, providing great views along the way. Once you are at Fishmerman’s Wharf, the best way to get around is to walk! While you are here you may also consider taking a boat ride to see the bay up close; there are kiosks with information and tickets located all over The Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf Hotels
If you enjoy Fisherman’s Wharf then you may find that you’d like to stay in this neighborhood. There are a number of great hotels located here including major brand name hotels like the Radisson, Marriott, Best Western, Sheraton, Hyatt and Hilton. There are also small local and boutique hotels such as The Argonaut and the San Remo Hotel. There are even some budget hotel choices like The Wharf Inn.