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Field Trips by the Water

These San Francisco Bay Area field trip destinations by the water have been recommended by homeschooling parents and kids. If you have a favorite that isn't listed here please call us at 650-365-9425 or E-mail Homefires Editor. While we hope that this information is accurate, please do call to confirm.

Alcatraz Island Tours

Boats depart from Pier 41, San Francisco
Phone: 415-705-1042, 415-705-1045
Hours: Daily, tours every hour from 9:30am-4:30pm -- reservation suggested
Admission: $13/adult, $7.75/child ages 5-11 includes ferry and cell house audio tour.
Learn the history of "The Rock" through a cell house audio program featuring stories from former correctional officers and prisoners at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. There are a variety of tours offered from self-guided walking tours to guided evening tours that include a look at some parts of the island not open to daytime visitors. Call for schedule - and prices -- as they vary on special tours.

Angel Island State Park

Angel Island, San Francisco Bay
Phone: 415-435-1915
Hours: Daily 8am to sunset
Price: Varies depending on tour. But for Tram-Tours -- $10/adult, $9/teen, $6/kid ages 6-12, free under 5.
Guided history tours, tram tours and nature walks featuring the Quarantine Station, the Immigration Station, Camp Reynolds, and Fort McDowell. Hiking and biking trails too. Tram tours are one-hour, audio-enhanced tours covering the island's military history from the Civil War to the Cold War. There are ferries from Tiburon, Vallejo and San Francisco. Call for ferry schedule.

Año Nuevo State Reserve

New Years Creek Road, Pescadero, CA
(Highway 1 - 22 miles north of Santa Cruz)
Phone: 1-800-444-4445 or 650-879-0227 or 650-879-2025
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to Sunset.
Admission: $6/vehicle

One of only three mainland breeding sites in the world for the northern elephant seal. Breeding in fall and winter months -- with big population of adults males, females and pups. Informative visitors center; docent-led tours along a 3-mile stretch of beach to observe breeding grounds, rookery, and elephant seals. Layered clothing recommended. Bring water. Some porta-potties along way. Not for kids under 7.

California Academy of Science

(Includes Steinhart Aquarium & Morrison Planetarium)
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco,
Phone: 415-750-7145
Hours: Open daily 10am-5pm.
Admission $2-8.50. First Wednesday of month is free.
Explore the ocean's sea life, view stars during the day, survey African animals, ride an earthquake, and travel back three billion years in time. Planetarium shows extra fee in addition to admission.

Coyote Point Museum for Environmental Education

1651 Coyote Point Drive, San Mateo
Phone: 650-342-7755
Hours: Open 10am-5pm.
Admission $3/adults, $2/youths ages 13-17, $1/kids 4-12, under 4 free. Plus $4 vehicle fee.
Located in a scenic park overlooking San Francisco Bay. Museum has interactive exhibits, live native animals, gardens, picnic facilities, trails, and views. A great place for the whole family!

Crab Cove

1252 McKay Aveneu, Alameda, CA
Phone: 510-521-6887
Website: http://www.ebparks.org
Visitor Center is open Wed-Sun, March thru November. It is a very popular field trip site for schools, so it's best to call first and make sure there aren't ten field trips scheduled at low tide, or your children won't find any wildlife left except the very friendly squirrels.

Crab Cove is a marine reserve for mudflat and tidal pool marine animals. The Visitor Center's Old Wharf Classroom has models of shoreline animals and a small aquarium to explain what you will find in the mudflats. At first glance, it appears that nothing is in the mud, except your feet up to the ankles, but if you know what to look for, it is quite educational. And then the tide eventually comes in to rinse you off! If you time your outing right, there will be tide pools. Crab Cove also offers many craft activites and classes geared by ages. I have not attended any of their classes or activities; we just go and get muddy looking for sting rays.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

200 Nevada Ave, Moss Beach, CA
(Off Highway 1, Moss Beach, 7 miles no. of Half Moon Bay airport.)
Phone: 650-728-3584
Hours: Opens Daily at 8:00 A.M. Closing time varies by time of year.
Admission: Free
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is operated by the San Mateo County Parks Department.

The Reserve is open during daylight hours but the life in the tidepools can only be seen at low tides, below +1.0 feet. Check your newspaper, an online tide guide, or a tide book which is available at marinas, boating or fishing shops. The tides at Moss Beach occur about one hour earlier than listed for the Golden Gate. Tidepooling is best done just before and just after low tide. Be sure to bring a windbreaker, a sweater and a pair of dry shoes.

Note: If your group has 10 or more people, you must make a reservation to visit the reserve.

Read what homeschoolers have to say about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

Fort Point National Historic Site

The Presidio, Long Avenue, San Francisco
Phone: 415-556-1693, or for the "Return To Past" tour call 415-673-5642
Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm
Admission: Free (except fee for "Return to Past" tour)
Located under the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, this four-tiered brick and granite fortress is the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi River. It was built between 1853 and 1861 and accommodated 126 cannons and 500 soldiers. See 17-minute video portraying the history of the site from Spanish arrival in the 1770's to the present. See a Cannon Drill and learn how soldiers were taught to load and fire a Napoleon 12-pounder cannon during a Civil War artillery drill. Also featured, "Return to the Past at Fort Point" -- a daily tour explaining a day in the life of a Civil War soldier stationed at Fort Point through an award-winning recorded tour which guides one around the casemates, through the quarters and into the past. Reservations for this are advised and the cost is $2.50/adults; $1/children.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Marin Headlands

Muir Woods, Mill Valley, CA
Telephone: (415) 331-1540
Hours: Open daily sunrise to sunset.
Admission: $5/adult; Kids under 15 are free.

  1. Point Bonita Lighthouse, Open Sat-Monday from 12:30pm to 3:30 pm. mile trail to lighthouse is steep in parts and often windy. Kids must be with adult. 415-331-1540.
  2. Marin Headlands Visitors Center open daily from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Stop by to learn more about what can be seen and done here. Corner of Bunker & Field Roads. 415-331-1540.
  3. Muir Woods -- visit a grove of majestic redwoods, the tallest tree species in the world. Daily 8am to sunset. $2/adult; Free kids under 17. Visitors center has info displays. 415-388-2595.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

886 Cannery Row, Monterey.
Phone: 831-648-4888
Hours: Daily 9:30am-6pm
Admission: $15.95/adult, $12.95/ages 13-17, $6.95/ages 3-12, free under 3. Group sales available.
Live animal exhibits, hands-on displays of 3 deep-sea habitats found in the Monterey Bay canyon: the canyon walls, the mid-water area, and the canyon floor. Other exhibits include a 3-story, million gallon indoor ocean tank with giant ocean sunfish, schools of tuna, sharks, barracuda, sea turtles and more. Don't miss the beautiful jellyfish exhibit. Discovery carts for investigation of marine animals with docents. Feeding shows -- and a bat ray petting tank!

Pidgeon Point Lighthouse Tour

State Hwy 1 (25 miles south of Half Moon Bay, 5 miles north of Ano Nuevo State Reserve in Pescadero), San Mateo County
Phone: 650-879-2025 or 650-879-2120
Hours: Tours conducted on Saturday & Sunday from 11am-4pm, every hour. Admission: $2/general; $1/child
Historic lighthouse built in 1872. See the large Fresnel lens, built in France. This was the tallest operating lighthouse on the West Coast and one of the few left with its original lens. 45-minute docent tour includes a walk up to the lantern room in the top of the lighthouse tower. Learn about the life and jobs of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. Clothing requirement. Many physical restrictions. Call for details. Children must be at least 40 inches tall and capable of making the ascent and descent (10 stories) unaided. Children may not be carried in arms, backpack, or child carrier. Children 8 and up must be accompanied by adult. Tours canceled on rainy days.

Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County

Offers a variety of programs, classes, and events including:

  1. Tour Point Reyes Lighthouse. Reservations required. 415-669-1534
  2. Coast Miwok Education Walks are mile to a recreated Native American village. Meet at Bear Valley Visitor Center on Sundays at 2pm. Free. 415-663-1092.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Phone: 831-423-5590
Hours: Daily 10:00 am - 10:00 pm, Rides are seasonal - Call
Admission: Call for prices.
A classic seaside amusement park and state landmark. It features a 1911 Looff carousel and a 1924 roller coaster "Giant Dipper" both named National Historic Landmarks.

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse
Lighthouse Point, West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz
Phone: 831-429-3429
Hours: Wed-Monday from noon to 4pm
Admission: Donation
Museum overlooks internationally renowned surfing spot Steamer Lane. Includes photographs, surfboards, and other artifacts tracing 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz.

Sequoia Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program

Sequoia Yacht Club, Redwood City, CA
Provides a youth sailing program to all members of the community ages 11 to 18. The program's Fall semester starts in September on the first Saturday after Labor Day and runs through to January the following year. Classes are held on the first and third Saturdays of the month unless there is a holiday conflict. Classes are from 9am to noon. Students are required to have a Life Jacket and wear it all times on dock and in boats. Semester fee is $15 which includes a book and the use of a boat. Students are selected from a waiting list. Older students are selected first. Please be sure to consider other sports that may conflict with this Saturday programming before registering. To register request a brochure from the Sequoia Yacht Club by calling 650-361-9472.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

1001 Fairgrounds Dr. (I-80 at state Hwy 37) Vallejo, CA
Phone: 707-644-4000 ext. 374
Hours: Seasonal - Call for times.
Admission: $49.99/adult, $29.99/child ages 4-12 (and over 48 inches tall), free 2 and under.
This 135 acre theme park contains wildlife park, oceanarium and amusement rides. See zebras, sharks, dolphins, alligators, butterflies, cheetahs, and a cheetahs. Educational shows and entertainment with over 30 animal attractions, 197 different species and 1,700+ animals. Offers Homeschool Discount Days year-round -- call to inquire.

The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC)

Marin Headlands, 1065 Fort Cronkhite, (Golden Gate National Recreation Area) Sausalito, CA
Phone: 415-289-7325 (415-979-4357 to volunteer)
Call for hours, tours, admission fees.

Visit the Marine Mammal Visitor Center adjacent from Rodeo Lagoon and Beach at Building 1049. Hours are 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. daily.

Non-profit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, whales and dolphins. Oil triage facility for animals affected by oil or chemical spills as well. Tours available. Volunteers needed.

The Red & White Fleet Bay Cruises

Board at Pier 43 , Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco
Phone: 415-447-0597
Hours: Daily 10am to 5:30pm
Fee: $17/adults; $13/youth (ages 12-18); $9/child (ages 5-11); Free/kids 5 and under.
1-hour Bay Cruise sails under Golden Gate Bridge, past Marin Headlands, by Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel island and Alcatraz.

Underwater World

Pier 39 at The Embarcadero & Beach Streets, San Francisco
Phone: 1-888-732-3483 or 415-623-5300
Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm; Saturday & Sunday 10am-7pm
Admission: $12.95/adult; $6.50/kids ages 3-11; free under 3yrs.
This aquarium gives a diver's eye view of the inhabitants of San Francisco Bay. See fish, sharks, crabs, jellyfish, octopus and other underwater wildlife from San Francisco Bay and the nearby Pacific Ocean swimming freely over and around you as your travel on a moving sidewalk through the aquarium's 2-story tall, 707,000 gallon tanks inside a pair of clear acrylic tunnels. A platform beside the sidewalk allows you to step off at any time and take a longer look at the wildlife.

University of California at Santa Cruz

Joseph M. Long Marine Laboratory -- View marine life exhibits, touch tanks, sea lion enclosures, blue whale skeleton. Docent tours available Tuesday-Sunday 1-4pm. 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz. Free -- but $15 fee for groups of 10 or more. Call 831-459-2883 or 831-459-4308.