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11 Reasons to Visit Treasure Island (Besides Treasure Island Music Festival)

Wineries, bocce ball, and chicken-in-waffles. What more do you need?

We’re the first to admit that Treasure Island is one of those weird places we always say we want to visit, but then tell ourselves is just too far away. Except, guess what: it’s totally not. It only takes 15 to 30 minutes in the car from pretty much anywhere in San Francisco and, even better, you can take public transportation there really easily. Which you should do because this man-made island in the middle of the Bay is definitely worth the small trek.

Before you go though, here are a few fun facts to tell your friends while you’re en route. Treasure Island was built in 1936-37 for the 1939 Golden Gate International Expo, a fair celebrating the engineering of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. When it was complete, it was an attraction full of exhibits, temples, pools, gardens, sculptures, and music festivals just known as “the Fair.” “The Fair” closed in 1940 and was converted into a naval station in 1941, but was returned to civilian use in 1993.

Even though Treasure Island is between SF and Oakland, it’s technically a San Francisco neighborhood with about 2,000 full-time residents. It’s also built on landfill, which means… well, we don’t want to jinx anything, but let’s just say we don’t want to be there when The Big One hits.

And while Treasure Island currently has a cool apocalyptic feel because there are tons of abandoned buildings and closed-off spaces (something to do with radiation or whatever), that won’t be the case for long as developers are going to spend the next 20 years covering the prime real estate with 8,000 new homes, 500 hotel rooms, 140,000 square feet of retail, and another 100,000 square feet of office space.

Which means you should take advantage of the bizarre yet charming island now, before it transforms into something totally different. But what’s there to do? Well, you could spend all day just cruising around and taking in the amazing views, but when that grows old, you can also do all of this fun stuff:

Go Kayaking or Paddle Boarding in a Sheltered Cove

The Treasure Island Sailing Center is mostly focused on providing affordable sailing lessons, but you can also rent paddle boards and kayaks for $25/hour on the weekends from 10 AM to 4 PM. Clipper Cove is pretty mellow, so it’s a great place to learn either sport, while also getting a cool perspective on the island and the surrounding area.

Rent a Beach Cruiser

You’re going to be doing a lot of wine tasting on the island, so it’s probably best to get there via public transportation and then rent a bike from A Tran’s Bay Bike Shop. Tammy Powers is super friendly and will tell you everything you need to know about exploring the island and making the most of your day.

Tammys Chicken in WafflesTammy's Chicken in Waffles

Snack on Chicken in Waffles

Yup, you read that right. Tammy’s Chicken in Waffles (yes, the same Tammy who is also going to rent you the bike) is a cute little waffle cart where you can get the most delicious mini waffles ever with chicken baked right inside.

Drink Bottomless Mimosas & Eat Tasty Tacos

Treasure Island Bar & Grill is the perfect place to go for cheap eats and drinks while sitting on the enclosed (and heated) patio and enjoying great views of San Francisco and the Bay. Go on Sundays and drink bottomless mimosas or $5 Bloodys from 11 AM to 2 PM or visit during happy hour (Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 PM) when you can get $1.50 street tacos and $2 domestic beers.

Island-Club-exterior_beachWoods Island Club

Hang Out at a Beach Bar

When people think of California, they definitely think of surf, sand, and bars on the beach. But, sadly, that’s one area in which San Francisco is sadly lacking. Or it was. Now you can go to Woods Island Club, which is located on a sandy beach with views of the Bay and has four Woods beers on tap. If it’s too chilly, head inside the old Navy airplane hangar where there’s a tasting room with another eight beers on tap.

Sip Sulfite-Free Wine

Fat Grape Winery is a small winery focused on hand-made, high quality red wines without added sulfites. Wine tasting is free and you can get complimentary barrel tasting with any purchase. The tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 6 PM, and just know that you’re definitely leaving with a bottle or three in tow.

Play Bocce (and Drink More Wine)

The VIE Tasting Room and Sol Rouge Tasting Room are right next to each other on the waterfront, and all of that delicious wine is reason enough to visit. BUT there are also two bocce courts with stunning views of the Bay Bridge (okay, all views of the bridge are stunning) that are open from 12 to 5 PM on the weekends. Make a reservation in advance to guarantee your spot.

Taste (Even More) Wine in a Submarine

Go to Sottomarino Winery to taste authentic Italian wines… in a submarine. Yup, seriously. This tasting room is housed in a submarine training vessel with parts and markings from World War II and adorably named the USS Buttercup. It’s also located right next to the bocce ball courts, so you won’t have to stumble far for this unusual wine tasting experience.

Indulge in Croissant French Toast

Aracely Café is everything you could ever want in a San Francisco brunch… without the crazy lines. This hidden gem of a restaurant has an adorable garden, delicious brunch food like the aforementioned croissant French toast, cornmeal waffles with cinnamon roasted apples and Nutella whipped cream, and an eggs Benedict with pork belly and jalapeño hollandaise.

Find Treasures at the Flea Market

On the last weekend of every month, you can explore Treasure Island Flea and find vintage collectibles, indie art, and craft goods from over 400 vendors, all while enjoying (yup, we’re mentioning it again) the amazing views of the San Francisco skyline. Entrance is only $3 and there are also tons of food trucks, a full bar, and live music. So even if you’re not a flea market kinda person, you’ll still enjoy yourself.

Pose with Bliss Dance

It’s not a trip to Treasure Island without an Instagram of Bliss Dance, a 40-foot statue of a nude woman dancing that first appeared at Burning Man (OMG SHOCKER), but now lives near the Great Lawn (where the Treasure Island Music Festival happens).

By

Daisy Barringer moved to San Francisco when she was six years old and though she considers herself a “local,” knows better than to ever call herself “a native.” She resides in the Upper Haight/Cole Valley, but spends a lot of time in Tahoe with her 150-pound Saint Bernard, Monkey.

More articles by Daisy Barringer

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