Fun facts and insider tips when visiting Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco

Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to check out when you come to the city by the bay!

Bain and BrianJanuary 21, 2022

Fun facts and insider tips when visiting Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

With so much to see and do in San Francisco, how do you choose where to go when you’ve got limited time in this gorgeous city? According to more than 12 million visitors, Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to check out when you come to the city by the bay!

Why is Fisherman’s Wharf important?

Other than the delicious seafood and breathtaking views of the bay, the Wharf’s epic role in San Francisco history is at the heart of its popularity. Fisherman’s Wharf has been important since the days of the Gold Rush in the mid to late 1800s when gold diggers swarmed the city and Chinese and Italian immigrant fishermen sought to make a living by feeding them.

The area known today as Fisherman’s Wharf was established about 170 years ago about five blocks inland, near Powell and Francisco Streets, then known as Meiggs’ Wharf.  Constructed by Henry Meiggs, a real estate developer who was also one of the city’s earliest hustlers, the wharf was built in the 1850s. He hoped to draw the expansion of downtown closer to his real estate holdings in Telegraph Hill. His plan worked and by the turn of the century, Fisherman’s Wharf had become the bustling locale it is today.

The fresh seafood was abundant and the demand was relentless, even after the Gold Rush waned. A colorful subculture emerged and new waves of immigrants flooded the city. Soon the Italians set up stands along the wharf to sell the bay’s legendary catch: Dungeness crab! It wasn’t until the 1970s that redevelopment occurred to transform the area into a bona fide tourist attraction.

Today, Fisherman’s Wharf offers tasty seafood, incredible vistas, and so much more!

Five fun facts about Fisherman’s Wharf

  1. Every fall, San Francisco is host to Fleet Week, a celebration that includes a parade of ships along the bay, an air show featuring the Blue Angels, free ship tours, and live entertainment throughout Fisherman’s Wharf and San Francisco.
  2. The Fisherman’s Wharf you see today rests on land created from the rubble of buildings destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906!
  3. Dungeness crab  Yum Yum! A century ago, crabs were in plentiful supply from the Straits of Carquinez on the inland reaches of San Francisco Bay to the sandy shorelines off Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda. Over the years, however, clams (the natural food of the crab) disappeared from San Francisco Bay. Today, the crabbers must drop their crab pots far out near the Farallon Islands—in ocean water. No matter how far the crab boats go – the Crab is delicious and a must-do when visiting the Wharf.
  4. The Cable car stops here.  San Francisco parking can be challenging, so if you’re headed to Fisherman’s Wharf, jump on a Powell-Hyde Street Cable Car, Powell-Mason Cable Car (or E or F line Historic Streetcars) for a more relaxing and scenic trip aboard these rolling treasures.
  5. Crab Louie was invented on Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman Tom Castagnola was the first to add benches and tables to his fish stand and developed the “crab cocktail,” a small portion of Dungeness crabmeat with a sauce he invented using Thousand Island dressing. The Crab Louie was born and quickly became one of the Wharf’s most popular dishes!

Things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf

The possibilities are endless, but here’s a quick list of not-to-be-missed attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Directions to Fisherman’s Wharf (and where to park)

Whether you’re driving to Fisherman’s Wharf, or are already in San Francisco and need a little navigation, all roads lead to San Francisco’s most popular destination!

If you choose not to use San Francisco’s plentiful public transportation options, Fisherman’s Wharf parking options run the gamut. 

Tours starting in Fisherman's Wharf