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Down By the Bay: Family Friendly Activities to do by the Water in San Francisco

April 2, 2015

San Francisco’s location on one of the world’s most beautiful peninsulas gives its residents a whole host of activities to do by, and in, the water. If you’re interested in checking out what the city has to offer and you’re not afraid to get your feet wet, take a look at our list of family friendly activities to do by the bay in San Francisco.

Hoping for a glimpse of a killer whale. Photo by Martin Totland.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of a killer whale. Photo by Martin Totland.

Whale Watching

California’s magnificent coastline offers many stunning natural sights, and few are more stunning than seeing humpback whales breach the blue surface of the ocean. Several local companies organize whale-watching tours off the coast of San Francisco and towards the Farallones Islands. Species you can expect to see vary depending on the time of year, but humpbacks migrate through these waters between May and November, gray whales and killer whales/orcas come through between December to May, and the world’s largest animal, the gigantic blue whale, passes pays us a visit between July and October.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach and its three-and-a-half miles of uninterrupted sand lies on the very western edge of the peninsula, stretching from the Cliff House on the northern end to Fort Funston on the southern. San Franciscans come here en masse to enjoy the beautiful views of the open Pacific Ocean, to surf, to feel the invigorating breeze and to dip their toes in the sand. Plenty of people walk their dogs along the shores, some bring food and drinks and have a picnic by the water, some even make bonfires in the designated fire pits. No matter what, it’s a great place to spend a few hours in San Francisco. (If you do decide to take a dip in the water, beware that the currents can be strong and unexpected, safety first! And remember to pack up any trash you have.)

For those who have kids, or if you fancy yourself a talented sculptor, the annual Leap Sand Castle Contest is held in May and is sure to offer some spectacular, sandy creations.

A view of Ocean Beach, taken from the Cliff House on the northern end. Photo by Martin Totland.

A view of Ocean Beach, taken from the Cliff House on the northern end. Photo by Martin Totland.

Sports and Adventures

This city offers several action-filled outings for the adventurous types out there. The San Francisco RocketBoat Ride takes you on a hurtling 30-minute tour of the San Francisco Bay on huge speedboat that comes complete with free poncho to keep you from getting too soaked!

Adventure Out, a local outdoors adventure company, offers surfing lessons a short ride south of the city and includes all the gear you need. If you want to try it on your own, Aqua Surf Shop is located a few blocks east from Ocean Beach, and rents surfboards and wetsuits at reasonable prices, but only when conditions allow it. Safety first.

If you and your friend want to take a sailing course, Modern Sailing School and Club, located just across the Golden Gate Bridge and north of the city in Sausalito, is your place. It is a great spot that will give you a new view of the city and a fulfilling challenge as you take the helm and sail the sparkling waves of the bay.

For the really brave souls, there is cage diving with sharks around the Farallon Islands. It’s not cheap, but we speak from experience when we say that it’s a one-on-one meeting that will change your life: exhilarating, scary, and tremendous amounts of fun!

Surrounded by the ocean, some of the best activities are done in the water. Photo by Martin Totland.

Surrounded by the ocean, some of the best activities are done in the water. Photo by Martin Totland.

From coast to coast, we have so many options to enjoy the ocean fit for every style, age and interest. The stunning views are included.

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