Playing Tourist on Angel Island

Playing Tourist at Angel Island | Smiling in Sonoma

Proud to say the hubs and I play tourist in our own area as often as possible! The last time we were at Angel Island we hiked up to the peak and back down on a hot winter day last year with a limited ferry schedule…this time it was Memorial Day weekend with an hourly ferry schedule with the last one out at 5:20 pm. So much better!

This visit to Angel Island was intended to do the tourist thing and visit all of the historical stops along the Perimeter Trail and end the day with music by one of my talented coworkers and good food at the cafe.

We made it on the 10:00 am ferry over, grabbed our map and headed toward the US Immigration station. The stairs that greet you at the beginning are there just to get you warmed up from the chilly morning boat ride. 😉 Once you reach the Perimeter Road hang a left and enjoy the views of the Richmond Bridge. No rush here. Once we reached the Immigration Station there is a large map showing the sites there as well as telling you what to look for while you are there and a little history.

Walking down the path notice the non-native plants that were planted by the resident gardener years ago. There are signs along the way explaining all of the sites you are looking at. We opted not to go into the museum but met with a group led by a volunteer docent to listen to the stories of the evolution of Angel Island. He was so good at keeping us engaged while giving a history lesson. Highly recommend timing your visits with docent led talks so you can learn more about the island. I happen to be half Japanese and they were the second largest population, Chinese being the largest, to come through the island. Sort of like the Ellis Island of the west coast. It would have been so exciting and so scary to have lived when the bay area was being built up. So much happiness, hardship, change and growth in a small amount of time. In complete awe of the amount of history on one little island we slowly walked back up to the Perimeter Road and headed for our next stop, Fort McDowell.

At Fort McDowell you can walk through some of the buildings but most are closed due to safety. I really wish they would turn them into a bed and breakfast so we can stay and watch the sun rise from the best vantage points! We explored the area and walked down to Quarry Beach. Don’t tell anyone that it is a beautiful sandy beach! We had it all to ourselves as most people opted not to make the short trek down to it. Views of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco from a private sandy beach, yes please! When we go back to camp on the island I want to have my morning coffee on this beach and watch the sun rise. Life goals. 🙂

Climb on back up to the Perimeter Road and enjoy your views of the city. There are several viewing spots with some of the most gorgeous views of the bay! We took the short cut up to Battery Drew and went back down to meet the paved road. Last time we had stopped at Camp Reynolds and enjoyed the views but this time we were there to see the cannon being fired by 2 volunteer docents dressed in civil war era outfits. The hubs and I were surprised to learn that during the civil war we were worried the confederate military would try and come into the bay to attack our Navy. I just always pictured in my head the civil war was fought more on the east coast since we were so new out west. My pops would be so proud I am learning more history and not just goofing off on our hikes!

After walking through the historic building and catching the cannon being fired we headed up the Point Stuart Loop to enjoy some off-pavement hiking and more views through the eucalyptus forest. Careful with kids up here, the cliffs drop off to the ocean and are not fenced. Back on the paved road we walked what I think is the boring part of the island. There’s not really any views and you are just on a paved road. Never fear, it is short lived. Soon you will drop down into Ayala Cove with picnic benches, the visitor center and a nice grassy area for everyone to play.

As we got closer to the marina we could start to hear happy music coming from the Angel Island Cafe. The hubs chose the burger and a beer and I went for the tilapia tacos and rosé…so delicious and worth every penny!! We sat under the shade and listened to my coworker’s band, Staggerwing. It was a fabulous ending to a beautiful day!


Hike details:

Check the ferry schedule! It is $15/person and cash only, Perimeter Road is approx 5 miles around, check the weather and layer up you are on the bay, parking is $5 all day a block away from the ferry landing, flushing toilets on island…will go back for camping! Sorry, no dogs. Check out the CA State Parks website for more info.

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