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  • Writer's pictureMark Robinson

Journey to Fort Point

I have lived in the Bay Area for almost two decades and over that time, I have had a semi-annual pilgrimage to Fort Point.

The fort was established to counter a perceived threat of invasion of the Bay Area from The Confederate South during the civil war. It is perhaps the most significant of the forts guarding the Western Approach of the United States. The fort is operated by the National Park Service and is part of the Presidio Trust; a national trust that maintains the entire Presidio grounds including many of the neighboring forts; Fort Mason, Fort Baker, Fort Robertson, etc.

This past weekend, I decided to take the family to Fort Point. The weather was particularly warm for the time of the year and I thought it would be a great opportunity to take some pictures and explore the brick hallways that are usually so cold during much of the year.

We started our trip a bit far from Fort Point; the marina near Fort Mason. My son wanted to visit a stone lighthouse that has marked the entrance to the marina since the 1930s. We arrived and where able to walk right up the lighthouse without the usual throng of tourists that plague the area.

The stone lighthouse was well worth the walk. My son and I admired the detailed stone work and its incorporation into the sea wall and pathway around the marina.

From there, we hoped back in the car and drove on the Presidio base.

A quick note about the Presidio that you should be aware of if you plan to visit. The base is immense and offers dozens of great places to visit. A few of my favorite highlights are; The Disney Museum, The Lucas Arts Building, The Presidio Visitors Center, Fort Point (of course), The Golden Gate Bridge, The National Cemetery and the numerous gun battery positions around the post. You will struggle to find a bad view to enjoy. I would also recommend bringing or renting a bike to enjoy the park.

Our next stop was to be the Warming Hut. The Warming Hut is a local restaurant. It mainly offers pastries, sandwiches, soups and breakfast foods. I do not think it is the best restaurant in the Presidio but it certainly has the best view. It is right on the water. Most people grab their food and eat it on the sea wall or at the grassy area to the east of the building. I enjoyed a salad and the wife and son each has breakfast burritos.

From there, we walked to Fort Point. One of the most striking things you will discover if you visit the fort is how few people seem to know about it. The Golden Gate Bridge was built over the fort and most tourists seem to overlook it in favor of the largest, more looming structure.

The view of Fort Point as you walk to it is unmistakable. If you are walking to the fort, it is the only monument in sight. The approach was designed so the fortress has a clear line of sight (and field of fire) to the road. We happened to be walking during low time but at high tide, one of the features of the road is that the waves break over it. I have had several walks where I have been drenched by an unexpected wave.

The front gate of the Fort Point

Once you arrive at the fort, you are greeted by its fortified massive doors. Like the castles of old, the approach is designed to cause maximum casualties to an attacker. Unlike the castles of old, the occupants of the fort (the National Park Service) rarely feel threatened. We entered with no challenges.

Once you enter, my advice is the climb the stairs, start from the top of the Fort and work your way down. The spectacular views are a great way to start the self-guided tour and as you work your way down, there is much to explore.

One of the things my son always remarks on when we go to Fort Point is how many lighthouses that can be seen from standing in one place on the fort.

Mile Rock Lighthouse


Lime Point Lighthouse


Point Bonita Lighthouse


Point Diablo Lighthouse


Alcatraz Lighthouse

and of course...

Fort Point Lighthouse

We spent a good deal of time admiring the lighthouses and then like almost all visitors, became mesmerized by the fact that the Golden Gate Bridge was actually build over the fort. This is one of the few places where you can really understand how immense the bridge is and how difficult it was to build.

After enjoying the underside of the bridge, we made our way to the third level of the fort.

One of the things all visitors should do is to walk the perimeter of the 3rd level. This area has the greatest amount of natural light and provides the best view of the cavernous brick-built gun positions. Be sure to also walk into the old barracks museum on this level as well.

We then made our way down to the 2nd level of the fort. As with the 3rd level, there is a barracks museum which you should enjoy. There is also more brick walkways and cavern.

We then made our way to the ground level. The park service has several examples of the guns and ammunition used at the fort. There is also an incredible powder room and small museum on the southwest corner of the fort. Be sure you visit the gift shop as your last stop.

Next to it is a video theater which they often open for a presentation of the site.

One of the last things I should mention about visiting Fort Point is try to time it well. There are often historians giving tours or historical reenactments.

Another great day at the Bay!

Fort Point

Fort Point National Historic Site Building 999, Marine Drive San Francisco, CA 94129 

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