A flute or pint will do with this view. Presidio Yacht Club Bar is my secret haunt, with the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco anywhere in the Bay. Live music and local beers on tap—plus champagne—make this a destination par excellence.
The Presidio Yacht Club is hidden on the edge of the harbor in Horseshoe Cove in Travis Marina at Fort Baker. Most people are unaware of the club right under their noses when they drive north from San Francisco to Marin County over the bridge.
Up a flight of rickety wooden stairs there is no sign, but Christmas lights invitingly wink and twinkle as jovial banter floats out the open door. Seagulls wheel overhead, while sea lions pop up from the sea bream and bark.
The long, polished bar across the scuffed wooden dance floor is populated by various local characters—it’s a hangout. Nary a tourist in sight.
A collection of overstuffed leather chairs and couches angle around the windows facing the bay. Get here before dark so you can witness the beauty of water turning from sharp copper to jet-blue caressed by the setting sunlight. Or it might be a foggy dusk when the soft, pale blanket of mist hovering over jade-grey waters dims and fades into the foghorned night.
On nights when there is a band—usually Thursday-Sunday—join couples and singles swinging about to blues, country, or rock-and-roll standards. The folks at the bar chat you up when you mosey over for a pint, and the dancers beckon the couch potatoes to get up and shake a leg. It is a very friendly crowd.
Fort Baker, where this wonderful tavern is located, is a 335-acre former U.S. Army post that has been incorporated into the vast, open park space of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The cannon gun placements and Nike missile launch sites still poke their rusty, rumbled heads above the lacy fields of fennel and waving rattlesnake grass that surround the dilapidated piers and buildings.
Originally inhabited by coastal Miwok tribes, Horseshoe Cove became home to Fort Baker long before there was a Golden Gate Bridge. In 1866, the U.S. Army acquired the site for a military base to fortify the north side of the Golden Gate. The Army post remained active through World War II.
A myriad of honeycombed trails leading into the Marin Headlands are an excellent place to explore by foot or bike. A public fishing pier just past the Coast Guard station is situated almost underneath the Bridge. Panoramic views captivate, with San Francisco rising like Oz across the spangled waters. As you crane your neck to look up at the bridge, it seems immense and is gloriously lit. At night the pier is bustling with fishermen bundled up from the ice-chill winds, patiently waiting to hook jacksmelt, sanddab, rockfish, king salmon, sturgeon, and crabs.
Nestled against the Scotch-broom-swathed hillside is the juxtaposition of the funky and friendly yacht club. Surrounding the ten-acre Fort Baker parade grounds are classic officer buildings that have been renovated and now house Cavallo Point Resort. Valets park sleek Jaguars, Rolls-Royces, and Teslas that zoom up to the entrance of the hotel and restaurant.
The Presidio Yacht Club was organized at the Presidio of San Francisco in 1959, and maintains a yacht harbor on Horseshoe Cove with 70 berths, guest docks, maintenance facilities, and a clubhouse open to the public managed by Travis Air Force Base (go figure!). The club and its members are active in Bay Area yacht racing, power and sail cruising, and the local, regional, and international boating community.
The bar hovers above a seaweed-strewn beach dotted with racing canoes. Watching the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club teams launch their boats into the turbulent bay to paddle energetically out to the choppy waters is also invigorating, in a passive sort of way.
The bar serves up a minimal menu of burgers and pizza. On Thursdays, Nicasio-born Maria Perrin tends bar and jazzes up the dance floor in her high-heeled boots. The prices are reasonable: pints of excellent micro brews on tap are $5; Chandon is $9 a flute; and the music cover entrance is $5—$8 when there is a band playing. The music gets going around 8 p.m., but sunset is the time to arrive, when you get to see the Golden Gate Bridge glowing in the daylight and then transitioning to her glittering, swooping necklace at night. On foggy days, maybe not—but then you get the call of the foghorns and the International Orange eerie glow of her fabulous towers and spans.
Discover this hidden gem in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge—savor the music, the drinks, and the best views ever. The characters dancing on the old wooden floor are a fine and copacetic mix of young rangers and researchers from the park service; employees from the nearby museum and Coast Guard station; and old salts with barnacled fishing boats and yachts tied up at the dock.
Presidio Yacht Club Bar (also called Travis Marina Bar) is located in Horseshoe Cove, Fort Baker, Sausalito, on the second floor of the Travis Sailing Center. Look for the wooden stairs on the far side of the building. Guest docks are available if you sail there.
Check the events calendar page to see if the bar is open (sometimes they close for private events), and if there is music that night. Cover is usually $5-$8. Music starts between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.
How To Drive There:
Take Alexander Avenue off of Highway 101. It is the last exit before driving onto the Golden Gate Bridge going south, and the first exit after the vista point going north. Take Alexander Drive down the hill till you see Danes Drive and then, just before the tunnel, turn right onto Bunker Road and follow it down to the pier and Horseshoe Cove.