In the shadow of the Bay Bridge is an artificial island that has an an eclectic history and special allure.
The name “Treasure Island” might conjure images of a casino and hotel in Las Vegas or perhaps the famous adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson (who was a long-time resident of the Bay Area). But what we’re referring to is Treasure Island in San Francisco. The artificial island in the middle of San Francisco Bay did get its name from the latter, and there have long been rumors of gold in the soil used to build the island.
Today, Treasure Island is a place in constant flux; despite being less than a century old the manmade island has lived many different lives, from its rich military history to nuclear testing to wine tasting. And it has what’s arguably the best view of San Francisco. With a current renovation budgeted at more than $1 billion, there is much change coming to Treasure Island. Visiting boaters, however, will still appreciate its flat open areas to explore on foot or by bike, and its reasonably priced locally owned restaurant and a bar options.
WHERE TO MOOR
Visiting boaters should navigate toward Clipper Cove where they will find, nestled in the northwest corner, Treasure Isle Marina. Guest docks are available, though limited, for $1 per foot per day, with a $30 minimum. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (415) 981-2416.
PROVISIONS AND MORE
The very popular TreasureFest (formerly Treasure Island Flea) is a unique monthly outdoor shopping, food and music event that showcases the best of the Bay Area. More than 400 curated shopping vendor booths are filled to the brim with vintage wares, antiques, crafted goods and artists. It claims to be Northern California’s largest monthly festival. Catch it from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every last Saturday and Sunday of the month. More than 40 food trucks and tents feature unique items and a full lineup of local wines and craft brews.
More wine and beer tasting rooms can be found in the strangest of places on Treasure Island. To taste wine in a submarine, head to Sottomarino Winery. What about an artificial beach? Hop on over to the tasting room at Sol Rouge. Wine drinkers who don’t like wine with sulfites will find more than 25 varieties of sulfite free wine at Fat Grape Winery. Anyone who prefers to drink wine in a giant warehouse filled with art from Burning Man should check out The Winery SF.
For an inexpensive meal with a million-dollar view — come to think of it, $1 million won’t go very far in San Francisco — head to the nondescript Mateo Hot Dogs and Churros. It’s the first food stand boaters are greeted by when alighting on Treasure Island from the marina. Patrons rave about the delicious crisp churros and polish sausages. The stand also has burritos and tamales for a quick, hearty meal. To “do brunch,” head to Aracely Café. Its spacious outdoor dining area is a popular wedding and event venue for locals, and brunch can include bottomless mimosas. The new kid on the block — well, island — is Mersea, a large indoor/outdoor space that takes advantage of Treasure Island’s spectacular bay views. With a full bar and brunch, lunch and dinner options, Mersea gets crowded, but a complimentary miniature golf course helps waiting diners pass the time.
A COLORFUL HISTORY
Despite being less than 100 years old, Treasure Island has worn many hats. It began humbly as Yerba Buena Shoals and then became a government building locale and Pan Am flying boat airport. Treasure Island later hosted the World’s Fair in 1939-1940 and has been used for famous scenes from Hollywood films such as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” to “The Matrix.” During the second half of the century, the U.S. Navy used the island for training missions. The warehouse work spaces of yore are now used as event venues and even as workshops and storage facilities for the infamous Burning Man Festival’s treasures and sculptures.
Due to the radioactivity from Cold War military testing and runoff from ships, much of the island is quarantined and unsafe for visitors. When visiting, be mindful of trespassing signs.