Sail to Angel Island in San Francisco from Oyster Point Marina
24 hour Sailing Trip to Angel Island, San Francisco, CA
We bought our Cal 2-27 sailboat last summer with the intent to learn how to sail then eventually sail to and overnight at Angel Island from our harbor, Oyster Point Marina, in South San Francisco. This weekend, we did it and had such a great time! If you’re looking to sail to Angel Island, we included a few tips, tricks and things we wish we knew ahead of time.
Where is Angel Island? Angel Island is located in the San Francisco Bay between Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge and Tiburon. It’s only accessible by watercraft as there are no bridges to it which makes it a great hidden gem in the city. There are a handful of campsite you can reserve in advance if you wish to overnight, docks at Ayala Cove that can be used during the day for private boaters, ferry’s that go to and from the island for day visitors at Ayala Cove, and a handful of moorings for boaters that want to overnight there (also at Ayala Cove). It’s known for it’s hiking and biking paths along with great unobstructed views from the city and a bike of military history.
The great thing about leaving from South San Francisco is you can easily stop at a delicious restaurant called The Ramp. They have guest docks that are free, first come first serve basis and indoor as well as patio dining options that overlook the Bay. The food is great, too. We squeaked in right before their afternoon break and were able to grab a quick bite. This was a our first docking experience outside our harbor, too!
From there we went on our way under the Oakland Bay Bridge, alongside Alcatraz and as we waned to make our approach to Angel Island a huge tanker threw us off and we had to stall for about 15 minutes before heading toward the Island. It wouldn’t have been a big deal but sunset was approaching. As we entered the area of Sausalito, Belvedere, Tiburon, Angel Island – the water became very interesting. Certain areas had wave lines from the current changing directions (being diverted around the island vs. deep down the Bay, other areas had strong circular patterns). It was much different from our harbor and the outlining areas. Unfortunately, soon after we entered — the current and the winds died down and we motored the rest of the way in to Ayala Cove where the moorings were setup.
Angel Island itself has a lot of boating options during the day, but we arrived just as the sun was setting and were lucky enough that mooring options were still available. Seeing as this was our first mooring experience, a nice couple (Nick and Carmen) in another boat helped us rope up to the buoys with their dinghy. Thank goodness — there was no way we would have known what to do otherwise and we only had a kayak.
From what we heard, mooring at Angel island is somewhat atypical. They have a mooring system setup as indicated below. If the buoys look full, you can double up side by side in a rafting position so 2 boats are on each side of a buoy for 4 boats total connected to each. More information on boating and camping at Angel Island can be found here.
After we were tied up to the buoys we kayaked in for a hike on the island under the full moon (the island is accessible to boaters until 10pm), then made it back by 9:30 in time to head up some dinner and retire for the night. We used our kayak to release the ropes from the buoys in the morning and successfully avoided all the other boats (success). We made it out of the harbor just in time to witness leopard sea lions playing in the water. Their heads were popping up all over the still water as the sun was rising and the morning fog was drifting away. We motored to our breakfast spot, Sam’s Anchor Cafe, just as they opened at 9:30am and treated ourselves to a delicious meal overlooking our second non-harbor dock.
The rest of the afternoon was spent making our way back to our harbor which was slow going as there was no wind. But, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky so we enjoyed having the Bay all to ourselves (yes, no other sailboats were out — dead calm waters) and the calm air to get some drone shots from the boat (might as well take advantage of it). The tide changed in the SF Bay around 12:30 that day (1:05p at Oyster Point Marina) and as the tide was moving, there was a line of waves that came through. We were between Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge as this was happening and as we looked over, we saw a sea lion surfing the waves. Unfortunately the sea lion disappeared when the drone got close, but it was cool to see regardless.
Our little motor got us from the cafe at 10:30am to our harbor by 2pm which gave us enough time to pack up the boat, pick up the motorcycle and get an evening cruise in celebrating the time change and more daylight hours. Our trip maxed out around 12kts the first day (when we had wind) which is the fastest we’ve gone on our boat so far. The second day was much slower so no point in posting that.
Score Card for Angel Island: 6.5/10
- Transportation: 5/10 (only accessibly by water but you can take a quick ferry over from Sausalito if you don’t have your own boat)
- Price: 8/10 It’s a camping type location so not much to pay for however not much to buy, either. No shops on the island — you must bring everything you need
- Safety: 8/10 It’s not a huge island but also not terribly tiny so those that visit hike a lot so the odds of something happening from another person are slim however you can twist an ankle or other hiking/biking type injuries
- Food: 2/10 Little to no food options aside from the Angel Island Cantina but the camp sites have ways to cook and if you want, take a ferry back over to Tiburon or Sausalito for additional dining options, grocery stores or snack shops
- Culture: 5/10 There are informationals but as it’s a nature park, there aren’t cultural opportunities
- History: 6/10 There are informationals but the history is lacking as it isn’t an inhabited island
- Excitement: 6/10 It has great hiking/biking options and if you brought a boat/kayak you can explore more of the coastline (some only accessible by kayak) but not much else.
- Awe Inspiring: 7/10 (the landscape and experience are awe inspiring)
- Technology Equipped: 4/10 Our cell and wifi service was intermittent but it’s nice if you’re looking to unplug.
- Female Friendly: 9/10 (Because of the culture and the poverty, as a woman I felt mostly safe during the day (even when venturing into the communities) but wouldn’t want to drive around or walk around by myself at night)
- Solo Travel Recommended: 8/10 (if you like any of the activities listed, you would do well traveling here alone)
- Language Barrier: 10/10 If you speak English you’ll be great
Where to go during your Angel Island Trip:
Downloadable Goolgle Map of where to go on your trip to Angel Island.
Interesting Facts about Angel Island:
- Angel Island is known as the Ellis Island of the west as it was used as an immigration station that processed over 1 million Asian (primarily) immigrants from 1910 until 1940
- During WWII it was a place used to confine war prisoners
- It’s 1.2 square miles in size
- It’s the largest island in the San Francisco Bay area
- Between 1955 and 1962 it was also used as a radar missile site and you can hike to the Nike missile sites when you visit
Pro Tips for Traveling to Angel Island:
- As any good sailor should, check the tides and winds in your area of departure as well as near Alcatraz and on the Tiburon side of Angel island
- Make sure you have extra long mooring rope and a means to hook up to the buoys (kayak / dinghy)
- Check your gas level before leaving and fill up, if the wind dies you’ll need to use the motor (which is often the case in the Angel Island inlet area).
- Cache a map as the island has little to no service and although they have maps, it’s nice to have your bearings on your phone
Cost for traveling to Angel Island: $120 for 2 people for 1 night / 2 days
- $0 Boat (we owned it)
- $30 mooring fee
- $40 lunch at The Ramp
- $40 breakfast at Sam’s Anchor Cafe
- $10 gas to motor back
Itinerary for 24 hour Sailing trip to Angel Island
- 1:00pm reach the harbor and prep the boat
- 1:30 pm leave Oyster Point Marina harbor heading toward the city
- 3pm dock up at The Ramp and grab lunch
- 4pm head back out toward the city
- 5:30pm pass Alcatraz
- 6:15pm arrive at Angel Island
- 6:45pm setup with bouys
- 7pm kayak over to the island for a full-moon hike
- 9pm kayak back to the boat, make dinner, then head to bed
- 8:30am wake up and kayak out to undo the moorings
- 9am head toward Tiburon
- 9:30am arrive at Sam’s Anchor Cafe in Tiburon, dock up, have breakfast
- 10:30am head toward the city (no wind, have to use motor)
- 2pm arrive back at the harbor and clean up the boat
- The area of Tiburon, Angel Island and Sausalito have a lot of visible marine life. We saw seals playing in the water, harbor porpoises and lots of birds.
Nice story, nice writing and photos.