Military history at the foot of the bridge.
Dating back to the Gold Rush, this historic defensive fort at the bridge’s south anchorage is about as close as you can get to the Golden Gate without actually going across. Access is free, and it's a great place to brush up on early California history while enjoying the incredible views. Alfred Hitchcock fans may also recognize Fort Point as the spot where Madeleine jumps into the San Francisco Bay in Vertigo. To get there by car, take the last San Francisco exit before the toll plaza.
Lands End Trail
An urban hike with clifftop views.
This hiking trail at the edge of the Presidio is one of the few places you can see the bridge from the west. The vistas from Eagle’s Point and the Lands End labyrinth are the best, but look for additional glimpses as the trail meanders through the woods. Find free parking near the trailhead on Lincoln Highway.
A sailor's perspective, without the work.
With a little advance planning, you can climb aboard one of the sightseeing boats that depart almost hourly from Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf. Most cruises venture beneath the bridge into the open Pacific Ocean, so you can see the span from below, while bridge-to-bridge itineraries also loop in a trip under the Bay Bridge. Also accessible by boat, Angel Island and Alcatraz Island offer spectacular bridge views, though you’ll need to book well in advance for an Alcatraz tour.
Life’s a beach at this shoreline park.
Pack a picnic and drop a blanket along this grassy expanse on San Francisco's northern shores. The vast lawn and public beach boast unobstructed views of the bridge as a backdrop. It's a popular spot for flying kites, frisbee games, and wading—just keep in mind that the bay waters are frigid year-round.
A bird’s-eye vantage point in the headlands.
One of the most impressive bridge viewpoints is tucked in the Marin Headlands, a landscape of rolling green hills north of San Francisco. You'll need a vehicle or extreme biking endurance to reach this one—cross the bridge going north, then turn left onto the winding, two-lane Conzelman Road. From the top, the views of the Golden Gate Bridge against the San Francisco cityscape are unmatched.
European-style charm across the bay.
Also just north of San Francisco, this quaint seaside village features a rocky coastline and harbor with a direct view of the bridge from an alluring angle. Dine on fresh seafood with a view at a waterfront restaurant like the Spinnaker or Bar Bocce, or grab an ice cream from one of the cafés on Caledonia Street and stroll along the Bridgeway promenade. If you don't have a car, it's a fairly easy bike ride to get here, or you can catch a ferry from San Francisco’s Ferry Building.