Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf

If you’re talking tourist traps, Fisherman’s Wharf has to be at the top of the list. That’s not to discourage visitors from going there but be aware that EVERYONE goes to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s the prototypical San Francisco experience. At least once, you have to eat a bowl of clam chowder or shrimp cocktail on the waterfront while being serenaded by noisy gangs of sea lions. There are excellent Italian restaurants on the Pier, too, like Scoma’s, Castangola’s and Alioto’s. The reason Fisherman’s Wharf exists is that Italian immigrants from Sicily and Genoa created a fishing industry here in the 1880’s. It’s nothing like it was in the old days, but small fishing boats arrive at the wharf every morning with their fresh catch of Dungeness crab (from Nov.-June) and local fish. San Francisco’s commercial fishing fleet is docked at “Fish Alley” along the Jefferson Street promenade between Hyde and Jones Streets.

It’s usually so crowded that just walking down the street can be a challenge. Like many areas of San Francisco, don’t drive to Fisherman’s Wharf, take a cable car or a streetcar.

Fisherman’s Wharf borders North Beach and extends from the National Maritime Museum down Jefferson Street to the ultra-popular Pier 39, so popular that it’s now the third most visited amusement attraction in the U.S. (after Disneyland and Disneyworld.) Pier 39 has more than 100 shops, a carousel, Aquarium of the Bay, seafood restaurants, and enough street performers to give it, at times, a circus-like ambiance.

Attractions on Jefferson Street along Fisherman’s Wharf are Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, the Guinness Museum of World Records and the Wax Museum. The San Francisco Maritime National Aquatic Park is the country’s only floating National Park and extends the from the Hyde Street Pier to Aquatic Park. Ghiradelli Square, the one-time chocolate factory now shopping center, is west of Fisherman’s Wharf at Beach and Larkin. Ghiradelli has been making chocolate for over 150 years making it the oldest chocolate manufacturer in the U.S. The brick building itself, the former home of the Pioneer Woolen Mill Company, was designated as a city landmark in 1965 and was placed on the National Historic Register 1982. (The factory moved out of San Francisco to San Leandro in 1967.)

San Francisco’s #1 attraction is Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf is the jumping off point for the tour at Pier 33. The former federal penitentiary, located 1.5 miles offshore, closed on March 21, 1963 and the entire island was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1976. In 1986, Alcatraz was declared a National Historic Landmark and is now operated by the National Park Service.