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Sausalito, Calif.: Bayside Beauty

On the northern shores of San Francisco Bay, a small town is a beacon for foodies, art lovers, and kayakers.

  • a kayak and stand up paddlers off Sausalito, image
    Photo caption
    Kayakers and stand up paddlers enjoy the placid waters of Richardson Bay.
  • a plate of Oaxacan beef enchiladas at Copita, image
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    Oaxacan beef enchiladas at Copita come with a fan of avocado slices.
  • art at Headlands Center for the Arts, image
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    Chat with artists and check out their work at Headlands Center for the Arts.
  • hamburger at F3 in Sausalito, image
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    The hefty burgers at F3 are served with aioli.
  • the bar and vaulted ceiling of Barrel House Tavern in Sausalito, image
    Photo caption
    You can take a seat at the counter under the vaulted ceiling at Barrel House Tavern.


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.

Photography by Eric Smillie (Sea Trek, Headlands); Chuck Miller (Copita); Scott Finsthwait (F3); Toki Cavener (Barrel House Tavern)

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.