Over the Thanksgiving break, we were in the San Francisco area visiting family. We didn’t have a big itinerary planned but seeing the iconic postcard views of the Golden Gate Bridge was high on our list. There are a few bridges as unique as the Golden Gate bridge.
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A few facts about the Golden Gate Bridge
Did you know that the Golden Gate Bridge is named not for its color, but for its location? It’s built above the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
The bridge is painted a color which is called International Orange, came about thanks to Irving Morrow, the Golden Gate’s consulting architect, who noticed the striking reddish-orange primer painted on some of the steel. Morrow designed the bridge’s lighting and its art-deco styling. He also rooted for the unusual color. Most bridges were gray, silver or black. It was expected that the Golden Gate Bridge would follow suit.
Morrow had to convince the Department of War, the permitting agency at the time, that the largest suspension span ever built at the time should have this wild crazy color. “The Golden Gate Bridge,” Morrow wrote, “is one of the greatest monuments of all time. Its unprecedented size and scale, along with its grace of form and independence of conception, all call for unique and unconventional treatment from every point of view. What has been thus played up in form should not be let down in color.” The primer would need some added tones, but Morrow felt it was an ideal complement to the gray fog, the golden and green hills, the blue water and sky.
There are more than 10 million square feet of steel to paint on the bridge. It’s constantly touched up, not just to keep up the color but to protect it from the salty weather. One of the big myths is that the bridge is painted from one end to the other rather than continually touched up. The truth is that the Bridge is painted continuously. Painting the Bridge is an ongoing task. Buckets of paint are stored in an underground bunker near the bridge. If you want to paint your bike or room this vibrant orange you can find it here at the Golden gate bridge’s website.
Best View Points to see the Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge is probably one of the more photographed bridges and also very photogenic. If you are looking for the best place to see the Golden Gate Bridge here are a few. These are some of the places to take that perfect postcard shot of the Golden Gate bridge…
South Vista Point
The best “postcard” views of the Golden Gate Bridge are from above the bridge on the San Francisco side. Access it from the “Last SF Exit” off the approach road, or from Lincoln Avenue. The parking lot was so crowded and the selfie sticks were everywhere. We managed to find a spot and enjoyed the view- the bay, city skyline, the trusses, beams, cables, the suspension bridge and admire the engineering marvel. You can see the bay bridge, the beautiful city skyline and the famous Alcatraz. We were lucky that the bridge was not covered by fog like it usually is, and were able to see boat crossing the bay and the towers of the suspension bridge.
The historic fort at the base of the south end of the bridge is a good place for a long, low Golden Gate Bridge photo with the bridge receding into the distance. We were short on time and skipped this one. You can see the beautiful trussed arch span over Fort Point from here.
Kirby Cove is a nice beach to visit below the Marin Headlands. A one-mile walk down a gravel road takes you to the bottom of the cove where there is a sandy beach and Battery Kirby, an old military structure. From the beach, you can see the San Francisco Skyline framed under the bridge span. You get two unique photos of the Golden Gate Bridge for the price of admission. Before you head down to Kirby Cove, take a walk to the end of the point at Battery Spencer. From here you can see the bridge span and the city is captured though the cables of the bridge.
This is our favorite, a good place for a view, and take a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge from the water level. You can see the full span of the bridge and the mountains from there. But be aware that part of Baker Beach is a nude beach. It is best in the late afternoon. We did see one man sunning sans clothing, we didn’t realize it was a nude beach luckily he kept his man parts away from view. The kids got a chuckle out of it. We were there at the golden hour when the sun was starting to bid farewell. We spent the afternoon skipping stone on the beach and watching the seagulls and dogs play before heading to Pier 39.
Alcatraz has a full view of the bridge and many other parts of the Bay Area. A tour of the prison at Alcatraz is a must when visiting San Francisco. The island has spectacular views in addition to the historical sites. Looking west you can get an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge. To the north lies are the Marin Headlands and to the south you can see the spires of downtown San Francisco.
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