It may no longer be the longest suspension bridge in the world, but the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely the most memorable. It's instantly recognisable with its tall towers, Art Deco styling, and iconic orange colouring. It was initially constructed in 1937, so San Diegans could easily drive from the city of San Francisco to the county of Marin. This got rid of the tedious process of crossing the bay by boat. Over 70 years later, this excellent piece of architecture still stands as proud and as sturdy today as it did when it was first built. It's one of San Francisco's most visited and photographed sights, which is hardly surprising considering how magnificent it is. More than 10 million people visit every year just to take pictures of the bridge in all its many moods, from foggy and mysterious when the evening mist rolls in, to bright and bold on a sunny day. Everyone's visit is different. It's up to you whether you take a stroll, cycle, drive, take a guided tour, or just stand back and take it all in.
CyclingThe overall bridge is just short of two miles long, which is the perfect length for a stroll or a gentle bike ride. There are lots of places where you can rent a bicycle for the day on either side of the bridge. Some of these rental companies even offer audio-guided bike tours. Using the power of GPS to make sure you don't get lost, you can listen to info about your exact location. It's never been easier to catch up on some unusual facts about the city you're exploring, plus you're free to absorb the glorious views.
WalkingOur top tip: leave the hire car behind and take a walk along the bridge to get up close and personal to one of the most iconic American landmarks in the country. This gives you the time and space to really appreciate just how big and magnificent the bridge actually is. When you get about halfway across, you'll be approximately 220 feet above the water. The views are superb, and as you look down at the boats passing below, they'll look like tiny model ships. If you're planning a stroll along the bridge then be aware that pedestrians are only permitted to walk along the (city side) pavement during daylight. You can't walk across the bridge after dark for safety reasons.
Things to do nearbyThe Golden Gate Recreational Area protects around 82,027 acres of land and stretches all the way from Silicon Valley to Tomales Bay. Luckily for you, some of the most charming points are located close to the Golden Gate bridge, making it easy to visit them all. You can do it in a day, but it's much better to give yourself a little bit of extra time to really enjoy yourself. There are secluded beaches along the Tennessee Valley Trail, and both Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach are fabulous places to visit. If you decide to complete the trail, you'll also come across the Sutro Baths at Lands End. As you wander along this tranquil path, you'll notice the surrounding areas are alive with wildlife. From beautiful birds flying overhead and fish swimming in the water to the luscious greenery growing all around, it's a fabulous spot for nature lovers. The pre-made tracks make the place incredibly accessible, the terrain isn't too tricky to walk on, and the trail's easy to navigate. If you really fancy a serious hike, walk to Point Bonita Lighthouse. When you get there, the views are certainly well worth the effort. You'll see gorgeous scenery for miles, so you're sure to get a few good snaps to show friends and family back home. Alternatively, you could head over to Fort Point, one of San Francisco's oldest buildings. Located beneath Golden Gate Bridge, it's a great location that really gives you a sense of the city's history. It dates back to the American Civil War, so if you're a history buff, you're in for a real treat. Visitors can explore the barracks, the officers' living areas, and even the battlements.
Where can I get a good photo of the Golden Gate Bridge?There are plenty of spots where budding photographers can capture the majesty of the bridge. However, the best place to go is Bridge Vista Point. This is located high on a hill overlooking the city. Alternatively, if it's a clear day you could head north west to the Marin Headlands. This is an excellent place to go if you want a snap of Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco's skyline in the background.
Guided toursLots of free walking tours focus primarily on the bridge. If you can go on one, do; they're a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history behind this landmark, and there's even the odd funny tale associated with the bridge and the surrounding area.
The best time to visitIf you can come either during sunrise or sunset, that's when the bridge looks its best. The views are somewhat dramatic, especially on a clear day, and you're bound to get a few fabulous pictures for your holiday album.
The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome CentreStart your day at the bridge by heading over to the Welcome Centre. You'll find the hub located within the visitor plaza, towards the southern end of the bridge. Here you'll find plenty of information on the bridge. The centre's dedicated to telling its story, so you'll learn plenty of facts about its history as well as its uses today. Tourists can look at relics from the time of its construction, many of which date back to the 1930s. From hard hats to rivets, they have loads of interesting bits and pieces. If this is your first visit it's definitely worth popping into the centre, that way you won't miss out on any of the nearby attractions. They also have plenty of souvenirs you can buy to remember your time here. Their vast collection spans Golden Gate Bridge themed posters to hats and everything else in between, so you're bound to find something that takes your fancy.