On the northern shores of San Francisco Bay, a small town is a beacon for foodies, art lovers, and kayakers.
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. Area code is 415.
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. 85 Liberty Ship Way at Schoonmaker Point, 332-8494, seatrek.com .
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 Birds & the Bees, a tequila concoction made with a floral, wild-honey liqueur; and dishes such as a juicy pork chop topped with sweet pecan crumble. 660 Bridgeway, 729-9556, barrelhousetavern.com .
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. 944 Simmonds Rd., Fort Barry, 331-2787, headlands.org .
Familiar foods get a mild French refinement at Fast Food Français (also known as F3), where the fish sticks taste light and fluffy thanks to a thin, crispy crust, and the kale Caesar salad has just the right amount of crunch. 39 Caledonia St., 887-9047, eatf3.com .
Some 30 local artists show at the bright and friendly Studio 333, including Kerri Warner, who builds textured portraits with paint and found materials such as playing cards, wood, and old paper. 333 Caledonia St., 331-8272, studio333.info .
The smell of chickens sizzling on the rotisserie stimulates diners' appetites at Copita, which offers upscale Mexican dishes such as slow-cooked goat with sesame-chile salsa and pork belly tacos with pumpkin seed mole. 739 Bridgeway, 331-7400, copitarestaurant.com .
Mugs emblazoned with scrabble letters and their scores, feather-light silk-cashmere shawls—everything is eye-catching at Workshop, a small boutique that moved across the water after 19 years in San Francisco. 52 Princess St., 415-332-1795, www.workshop-sf.com .
Photography by Eric Smillie (Sea Trek, Headlands, Studio 333, Workshop); Chuck Miller (Copita); Scott Finsthwait (F3); Toki Cavener (Barrel House Tavern)
This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.