Bayside Beauty in Sausalito, CA

North of San Francisco, this small town is a beacon for foodies, artists, and kayakers.

The waterfront streets in Sausalito are ideal for a stroll.

Sergio TB / Shutterstock

Quirky art galleries and shops, a spate of new restaurants, and undeniably beautiful waterfront views keep this town high on the list of don’t-miss destinations. 

Not long after launching from Sea Trek Kayak & Stand Up Paddling Center, paddlers see lounging harbor seals and bobbing brown pelicans. A little farther on, quiet channels offer a close look at Sausalito’s eclectic houseboats.

The Barrel House Tavern's handsome decor and primo perch at the water’s edge are reason enough to visit. So is the fare: exquisite cocktails that includes the Escape from Alcatraz, a bourbon concoction made with apple brandy and apple juice, and dishes such as cider- and honey-glazed pork ribs served with cabbage slaw.

Visitors exploring the open studios and regular events at the Headlands Center for the Arts, a restored barracks in the Marin Headlands, can meet the artists in residence and get personal tours of their work. Each conversation brings something new. You might learn, for example, how an artist such as Oakland-based Cassie Thornton turned receipts representing her debt into a cast bronze lump.

Familiar foods get a mild French refinement at Fast Food Français (also known as F3), where the fish and chips taste light and fluffy thanks to a thin, crispy crust, and the kale Caesar salad has just the right amount of crunch. 

The smell of chickens sizzling on the rotisserie stimulates diners' appetites at Copita, which offers upscale Mexican dishes such as slow-cooked lamb with sesame-chile salsa and pork belly tacos with pipian mole.

This article was first published in January 2014 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.