The golden gate bridge was fantastic! We hired bikes and rode across San Francisco which is possibly the most bike friendly city I have been too but in parts incredibly hilly. The bridge was 1.7 miles and flat which made it a pleasant and interesting ride.
The bridge was full of interesting facts, people and suicide helpline signs. Something that I never thought I would see. It's apparently one of the most popular suicide spots in the country which brings quite a sad reality home and makes you feel quite emotional whilst walking across it.
The lanes are busy, Around 5 lanes of cars travelling in each direction, people walking on the paths and bikes riding it can be cramped. A fantastic place to get some pictures of Alcatraz and the San Francisco bay however.
If you cross the bridge via bike make sure you ride down into Sausalito and get the ferry back. It makes a great day trip, with lovely little shops and a few places to eat and you don't need to be part of a tour to do it. Just hire some bikes, pick up a map and travel at your own pace.
All ages will enjoy the bridge. Could be quite daunting for a few people if they are not a fan of being up high above water.
The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most famous of San Francisco's landmark and arguably the most famous bridge in the world. It spans the bay from The Presidio to Marin County on the other side and, as far as bridges can be, it is actually quite pretty. It isn't the biggest bridge in the world, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most impressive.
It is a suspension bridge that was finished in 1937. At either end of the bridge is a little placard showing off some of its most impressive facts; the two towers are a lofty 746 metres high, the roadway across it runs for 1.75 miles and the cable used to construct it is enough to circle the Earth three times. Apparently it is five times stronger than it needs to be, which explains why it has suffered no damage despite years of hurricane winds, earth quakes and extremely heavy use. One of the most fascinating facts though in my opinion is that it can sway up to 21 metres - something that I absolutely wouldn't like to have tested whilst I was on it. The bridge is painted in 'international orange' a colour that makes it even more famous - I wouldn't like to guess at how many extra tonnes the paint gives the bridge.
A trip to the city isn't complete without crossing the bridge in one form or another. One of the most popular ways to do this is by cycle and there are lots of 'cycle the bridge' tours available from the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco, where bike hire will cost around $18 for a round trip. The first time I visited, I crossed it on a bus. If you are thinking of going by vehicle, then you need to bear in mind just how busy the six lanes of the bridge get and that there is a $5 charge for the south bound trip. It is worth it once you've done it though because there is a lovely viewpoint at the far side where you can take some fabulous photos of both the bridge and the city in the background.
This time I visited, we walked across the bridge. I actually bottled it about a third of the way across as you can definitely feel the sway that I mentioned. This isn't helped by either the huge vehicles trundling past on the other side or the numerous signs along the way offering counselling to those who have thoughts of jumping off. Its status as the world's most popular suicide spot is, unfortunately, something else that makes the bridge famous and the evidence of this status is there in the signs.
My husband (the daredevil) walked much further than I did and took some spectacular photographs of the huge towers and the island of Alcatraz in the distance. He wasn't enough of a daredevil to look too far over the side in the middle of the bridge though, where there is a small protrusion which acts as a kind of viewing platform.
Back on terra firma at the beginning of the bridge there is a grassy area where you can admire the construction in all its glory, as well as a rather overpriced gift shop that, as the numerous signs tell you, has no toilet facilities. There are also a couple of benches and some quite interesting signs that tell the story of the bridge from its construction to now.
You can't possibly go to San Francisco without experiencing the world's most famous bridge, but if you haven't got a head for heights, be prepared to be afraid - very afraid!
A little Info about the bridge
The "Golden Gate" is the name given to the strait or channel of water connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean in North America and named by an engineer called John C Fremont. A bridge was built in 1937 to cover this distance of around 8 miles - and took the name "Golden Gate Bridge" after the strait.
It immediately became the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1.7 miles long. A suspension bridge is basically when the main carrying load or the deck of the bridge is overhanging below the cables holding it up. This type of bridges can be ideal for the Californian environment as they are better at withstanding earthquake movement than other designs. These same designs can also be found in New York such as the "Manhattan Bridge" as they were engineered by same man who designed the Golden Gate Bridge - but the Manhattan Bridge was made first (completed in 1912).
Some interesting facts I learnt was that the bridge is painted so frequently (ANNUALLY in fact) that they use up 5000 gallons of the "International orange" colour - the name of the shade of colour used. Although paintwork of the bridge is not something that crosses your mind when you're there actually looking at the bridge! - its sheer magnificence sort of takes you over, but they obviously have to spend a lot of time maintaining it - and it has to be done since the bridge is so high up and exposed to some harsh weathering.
While there, you can find lots of other useful facts and information about the bridge at the visitors centre either end of the bridge.
Another thing to know is that either end of the bridge is are National Parks - the majority of the park is however on the north point and all the along the coast there (Drakes Bay). It is an unusual place to have National Park as San Francisco is generally very urban however National parks are always a good thing and there are things to see there like lighthouses, lagoons and wetlands and other wildlife sanctuaries.
Plan how you want to see the bridge
100,000 vehicles travel across this bridge every day, so while getting there it's always good to bear in mind that if you do plan to drive across it you may come across a bit of traffic congestion - however it will definitely be worth it in the end. The toll to cross over the bridge is $6 which is just under £4 - but you will only be affected with the toll from the South end. This is the side where most of the traffic heads out anyway.
There are so many ways to see the bridge - you may just want to walk on it for a bit, simply drive over the bridge, or take a bay cruise. If you want to go under the bridge you can book from one of bay cruises, but there are seriously so many to pick from! These cruises depend on what you want to include in it - whether you just want take a tour which just goes under the bridge or want to cruise up to Alcatraz Island or even dine on the cruise!
But you can decide all of this at the visitor's centre, when there. You may make your decision according to the weather, how busy it is at that time or the different prices on offer and what aspects the tour includes. But the majority of these tour companies are located at Pier 39 (where the sea lions are!) at Fisherman's Wharf.
My bridge experience
When I first saw the bridge, it looked so much bigger than I had imagined. Obviously having seen it in media pictures or films and then actually seeing it in reality brings a weird surreal feeling. It's as if you just need to spend a couple minutes to actually take it all in.
Fortunately the weather we had in February was actually really good. The sun was out, the sky was blue and clear and there was no sign of fog. But it was cold as February is normally cold in San Francisco and it gets colder as you walk out onto the bridge. On a foggy day, though, I don't think it will ruin your experience - it could be spectacular with the fog gulping up part of your bridge! - There have been some really amazing pictures taken of the bridge when it's surrounded by fog. The rain may dampen the experience though, but hopefully you would be able to check the weather forecast for the day before heading out there.
I personally think the best ways to see the bridge is by walking over it and then later take a boat tour to cruise under it (or vice versa). It's up to you how you fancy seeing it, but I do recommend both standing on it and cruising under it.
Walking ON the bridge:
We started out from the South point (San Francisco side). Walking across the bridge was a great way to experience such an amazing construction - by literally standing on it and feeling its strength! It could take a massive hour to walk across this bridge from one end to the other - but I personally don't think it's really necessary to walk the whole bridge. If you get to the centre than that's the experience you were probably after.
Once you get to the middle you'll feel like you are somewhere in the sky looking down; you will feel so high up! Although I felt safe standing on the bridge, we did feel the bridge shake quite a bit by the wind and maybe vibration from the vehicles, but mostly the wind pounding on the bridge - even though we hadn't even noticed it was windy while on land. But being in the middle of the ocean and so high up (220 feet high above the water's surface, which is very high!) you almost certainly expect it, I think.
Overall, walking on the bridge really enables you to experience the bridge in the more realistic way. From the bridge, the main things you need to look out for (as long as it's not foggy) is the San Franciscan skyline at the entirety, you'll see the Alcatraz Island in the middle which will be on the same line as Pier 39 and further ahead you should be able to see Bay Bridge.
And it's free to walk over, so no down-sides to it!
Cruising UNDER the bridge:
We took one of the Bay cruises with the Red & White Fleet company - they are a good renowned company and can be found at Pier 43 ½ also where you board the boat. The tour we chose was the "Golden Gate Bay" cruise which basically takes off from Fisherman's wharf, makes a loop around Alcatraz, goes under the bridge and does a u-turn as it comes out on the west of the bridge.
We found this sufficient enough to see everything the bridge had to offer and more, however if you want a more fancy cruise you could maybe choose the 2 hour cruise which will take you around Angel island, or even a 90 minute cruise which takes you further up to Bay Bridge. The cruise we took was around $25 dollars which is roughly £15 for a one hour ride.
I did get some of the best photos of the bridge from this cruise, especially when you are just about to go underneath the bridge and if you're in the right position you can also get the whole length of the bridge in one photo shot.
Why I love this bridge...
For me, visiting the Golden Gate Bridge sort of summed up my whole San Franciscan experience - it wouldn't have been complete if I hadn't seen the Golden Gate Bridge. The same way that any holiday to New York would not be complete without seeing Statue of Liberty or Paris without visiting Eiffel Tower.
The Golden Gate Bridge essentially represents San Francisco; Its California's most well-known image or landmark - It's an incredible piece of engineering work, a means of effectively transporting commuters or daily traffic, a tourist attraction and a perfect backdrop for any movie director.
Although I would without doubt recommend and hope this same experience for you, I would also recommend seeing the rest of San Francisco also, as this city has so much to see and so much offer - and if you don't have time to visit all of it, then at least check out Fisherman's wharf! - They have the best seafood there or simply just visit the Forrest Gump-themed "Bubba Gump Shrimp" restaurant!!! It's just great - you won't really regret it! =)
(Thanks for reading! - Also posted on Ciao)
This is another one of those landmarks that some people may be impressed by if you've been there, but in the end there's not much to say about it.
There are some good views and it is a very grand structure, worth a visit or to look upon, but there are far more exciting things to do in the area!
We walked across it. It took bloody ages, was freezing cold and windy as Hell, the main excitement coming from trying not to be tossed over the side by the gales. But after about 5 minutes i was bored and wanted to turn around.
At night, the bridge is much more of a spectacle, with golden lights (is that where it got its name) cascading from the towers and out over the water, giving it a strange sort of magical, christmassy feel.
If you're in San Francisco then of course it is worth a visit, I just think there's only so much time you can spend on a bridge before you get bored.
Just a skimmed stone across the waters is Alcatraz, which is probably a better use of your money.
We planned a week-long trip to California this previous summer - we flew into LAX, and stayed with my sister for a couple of days, before driving up the I-5 to San Francisco. We fell in love with the city instantly, and spent our first night exploring the Fishermans Wharf and Chinatown. Our second day in town, we resolved to walk the Golden Gate Bridge.
We were staying in the Hilton Union Square, which was perfectly placed for walking to the Wharf, Chinatown, Ghiradelli Square, the trolleys and the business district. It was less perfect for getting to the Bridge, however, and after trying to determine whether or not we could get the ferry to Sausalito and then walk from there back to SF, we decided in the end to just grab a taxi up there. The taxi was able to drop us off at the first vantage point, and we started our walk from there.
The view was absolutely stunning - we had the good luck to make our trip on a clear, sunny Labour Day, and the view of Alcatraz and the rest of the city is not to be missed by any traveller to SF. It took us about half an hour total to cross the bridge, as we constantly stopped to take more pictures of the view or even of the bridge itself. Our fellow crossers seemed to be a mixture of tourists and daily commuters, and the vibe was quite chill - though the thoroughfare was wide enough you could easily walk down it, in the instances that you did meet someone in front of you, everyone was very polite, stepping to the side and letting you by.
Once we reached the other side, we took a couple more pictures at that vantage point, and then decided to walk (downhill) to Sausalito. We had been told by someone selling tour bus tickets that this walk was nearly impossible - we took that advice with a grain of salt, knowing he did have good reason to turn us off walking! We are both avid hikers, and found the trail very peaceful - we had both dressed to walk across the bridge (jeans, sneakers, comfortable clothes) so we had no problem making the 30-40 minute walk to Sausalito's pier. From Sausalito, we caught the ferry back to SF, which afforded us some more great views of the bridge and Alcatraz.
I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who saw the walk across the bridge itself to be quite challenging, and I wouldn't recommend it at dusk, at night, or in the rain (you're walking alongside curvy roads for quite a lot of it), but if you're up to burn some of those fudge or chowder calories, then this is a beautiful way to do it! Otherwise, make sure you arrange to have a car/bus/taxi pick you up from the other side of the bridge - it's a busy highway, where taxis aren't liable to be driving by to pick you up.
Golden Gate Bridge. San Francisco.
Whether arriving in San Francisco by air, sea or road there is the unmistakeable and instantly recognisable sight of The Golden Gate Bridge which is a familiar sight for most people. The Golden Gate Bridge is probably the most famous Bridge in the world. Before the bridge was built the only way of crossing Golden Gate bay was by Ferry from San Francisco to Marin County.
The construction of the bridge.
Many people thought that it would be impossible to build a bridge spanning what essentially was nearly two miles. The designer of the bridge was Joseph Strauss.
The bridge construction began in January 1933 and took four years to complete in April 1937. It spans the bay at a distance of 1.7 miles including the approaches at either end. It cost $35 million dollars to build and was until 1964 the longest suspension bridge in the world. They estimated that for every million dollars it cost to build, one man would be killed during its construction but in fact only 11 men died. Safety nets were used during the construction of the bridge.
The two high towers at each end of the bridge that supports the bridges cables are over 746 feet high from the water and 500 feet above the road. They weigh approximately 440,000 tons and there are 600, 000 rivets in each tower.
The bridge is 90 foot wide including a 10 foot pavement and has a five lane roadway which alternates the flow of traffic according to the time of day. The traffic flows in three lanes into San Francisco in the mornings leaving two lanes coming in the opposite direction then in the evening rush hour it is reversed using three lanes out of San Francisco and two lanes in. It costs approximately $6 in road toll fees but the bigger the vehicle the more you pay depending on how many axles the vehicle has. The tolls are collected on the south bound part of the bridge San Francisco.
The actual cables on top of the bridge supporting the structure are nearly 37 inches in diameter containing 27, 572 strands of wire which could if unravelled and places end to end would stretch for 80,000 miles. The main cables are secured in deep concrete at either end of the bridge.
There is a team of 38 painters who constantly touch up the neediest parts of the bridge that need painting. Due to the mists and salt from the fog and bay the metal parts of the bridge are continuously at risk of rusting although the paint they use now is an acrylic based paint which covers and aims to provide better coverage and protection. The red/orange coloured paint makes the bridge stand out majestically and proud it is called international orange.
The bridge is very high and during the summer months the bay is surrounded by rolling fogs. The fog usually burns off at some point during the day but sometimes the fog is more persistent. The bridge towers can sometimes be viewed over the fog rising majestically into the sky. It is a magnificent sight and can be seen from many vantage points throughout the bay area. There are red warning lights on top of the towers and also along the cables. The base of the pillars on the under side of the bridge also have warning lights on and in the middle of the underside of the bridge the lights are green signifying safe passage. During foggy conditions there are foghorns that sound throughout the day until the fog has lifted.
Different ways of travelling on, over or under the bridge.
You can fly over the bridge during arrival by air.
Most boat trips around the bay or going across to Sausalito travel under the bridge.
You can drive over the bridge.
Pedestrians can walk over the bridge.
I was fortunate enough to do all the above. Walking over the bridge is quite a frightening experience due to the constant passing of traffic and the height of the bridge. For me the best way I thought to view it was under the bridge on a boat. I really enjoyed approaching the bridge from below which offered fantastic views and produced some brilliant photos.
Suicides from the bridge.
The bridge is also famous for something rather unsavoury. Research has shown that the suicide rates in San Francisco are at their highest during a full moon. Apparently Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place in the USA to commit suicide. There is a security team who patrol the bridge on the look out for potential suicide victims. They patrol the bridge in electric buggies.
There have been calls to put safety nets either side of the bridge but it is thought that they may have adverse affects to the overall weight of the bridge. I understand that they are thinking of putting some kind of plastic coated steel netting along the edges of the bridge in the attempt to stop suicides. However it is likely to cost about $20 million.
Only 26 people are known to have survived a suicide attempt and the actual amount of suicides has been underestimated because of the very strong tides a lot of bodies may have been swept out to sea and never been recovered. It is not possible to walk over the bridge once it has got dark as another precaution to prevent suicides. There are also telephones to suicide help lines at intervals across the bridge. Some people drive hire cars to the bridge then just abandon the car which is later found by the authorities.
When jumping from the bridge the estimated speed when hitting the water is 86 MPH and takes 4 seconds. Those that survive the fall usually with broken bones either drown due to the very strong currents or die of hypothermia.
The Golden Gate Visitor Gift Centre.
There is a visitor gift centre which is in a beautiful round building that was initially used as a café for drivers arriving after their long drive to San Francisco. It is near the bridge tolls where there is an exhibition detailing the building of the bridge, a cafeteria, coffee shop and gift shop selling all types of Bridge memorabilia. There is also a statue of the person who designed the bridge Josef Strauss in front of the visitors gift centre.
It is open from 08:30 to 19:30 in the summer and 08:30 to 17:30 in the winter.
There are some fantastic views on both sides of the bridge.
South Vista point.
Fort Point at the base of the bridge on the south side.
Lincoln Avenue and Baker beach.
I would recommend a visit to the bridge and to cross it by foot, in a car and also on a bay cruise it is a brilliant opportunity for taking photos from all angles especially of the view of San Francisco's sky line. The vista points give wonderful views of the bridge too especially Fort point and Baker beach. Most vineyard tours, tours to Muir woods and bay tours pass over the bridge on the return to San Francisco.
In the words of the Tony Bennet song I left my heart in San Francisco is oh so true. It automatically conjures up pictures in your mind of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Once you have been to San Francisco you will want to return.