Things to see at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Deep chowder bowls, street performers and of course loud sea lions make this pier a must see attraction when visiting the golden city
One half of In 4 the Long Haul loves, loves, loves animals. It’s an unhealthy obsession (that is actually slightly concerning) and one of our treasured places is San Francisco, that houses Pier 39… just one of the city’s many attractions!
Part of Fisherman’s Wharf, the pier is a popular tourist attraction containing a shopping centre, waterfront seafood restaurants, bay views and amazing sights of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. It is also home to hundreds of very loud sea lions!


Getting there

Pier 39 is located at the far-right end of Fisherman’s Wharf on the Embarcadero, that turns into Jefferson Street, which is the main street of Fisherman’s Wharf.

The F-Line Trolley runs all the way down Market Street, and then all along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf.


The cable car leaves from Powell and Market, stopping at a couple of blocks before Pier 39.


The Pier 39 Car Park is extremely popular and costs around $10 per hour on weekdays, going up at the weekend.

If you eat at one of the pier’s restaurants, you can get a validation stamp allowing you a free hour of car parking.

The sea lions

The sea lion journey at the pier began back in October 1989, when a few California sea lions began visiting the pier’s K-Dock shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake. By January 1990, the flippered  pinnipeds started to arrive in huge numbers and took over.


The number of sea lions grew to more than 300 and hit an all-time record of 1,701 in November 2009, with the majority of sea lions at the pier male.


The sea lions are located on K-Dock. You’ll be able to easily hear and smell them!


Of course, sea lions aren’t the only reason to visit Pier 39. The attraction houses some amazing dining, fresh food markets, bay cruises, the Aquarium of the Bay, Jugglers and wine and beer tasting.


Pop into one of the seafood restaurants for a bread chowder bowl. You won’t be disappointed.



Pier 39 also boasts great views of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast.


It houses the infamous federal penitentiary in addition to the site of the Indian “Red River Movement” and Occupation from 1969-1971.


The island is 25-acres and located 1 ¼ miles from San Francisco. It was designated in1933 by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to be a maximum-security prison that housed notorious and dangerous criminals such as Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and Robert Franklin Stroud, also known as the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’.

DSC04442.jpgThe Alcatraz lighthouse was the first west coast lighthouse, where a single oil lamp lit the narrow entrance to the bay.

DSC04495.jpgUntil the invention of electricity, the lighthouse was manually lit.

The lighthouse was replaced in 1909 when the construction of the cell house blocked the view.

Getting there and prices:
You can take a day or night tour of the jail, that lasts around 2 hours and 30 mins. Day tours start departing from 9.10am (with an early bird departure tour option at 8.45am). The last return trip from the island is 6.30pm.

Meanwhile, the night tour departs 5.55pm, with the last return trip from the island at 8.40pm, though on several dates the last departure is 9.25pm.

The price for a day tour costs $39.90 (adult) while the night options costs $47.30 (adult).

The only way to get to Alcatraz is by a ferry operated by Alcatraz Cruises, which leaves from Pier 33. The ferry crossing takes around 10-15 mins.


See the schedule here.

Things to know

  • The pier is open during May-October, with many restaurants open for business from 11:30 am – 11 pm.
  • For some of the bay cruises, visit to get discounts.
  • There are numerous events at the pier throughout the year, such as ‘Tulipmania’ in February, when tulips can be seen all over the pier. In May, there is the ‘Spring Wine Pour’ wine tasting event and on 4th of July there is entertainment and fireworks.
  • The City Sightseeing Mega Pass includes lots of attractions San Francisco has to offer well as on the pier, such as Aquarium of the Bay and bike rentals.
  • Pier 39 is one of the stops on the Hop On, Hop Off Bus City Tour.
  • The number of sea lions at K-Dock at Pier 39 rise and fall with the seasons.
  • On Alcatraz Island, you can walk along the Agave trail, allowing you close views of the protected bird sanctuary and gardens.
  • It’s advisable to book ahead for the Alcatraz tour, as it is a very popular tourist attraction and books up quickly.
  • Pier 39 has a live webcam overlooking K-Dock, which means if you time it right, family members can see you on the dock in San Fran while they’re at home! Viewers can control the webcam by clicking on the ‘Go live’ button.
  • Viewers can take ‘control’ of the camera by clicking on the CONTROL button and choosing the camera’s position to see the sea lions, Golden Gate or Alcatraz.


Checking out C & J


2 thoughts on “Things to see at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s