“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.” ~ John F. Kennedy
Day three dawned bright and warm in North Beach. With temps approaching seventy it was the perfect day for a mermaid adventure which just so happened to be on the agenda.
First though, my blonde partner in jet setting and I walked to Peet’s for our morning ritual of a delicious cup o’ joe.
Caffeine fix and happy, we then proceeded to grab the bus headed towards Geary with my aunt, who was our mer-tour guide for this adventure. I was internally jumping up and down as we made our way cross town to Land’s End, the Cliff House, Ocean Beach, AND the Sutro Bath’s which are literally all next to each other under the Golden Gate Recreational Area, creating one big mermaid playground, filled with ruins, hiking trails, windswept trees, gorgeous beaches and yes sea glass!
It was a mermaid smorgasbord platter that had me itching to dig my toes into the sand and even into the water.
The Sutro Baths
If you follow my blog or know me personally, you know how much I love me some ruins (Parthenon and Spiš Castle I am coming for you one of these days!) which is why the Sutro Baths were not only a major surprise, but a giddy one at that.
It was built in 1896 by mayor and entrepreneur Adolph Sutro who also owned the famed Cliff House which was (and is) located just feet away. Comprised of six saltwater pools as well as one freshwater pool, it served as a fancy public bathhouse for the city of San Francisco. Built next to the ocean, the water would rush in at high tide, recycling the water hourly, and during low tide, turbines would pump the water out.
It wasn’t just a bath house. It also had private dressing rooms, an ice skating rink as well as an amphitheater, making it true destination for its time. Unfortunately in 1966 after closing, a fire destroyed the buildings leaving it in ruins.
While some of it was blocked off, much of it is still open to exploration, including caves, facades of buildings to climb on, and at low tide a pathway to the beach which just so happened to have some sea glass! I literally could have spent hour upon hour there. As it ws we did spend quite a bit of time.
The Cliff House
When I was little I read a book about the Cliff House and was so excited to explore it the first time I went to San Francisco. Not only did I see it. But I also got to eat there. While we didn’t eat there this time, we did step in, to fulfill my nostalgia and the memories I shared with my aunt and sister six six and a half years ago.
The Cliff House was first built in 1858, but has had many reincarnations. Despite fire, a shipwreck explosion, and more fire, yet still surviving the 1906 earthquake, the restaurant is still standing today and has become an icon of sorts for San Francisco. With stunning views of Ocean Beach, Sutro Baths, and the surrounding mountains, it really is a destination.
The last time I was there, it had been shrouded in fog, and you could barely see anything, on the day we went, it was beautiful, clear, and sunny with views for days. While we just walked through briefly, the Cliff House lends to the imagination of the roaring twenties.
Lands End acts as a bridge between the actual Golden Gate Bridge and the Sutro Historic District, the name given to the vast complex of building’s Adolph Sutro built. Filled with hiking trails and picnic areas along the coast. One thing we didn’t get a chance to see was the Labyrinth constructed by local artist Eduardo Aguilera and which over looks the Golden Gate Bridge. It just means I have to go back!
Ocean Beach runs along the Great Highway and encompasses Richmond and Sunset Districts of which Land’s End, Sutro Bath’s, and the Cliff House are all a part of. Famed for its crazy foggy weather and volatile currents, it is a haven for surfers who are daring enough to brave the water.
The day that I went, was bright and sunny hiding the violent nature of the waves. It did live up to the coldness that it is well known for, due to upwelling, also known as the Coriolis force. The constant movement of water, in this case that situated at the bottom moving to the top, when the water pulls away from the shores causing it to not just be in constant motion making it well known for rip tides, but also frigid temperatures.
Despite the temps, I couldn’t resist dipping my feet in to get a taste of the Pacific Ocean.
Sarah and I walked along the beach, snapping pictures and finally sitting on the rocks and having articulate conversations. One of the best parts of the trip was being able to hang out with such an amazingly diverse and knowledgable person, learning about them and connecting in ways that are so rare because everyone has their heads in phones and social media all the time. She and I didn’t. While we did take pictures…A LOT of pictures there were moments like on the beach where we just sat and appreciated the here and now.
After hanging out and meeting back up with my aunt who had taken a walk of her own, (And made several love connections! You go auntie!) we decided to eat lunch at the Beach Chalet. It was so flipping cute and had a combination of elegance, hipster, and beachy, that just molded together to create a cool atmosphere. The views were stunning as we sat and ate lunch looking out over the ocean and the beach.
The restaurant has an upstairs and a downstairs, with the downstairs consisting of an outdoor restaurant filled with adirondack chairs and a mural. I loved how this restaurant really did combine so many themes into one. After stuffing ourselves with delicious seafood, we walked back up making a slight detour to explore the ruins (more ruins!) of Adolph Sutro’s former mansion before hoping on the bus.
It was a mermaid adventure of epic success!