Number 43 - November 2013
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Bay Area Military Historical Sites - Part III: Marin County

This is the third, and last, in our series of newsletters covering Bay Area military historical sites. The May 2013 issue of 'Rick's Tips' covered military historical sites in San Francisco. The August 2013 issue of 'Rick's Tips' covered military historical sites in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. In this issue, we'll visit old military sites in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Most of the old military sites are within the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service that includes land in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties. Just across the Golden Gate are the Marin Headlands, home to Forts Baker, Barry, and Cronkhite.

Fort Baker

Fort Baker is east of the Golden Gate Bridge and was the last of the army posts to be incorporated into the Recreation Area. The fort was founded in 1905 and the last soldiers left in 2000. The Park Service offers cell phone walking tours on the post's history that are three miles and three quarters of a mile in length. When you see one of the cell phone tour signs, call 415-375-8281.

The Bay Area Discovery Museum is a great place to go with young children. The museum has spaces devoted to infants and toddlers, children under the age of five, and six to eight year olds. There are also sections for children eight and younger, making these exhibits good for families with children of varying ages. During the winter, the museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., except on major holidays. Admission is $11/person.

Cavallo Point is a luxury hotel and spa that consists of lodging in both historic buildings and modern structures. The hotel is also home to Murray Circle Restaurant and Farley Bar. The terrace overlooking the parade ground and the Golden Gate is a nice spot to relax with a drink.

Fort Barry

Fort Barry, founded in 1908, lies west of the Golden Gate Bridge. It is home to historic batteries, Point Bonita Lighthouse, a restored Nike Missile site, a hostel, and beautiful views of the Golden Gate, Pacific Ocean, and Rodeo Lagoon.

Point Bonita Lighthouse guards the entrance to San Francisco Bay. From the lighthouse, visitors have spectacular views of the Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the San Francisco skyline. Access to the lighthouse is along a half-mile trail that runs partially through a tunnel built by Chinese laborers in 1876. The trail and tunnel to Point Bonita are open Saturday to Monday from 12:30 until 3:30 p.m. and can be reached in less than 30 minutes from San Francisco. Nearby are picnic tables where you can enjoy a lunch on a sunny day.

Learn more about Cold War defenses at SF-88, the country's only restored Nike missile site. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 12:30 until 3:30 p.m. Guided tours are available at 12:45, 1:45, and 2:30 p.m. In addition, on the first Saturday of each month SF-88, has an open house with docents stationed around the site to interpret the various buildings and equipment.

Hostelling International offers reasonably priced accommodation at its Marin Headlands Hostel, which is housed in historic buildings dating from 1907.

The Marin Headlands Visitors Center is located in the historic Fort Barry Chapel at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads. The Visitors Center is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

Fort Cronkhite

Fort Cronkhite was one of many temporary military posts built by the army during World War II. Most of the buildings here were completed in 1941 and housed hundreds of coast artillery soldiers.

Rodeo Beach is a perfect spot for a relaxing stroll on the beach. However, you won't want to go into the water as you may leave a toe or two behind in the frigid water.

Battery Townsley, a once top secret military installation, now welcomes visitors on the first Sunday of the month from noon until 4:00 p.m. Here you can learn about coastal defenses during World War II. You can see a 16-inch caliber gun that could shoot a 2,100 pound projectile twenty five miles out to sea. A docent will also take you on a walk through the underground battery.

The Marine Mammal Center is a hospital for sick pinnipeds ? sea mammals with flippers. Each year the hospital cares for hundreds of elephant seals, sea lions, harbor seals, and other types of seals. Visitors can usually see elephant seals and/or sea lions that are receiving care. The center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.

Muir Beach Overlook

The Muir Beach Overlook is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area but is not in the Marin Headlands. The army stationed soldiers here during World War II to look for Japanese ships. None were ever seen, although we now know that submarines were off shore after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Today the Muir Beach Overlook offers spectacular views of the Pacific from San Francisco to Point Reyes. During the spring and late fall, you might see gray whales migrating between Alaska and Baja California. The Overlook is located about one mile north of the small town of Muir Beach off of CA Route 1.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island is the largest Island in San Francisco Bay. Soldiers were stationed on the island from the Civil War through World War II. Today visitors to the island can hike or bike its many trails. The top of Mount Caroline Livermore, 788 feet above sea level, affords magnificent views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline.

From 1910 to 1940, Angel Island was home to an Immigration Station where Chinese and others were detained for examination before being allowed to complete their journey to San Francisco. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and on weekends until 4:00 p.m. Tours are offered at 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1:45 p.m.

Angel Island is a great place for a picnic. Bring your own supplies or stop in at the Angel Island Cafe, which is open daily, or the Angel Island Cantina, which is open on weekends. Segway, scooter, and tram tours are offered by the Angel Island Company.

Angel Island is accessible by ferry from San Francisco and Oakland/Alameda (seasonal) through the Blue and Gold Fleet and from Tiburon via the Angel Island Ferry.

This concludes our survey of Bay Area historical military sites. As you have seen, not only do these old posts and bases have much to teach us about our past but also offer fun activities for locals and visitors.

If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that includes some of these sites, contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
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