Well-Rounded Vallejo

One of the most diverse cities in the U.S., Vallejo was the capital of California once-no, twice.

  On San Pablo Bay, a northern lobe of San Francisco Bay, sits the town of Vallejo, whose downtown area and marine facilities on the Napa River are protected by Mare Island. Whether as a base of operations for a weekend excursion or the jumping off point for a waterborne cruise to wine country or the California Delta, Vallejo has much to recommend itself to boaters. For provisioning, the options are many, but one of the newest and trending establishments is the Grocery Outlet, which is right on the waterfront of the Napa River.

The Vallejo Municipal Marina is at the north end of the Downtown Marina Waterfront, nearly abutting the Mare Island Causeway. The guest docks include 30- and 50-amp power, and the marina has two free onsite pumpouts, a boatyard and a chandlery. The guest docks are closed during the weekend at Vallejo Municipal Marina, but boaters who make arrangements ahead of time can be accommodated. Call (707) 544-2813 for more information.

The marina has a couple of options for boaters to rest their sea legs and have a good meal. The Sardine Can is a casual bar and eatery serving up sustainable seafood and steak dishes. The restaurant often has live jazz bands on the weekend, and plenty of outdoor seating means patrons can enjoy the river views. Not far southeast of The Sardine Can is the upscale Italian restaurant Zio Fraedo’s, which has classic Italian dishes and a full bar. Sherry’s Sports Bar is inside the restaurant, where patrons can catch a great happy hour Monday through Saturday. The bar has daily specials that include Taco Tuesday and Wacky Wednesday, so make sure to check the website for what’s new.

The Vallejo Farmers Market every Saturday morning is a big draw to the downtown area by the waterfront. The morning I visited, the air was filled with delicious scents and vibrant colors and characters. There are plenty of meal options as well as craft vendors and, of course, many options for fresh fruits and vegetables. This particular market is also known to have the lowest prices around the Bay Area.

About a mile from the marina is the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum. Learn about the rich history of the area, from being the state capital (twice!) to being a railroad hub to being a major naval installation through the years. The museum also has rotating exhibits; currently on display is one commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and children under 12 are free.

Mare Island is not an island, nor does it have any horses inhabiting it. The peninsula got its name from Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, commander of the Mexican cavalry, who thought his favorite mare was lost. It was found on a peninsula that he consequently dubbed Mare Island. After more than a century of military use, Mare Island was decommissioned in 1996 and is now a tourist destination that includes abandoned buildings, the Mare Island Museum and Historical Park, grand officers’ homes, and the West Coast’s oldest naval cemetery.

Boaters who moor at the marina will likely spy the Mare Island Causeway, which juts over the Napa River. Requests to pass through the novel bridge are by sound signal (one prolonged blast followed by one short blast), visual signal (raise and lower a white, amber or green flag vertically), by marine radio (Channel 13), or by calling (707) 562-3556. The bridge links Mare Island to the greater Vallejo area, and on the waterways it is a gateway to Napa Valley via the river.

In the downtown area is the popular Good Day Café on Georgia Street a few blocks inland from the marina. Near it is a curious clock tower on the sidewalk. The Alibi Clock once stood on Market Street in San Francisco but was relocated to Vallejo in 1932. It was the critical piece of evidence that pardoned a wrongfully convicted person by proving in a photo that the suspect was nowhere near the crime scene.

Many different ferry lines service Vallejo, taking visitors to various other Bay Area cities and sights, such as Oakland, the San Francisco Ferry Building and Pier 41. One way to visit more of the area conveniently and with fewer mooring stops would be to moor in Vallejo and take the ferry elsewhere.