Travel

You can see the sights of San Francisco in just 12 hours

Full moon over the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.
Full moon over the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Christian Heeb

IT'S a long flight from Australia to New York, with 18 hours in the air.

So when I discovered my United flight stopped in San Francisco for a couple of hours enroute to the Big Apple, I asked the airline if I could stretch the layover to 12 hours and yes, I soon had half a day up my sleeve to stretch my legs and discover the city by the bay for the first time.

So, were 12 hours enough?

I needed to be back at the airport about 9pm for my overnight flight to New York so, I jumped on the handy BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train direct from the airport terminal to downtown San Fran in 30 minutes, arriving around 1.15pm ready for a busy afternoon.

I came armed with a checklist of things I wanted to see and do during my lightning visit - ride the city's famous cable cars, cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge, set eyes on the world's most infamous prison, Alcatraz, explore Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 by the harbour front and squeeze in a workout at a local gym, preferably with a pool, so I could stretch out, limber up and freshen up before my onward flight to New York.

San Francisco's famous Fisherman's Wharf precinct.
San Francisco's famous Fisherman's Wharf precinct. Contributed

I jumped aboard one of the quaint cable cars near the Powell St BART station like an excited child.

And what fun - slower than I had anticipated but a terrific way to take in the city's quirky charms and Victorian architecture.

Passing Lombard St - the world's most crooked street, with 10 sharp turns in one block - my cable car journey ended near the waterfront where I hired a bicycle from Bay City Bikes for my next adventure - an easy but exciting ride over one of the world's most famous bridges, the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge.

I was on a tight schedule so I began my 13km cycle, which takes roughly 90 mins, from downtown, along a harbourside bike track, over the bridge and on to the pretty harbourside village of Sausolito where a ferry transfers you and your bike back to town.

Cycling over the Golden Gate was a real thrill, with the pea soup fog eventually clearing a little so I could actually see the bridge in all her glory.

The ferry ride back to San Francisco takes you close to Alcatraz, which was a maximum security prison from 1934 to 1964, housing notorious criminals like mobster Al Capone.

Back in town, I cycled along the foreshore to Pier 39, where a lazy colony of sea lions poses for the tourists every day, competing with fairground attractions that crowd the pier.

Andrew Mevissen explores San Francisco by bike.
Andrew Mevissen explores San Francisco by bike. Contributed

After my ride, I enjoyed take-away fish and chips from the nearby Fisherman's Wharf before returning my bike and catching a charming old street car to the YMCA Embarcadero, a multi-storey warehouse converted into an amazing health club boasting breathtaking views over the harbour which are suitably distracting as you strive to catch your breath while using the YMCA's gym, aerobic and yoga classes, swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steamroom - and all for just $15.

There's nothing like exercising with the locals to make you feel like a local.

With the fish and chips worked off and feeling suitably revived, I headed to the nearby BART station early evening and was back at San Francisco Airport around 9pm when I grabbed a mid-evening bite to eat as I waited for the overnight flight to New York at 11.15pm.

So, yes, it is possible to see a city like San Francisco in a 12-hour stopover if you are reasonably fit and able and stick to the main drawcards and pre-plan your itinerary a little so you can hit the ground running, taking time every now and then to just stop to take it all in so it's not a blur.

You save on accommodation and you gain an enormous sense of achievement at having done so much in one day - so much that I slept like a baby the minute I took my seat on the plane that night!

A business class flat bed on United Airlines.
A business class flat bed on United Airlines. Contributed

For information on San Francisco, visit the city's official site at sanfrancisco.travel.

For direct flights to San Francisco and on to New York, visit united.com.

If you want to fly 'flat out' to the States, United's Business Class cabin offers lie-flat seat beds, a 39cm video screen for video and audio entertainment and multi-course fine-dining.

For bike rentals, visit baycitybike.com.

* The writer visited San Francisco with the assistance of San Francisco Travel and United Airlines.

 

>> To read more travel stories

Topics:  holidays san francisco travel usa



Date nights under $50

ACCORDING to The Bachelor falling in love involves helicopter rides, private jets, shopping trips, and we mustn’t forget the hot tubs.

Brisbane's arts and culture events centre stage

You loved the film, now you're about to love the musical. Don't miss The Bodyguard The Musical in Brisbane this July.

THE arts and culture events you don't want to miss.

Homewares stores to fulfil your Instagram dreams

No Caption

You too can become an Insta-star with these fab stores.

Top 10 Brisbane experiences to cross off your bucket list

Do yourself a favour and get amongst the food truck scene. Eat Street is a great place to start.

A GOOD bucket list doesn’t have to span continents or cost millions.

Six mega sporting events you need to be at this year

Don't miss all the action trackside this season.

IF THERE is one thing Brisbane does damn well, it’s play host.

Six reasons to get to Brisbane this Autumn

The Brisbane Powerhouse has free comedy on Friday nights.

AUTUMN has to be up there with one of the best seasons of the year.

The best things to do in Brisbane are FREE. Yes, FREE

Mt Coot-tha is a seriously gorgeous way to start your day.

HEADING to the big smoke doesn’t have to come with a big price tag.

What would you do, go for a local company or cheaper quote?

Paulette and Owen Lindley with their crew in just one of the grounds they maintain on a volunteer basis.

Debate over going local or going cheaper

'Game on': Tensions rise over regional link road development

Agnes Water residents show their displeasure.

Bulge in Gladstone man's pants tips off police

Police attending incident at the Young Australian Hotel. 
Photo Luka Kauzlaric / The Observer

He was caught multiple times with a suspicious bulge in his pants.

Local Partners

Better phone service for Gladstone's regional towns

Telstra: "This technology is delivering big benefits to these rural and regional communities”


Win a $1000

GROCERY GIFT CARD!
Learn More

What to expect at Birds of Tokyo's Ipswich gig

The band will perform at the Racehorse Hotel on Friday.

BAND member Glen Sarangapany talks music, pub grub and doing shoeys

What public holidays are left in 2017

Ipswich residents will get the day off tomorrow for the show.

IPSWICH residents will get tomorrow off for the show

Caitlyn comes home to launch debut album

Gympie's Caitlyn Shadbolt will launch here debut album Songs On My Sleeve at an exclusive all-ages concert in Gympie on Friday, May 26.

Win tickets to Caitlyn's album launch

Concert death toll revised up to 22, tour suspended

TWENTY-TWO people have been killed and at least 59 people have been injured following a terror attack in Manchester

Casual Keanu says fame is ‘cool’

Keanu Reeves in a scene from the movie John Wick: Chapter 2.

NOBODY expected much of John Wick when it was released in 2014.

Ariana Grande breaks her silence after fatal blast

According to reports quoting witnesses, a mass emergency evacuation was prompted after explosions were heard at the end of US singer Ariana Grande's concert in the arena.

The entertainment industry is in shock after attack on concert

Pitch Perfect star suing Woman’s Day over ‘liar’ articles

Actor Rebel Wilson outside court on Friday.

REBEL Wilson's career destroyed by grubby campaign, court hears.

Seven Year Switch: The boner to end all boners

Johnny’s outraged over claims he has a cracked boner.

She gulps. Her face says it all.

Bay to star in Hollywood shark thriller ‘Cage Dive’

Cage Dive, written and directed by Gerald Rascionato, is now screening in the United States of America. It had scenes filmed in Hervey Bay.

And our visiting humpback whales also make appearance.

Celebrity sex tapes: Where does all that money go?

Basically, did Paris and Kim earn fortunes from their videos?

One of Maryborough's most historic homes is still for sale

FULL OF HISTORY: Trisha Moulds is owner of the historic Tinana state known as Rosehill. The beautiful home is currently for sale.

It has been the scene of both joy and tragedies over the years.

New tool reveals which areas are most 'vulnerable' for renters

An aerial shot of Agnes Water main beach. According to new information, people renting in the region are more vulnerable than those in Gladstone suburbs.

Big differences between living in Gladstone and outer areas

The face of the Sunshine Coast's overpriced rental crisis

Alyx Wilson had to rent a $385 unit in Currimundi because the market was too competitive for cheaper rental housing. She is now renting a room from friends who own a house in Currimundi, and says its much more affordable.

Young people feel the strain in competitive, expensive rental market

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!