This post was written with help from guest contributor, Nick Williams, and his four-year old Rio.
We loved taking a mini vacation to Angel Island with kids. This weekend adventure to Angel Island has a little something for everyone on your list – a boat ride (fun!), exercise, drinks, AND beautiful scenery. Sound good? Let's go!
Covid-19 Restrictions to expect while visiting Angel Island
- The ferry requires advance purchase of tickets. The staff keeps the ferry meticulously and visibly clean during your ride and makes sure that all passengers are wearing their masks and keeping socially distant from others. They offer hand sanitizer on boarding and exiting the ferry.
- The Cove Cafe on site has limited its menu to snacks and drinks.
- Wear a face-covering mask. Carry hand sanitizer.
- When you line up to leave the island there are spray-painted “bubbles” with numbers for your group to stand in while you wait. Then the rangers call out your number when it is your turn to safely get back on the ferry. Rio loved spotting all of the numbers and waiting for his “special” number to be called. I appreciated this clever, simple and safe system and could see it being replicated in schools, once they open
Getting to Angel Island from the East Bay
There is a ferry to the island but it leaves from Marin County in Tiburon. You'll want to arrive early enough to find proper parking and allow a few minutes to walk in from the parking lot. We were running late and ended up paying $15 to park right next to the ferry terminal. No good.
We took the 10 am Tiburon-Angel Island Ferry – tickets were $15/adult, $5/small children. Advance reservations are required. The boat ride is a short 12 minute trip to the island – not too long to get sea-sick, and just long enough for your little ones to stay excited. I recommend catching the earliest boat to the island to leave enough time for activities, because the last ferry returns at 3:30pm.
As we approached the Angel Island there were a two dozen seals just waking up on the docks. It was fun to watch them splash into the water as the ferry docked.
What to do on Angel Island with small children
Once on the island, we stocked up on extra snacks and water from the Cove Cafe and headed towards the sunset trail, which wraps around the Marin-facing-side of the island. Since we had come over on the first ferry of the day we did not see anyone else on our way up. There was so much nature to observe and appreciate! From flowers, to soaring hawks, to spider webs and even a skeleton (of a raccoon?) – Rio was engaged the whole time and had no trouble hiking the incline. Once we reached the point where the trail wraps around and looks towards the Golden Gate Bridge we stopped for an incredibly scenic lunch. I pushed him to go a little further after, and we walked along the fire trail, which doesn't incline, so that we (I) could appreciate all of the SF and Alcatraz Island views.
Angel Island is super family-friendly. Take a hike, throw a frisbee, drink a beer, or treat yourself to some ice cream. We easily hiked to the peak – Mt. Livermore – carrying our three-year old and nine-month old, but I definitely saw grade-schoolers walking the trail. It's a five-mile loop, and took us about two hours. Once at the top the views are beautiful. See all three bridges, the San Francisco cityscape, and I bet you could even find your own house. Neat. Pack a snack (or even lunch) and relax at one of the many picnic tables at the top before heading back down. If you don't think your little ones can manage the hike, no worries! There's a paved path around the entire island that is stroller/bike friendly and still just as beautiful.
After the hike we stopped at The Cove Cafe for a cold drink and snacks. During non-Covid times, they offer a full made-to-order cafe. Right now, you ought to pack a lunch and picnic on the huge green overlooking the Bay. So pretty.
We were done just in time to take an earlier ferry home, but we totally could have stuck around a bit longer because there was still more to do. Next time we'd like to visit the Angel Island Immigration Station museum and when it's warmer dip our toes in the sand at the secluded beach.
What other family-friendly hikes are on your radar? We're on the lookout for some good ones.
[All photos by Anna Azimi and Nick Williams]