On our travels, my children have often told me that they enjoy the countryside way more than the city. Perhaps they get worn out by my frenetic pace and constant nagging (Shhhh!, Please don’t touch that!, Eyes up!, Manners!, Did you wash your hands? No seriously, did you wash your hands?). For this reason, our whole family was thrilled by the suggestion of our Bay Area friends, to take a day trip to Angel Island. Just a short ferry ride away from both San Francisco and Tiburon, it seemed to be exactly what my children needed following a day of touring San Francisco proper.
Angel Island has been a California State Park since 1954, but historically, was used for many other purposes. It was a seasonal hunting and gathering spot for the Coast Miwok, a refuge and supply stop for the Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala (he mapped the San Francisco Bay), an immigration processing station, a WW ll detainment camp, a cattle ranch, an artillery base and a camp for the Army (Camp Reynolds, later known as the West Garrison).
Fortunately for our family, these days Angel Island is best known for its hiking trails, historical tours, wildlife, gorgeous views of San Francisco and the Bay, and for a lucky few, as an overnight camping destination (spots are snatched up as soon as they become available).
In our case, we chose to take the ferry from Tiburon rather than San Francisco since we would be checking in to the lovely Cavallo Point Lodge later that evening (Ironically, the Cavallo also used to be an Army camp.). Once on the island, we set out on a one hour hike to the top of Mt. Livermore. Along the way, there were plenty of things to keep the kids engaged, including watching sailboats racing in the Bay (very slowly…..as there was no wind), wildlife sightings (vultures, deer *), exploring fortifications, and of course, fantastic views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. While the hike was not terribly difficult, we still managed to get our heart rates up, and felt fully deserving of the picnic lunch we enjoyed at the top.
* Okay…..more truthfully, we saw vultures eating a deer, which was, although rather gross, extremely interesting for the children….like an episode of Wild Kingdom. We did, however, see many more very lovely, and very much alive deer on the trail later in the day.
If a hike is not in the cards for you and your family, there are several other ways to get around the island including by bike (bring your own or seasonal rentals available), by guided tram tour, by Segway or by scooter (although you must be at least 16 years to ride the latter two). There is even a little restaurant at the dock where we adults were rather delighted to discover that we could reward ourselves with a nice glass of wine (or beer) after our hike.
more about Angel Island
getting there: ferries run from San Francisco (Blue & Gold Fleet) and Tiburon (Angel Island Ferry)
facilities and services: restaurant, shuttles, tram tours, Segway, bike, and scooter rentals,
important to know: some services are limited to weekends in the winter (the restaurant)
for more information: see the Angel Island State Park website
for a further peek – check out our 30 second video (or click to play in browser)
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