Where else to begin but at the Golden Gate Bridge, for its graceful art deco sweep of orange dominates every view in this great American city. The bridge was completed in 1937 at the cost of $35 million - an almost incomprehensible sum at the time - but it was (and still is) a triumph of beauty and engineering.
Enter Alcatraz, the most famous prison on earth. Once home to America’s most wanted criminals including Al ‘Scarface’ Capone, this forbidding island fortress was said to be impossible to escape from. That is, until the day the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris floated away on a makeshift raft and were never seen again. Take one of the tours and soak up the atmosphere of the supposedly haunted cells, the island now abandoned to the tourists and the birds.
Elsewhere in the bay, stop at Angel Island and take a walk through the pretty State Park with wonderful views, or cruise past San Francisco’s grandest homes at Belvedere. Then take your yacht back to the Famous Fisherman’s wharf, where thousands of sea lions bask on the pier in their flabby thousands, soaking up the California sun and happily pushing each other off the dock into the water. Eat battered fish and chips wrapped in paper and take a cable car up and down San Francisco’s famous hills. Spend an afternoon in the glorious Japanese tea gardens, or watching the Giants play from a suite at the AT&T Park, trying not to get distracted by the dazzling views across the bay as the crowd roars a player through home base.
San Francisco is rich in Gold Rush and Prohibition history; take a tour around the old red light district hearing tales of shanghaied soldiers and fortunes struck and squandered, finishing up with a cocktail at one of San Francisco’s very sophisticated speakeasy bars.
When the city lights go on, it’s time to eat, drink and dance - and San Francisco really does this well. With more Michelin stars for its restaurants than New York and a vibrant club and festival scene, this is a night out that you will never forget.
Just outside the city, visit the stunning vineyards of Napa Valley, or the giant Redwoods of California at Muir Woods. Head along the coast to Point Reyes National Seashore where you wi’ll find rugged cliffs and white sand beaches, and watch out for the migrating grey and humpback whales in the spring months.
This astonishing Pacific Coast city, progressive and yet with a sense of the Wild West still about it, is a must-visit in a lifetime, and like most places by the sea is just that much better when visited by yacht.