Visit the Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco Tour
Few cities boast a structure so iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge, commemorated in everything from films like The Maltese Falcon to not one but two emojis. Still, it’s become so much a part of San Francisco’s fabric and the popular imagination that it’s easy to forget what an uphill battle it was to even break ground on the bridge.The decades long battle for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge included nay-saying over logistical challenges presented by the depth of the bay, the hard winds that come in off the Pacific, and even protected sites like Fort Point. The project also had such fierce opponents as the Southern Pacific Railroad Company’s ferry subsidiaries, the United States Navy, and even teamsters advocating for local labor, all who had a vested interest in prevent a bridge from ever crossing the San Francisco Bay.

Between San Francisco Bay and Marin County is the world famous Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge has been declared one of the modern wonders of the world. It was opened in 1937 and at that time it was the longest suspension bridge ever created.

Made from steel and with a total length of 1.7 miles it is the most photographed bridge anywhere is the world. There are six lanes of traffic on the bridge carrying millions of passengers every year. Before the bridge was built people used to have to get a ferry between the two places, the ferry company was called Golden State Ferry Company and at one point it was the largest ferry company on the planet.

The Golden Gate Bridge’s vaulting, orange arches amidst the rocky seascape of the San Francisco Bay have made it one of the West Coast’s most enduring symbols and the city’s most popular tourist attraction. The bridge’s name, “Golden Gate,” actually refers to the body of water it spans (the Golden Gate Strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the San Francisco Bay), and was built to make travel between San Francisco and Marin County an easier feat. 

There are plenty of great spots to capture a snap of the majestic bridge. But if you want a truly postcard-worthy shot, head to the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point, situated high on a hill overlooking San Francisco. If you have extra time, make sure to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The actual span of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area encompasses multiple places in San Mateo (south of San Francisco), San Francisco and Marin counties (Alcatraz and Muir Woods included), but notable parts of this recreation area can be found just a stroll away from the Golden Gate. From the bridge, travelers will find some scenic, bayside trails, some of which lead to secluded beaches, including Kirby Cove and Black Sands Beach. If you really want a trek, journey to the Point Bonita Lighthouse for sweeping views of the bay, found at the very tip of the Golden Gate Strait.

Like many travelers who came before them, recent visitors were awestruck by the incredible architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the incredible views it affords. Travelers also suggested walking across the bridge for a scenic stroll (if it’s not too windy or crowded). If you want to let someone else do the driving, consider signing up for an organized bus tour – many of which traverse the bridge. And for a completely different perspective, consider one of the city’s best boat tours – many of which sail beneath the bridge.

The bridge is accessible all day every day by bus, car and bicycle. Foot traffic is limited and hours vary by season. Check the Golden Gate Bridge website for details about seasonal closures. If you drive, parking is available but very limited and accessible on both the north and south ends of the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge, suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate in California to link San Francisco with Marin county to the north. Upon its completion in 1937, it was the tallest and longest suspension bridge in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge came to be recognized as a symbol of the power and progress of the United States, and it set a precedent for suspension-bridge design around the world. Although other bridges have since surpassed it in size, it remains incomparable in the magnificence of its setting and is said to be the most photographed bridge in the world. It carries both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) across the strait and features a pedestrian walkway. 

The bridge’s orange vermilion color, suggested by consulting architect Irving Morrow, has a dual function, both fitting in with the surrounding natural scenery and being clearly visible to ships in fog. At night the bridge is floodlit and shines with a golden luminescence that reflects off the waters of the bay and creates a magical effect.

Its construction, under the supervision of chief engineer Joseph B. Strauss, began in January 1933 and involved many challenges. The strait has rapidly running tides, frequent storms, and fogs that made construction difficult. During one such fog on August 14, 1933, a cargo vessel collided with the access trestle, causing serious damage. Workers also had to contend with the problem of blasting rock under deep water to plant earthquake-proof foundations. A movable safety net, innovated by Strauss, saved a total of 19 men from falling to their deaths during construction. However, the safety net failed on February 17, 1937, when it gave way under the weight of a scaffolding collapse; of the 13 men who were on the scaffolding, one jumped clear, two survived the fall into the water, and 10 were killed. One other worker fell to his death during the construction, for a total of 11 worker deaths over four years.

The bridge opened to vehicular traffic on May 28, 1937, under budget and ahead of schedule. The main span, 1,280 metres (4,200 feet) long, is suspended from two cables hung from towers 227 metres (746 feet) high; at midpoint the roadway is 81 metres (265 feet) above mean high water. Until the completion of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City in 1964, it had the longest main span in the world.

Available Tours to visit the Golden Gate Bridge

Price/person: $110
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