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San Francisco’s 49 Mile Scenic Drive - A Brief History

The 49 Mile Scenic Drive is an excellent introduction to San Francisco’s charms.


The 49 Mile Scenic Drive is an excellent introduction to San Francisco’s charms. Marked by blue-white-and-orange seagull signs, the half-day drive through the city’s most accessible scenic and historic points circuits Civic Center, Japantown, Union Square, Chinatown, North Beach and Telegraph Hill. It skirts Fisherman’s Wharf and winds past the Marina and the Palace of Fine Arts. The route passes the southern approach of the Golden Gate Bridge, winds through the Presidio, and doubles back through Golden Gate Park. After vaulting Twin Peaks it dips down to Mission Dolores and back to the bay front for a drive by the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, Ferry Building, financial district and Yerba Buena Gardens.

The drive was initiated for the benefit of visitors to San Francisco’s 1939-40 Golden Gate International Exposition and originally terminated at the fairgrounds on Treasure Island. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the first motorists to sample it in July of 1938. Douglas G. Corrigan, the “Wrong Way” aviator who claimed to be flying from New York to Los Angeles and ended up in Dublin, formally dedicated the route on September 14, 1938.

The large seagull signs that mark the route were introduced in 1955, the result of a design contest in which more than 100 entrants competed. The winning logo is recognized all over the world and, in fact, many visitors refer to the “seagull route.”

Responsibility for promoting the 49 Mile Scenic Route was assumed by the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1968. In 2011, the SFCVB became the San Francisco Travel Association.

Signage along the route is installed and maintained by the San Francisco Department of Parking & Traffic, part of the Municipal Transportation Agency.

Visitors can receive a free copy of the San Francisco Visitors Planning Guide (published annually), including a map of the route, at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, lower level, Hallidie Plaza, Powell and Market Streets. A visitor's kit may also be ordered online at via email to [email protected], by phone at 415-391-2000 or 415-227-2619 (TTY/TTD), or by written request to the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, 900 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94102. Domestic and international shipping charges apply.

Because of construction, portions of the drive may be closed; watch for detour signs and consult the Visitor Information Center for suggested alternate routing.

The San Francisco Travel Association is the official destination marketing organization for the City and County of San Francisco. For information on reservations, packages, activities and more, visit or call 415-391-2000. The Visitor Information Center is located at 900 Market St. in Hallidie Plaza, lower level, near the Powell Street cable car turnaround.

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San Francisco International Airport (SFO) offers non-stop flights to more than 31 international points and over 69 non-stop cities in the U.S. For up-to-the-minute information on the Bay Area's largest airport, visit

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