Need To Know:
- Angel Island is only accessible by boat from either San Francisco or Tiburon. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and cost $12 for a round trip
- All campsites are hike-in, so you’ll need to carry your camping equipment for 1-3 miles to your campsite.
- All campsites are environmental (aka very basic)
- Book your spot through Reserve America; for weekend spots you may need to book 6 months in advance but for weeknight spots you can probably book much nearer the time.
- Campfires are prohibited but there are BBQs at each site so you can take coal with you.
Angel Island offers the perfect destination for those who want to escape the city and spend a few days in nature- without even hiring a car. Just a short boat ride from San Francisco and Tiburon and you’re in a completely different world (but with the best views of San Francisco.) Head over for the day, or book a camping spot and you certainly won’t regret it. This is nature at its best.
Angel Island State Park is the largest natural island in the San Francisco Bay and has a rich history. The earliest inhabitants were the Coast Miwok, with the island providing a hunting ground for local native tribes. It’s also been a refuge for Spanish explorers and more recently an Immigration Centre and military base. In 1958 it became a State Park, and thank goodness it did.
Bex and I headed to Angel Island for a camping trip this week. I booked the campsite about 2 months ago, but if you want a weekend spot apparently you may need to book up to 6 months in advance! There are only 10 overnight camping spots on the Island and they’re scattered around in different locations so they’re extremely quiet and secluded. The campsites are environmental, which essentially translates to very basic. At each campsite there’s drinking water and a drop toilet, which is fine for a few days but you’ll appreciate a hot shower when you get home! Campfires are prohibited but there’s a BBQ at each site so you can bring coal with you if you’re extra organised (we weren’t).
The ferry ride itself takes about 30 mins but feels like a sightseeing tour in itself as you get great views of Alcatraz, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. We sat outside and got rather snap happy with camera- little did we know that the views were just going to get better and better at the island! The boat drops you off at Ayala Cove where can check in with Park Ranger and get the details of your campsite. Ayala Cove is a beautiful spot with picnic benches lining the beach. There’ a cafe, visitor centre and bike rental place here so you can easily spend a few hours just hanging out.
We were camping at the Sunrise Campsite which offered the most amazing views of Oakland. After checking in on arrival we started the hike to our campsite. The ranger had said it as between 15-30 minutes (I think he wasn’t really sure) as it ended up taking us about 40! We’d tried to pack relatively light as we knew it was a hike-in site but the up-hill slog and our annoyingly shaped pop-up tent meant it was still quite tiring!
There’s so much to do on Angel Island (another blog post on that coming soon!) but it was also really lovely to just relax at the campsite and take in the views. After setting up our tent we spend quite a few hours just reading our books and chatting- we actually had to remind ourselves to go and explore… The campsite really comes into itself as the sun goes down, as you get the most amazing views of the lit up cityscape. I tried to capture it on camera but I’m not sure my photography skills are quite up to it!
We really enjoyed the weekend, but there were definitely a few things we wished we had prepared better, so here are some tips for anyone who’s visiting the island:
- The campsites are quite exposed which means they can get really windy. This makes the air temperature feel much colder than it probably is, so make sure you take plenty of warm clothing with you. I wish I’d had a beanie hat, gloves and a warmer jacket.
- Take your food in ziplock bags. You have to store your food in metal containers to stop the raccoons eating it. Every time we opened the container our packaged food was less appealing as the locker wasn’t that clean and there were quite a few bugs crawling around. Even though they couldn’t get to our actual food we would have felt better if we’d stored it all in ziplock bags for an extra barrier!
- Take a spare gas canister (for seasoned campers this is probably quite obvious!) but for us newbies it was our first camping fail. Our gas ran out on our second day and were faced with a cold 3-bean chilli for dinner- not what you want when food is your only luxury. Thank goodness for Rodney the Park Ranger who heard of our plight and brought us a spare gas can- you’re a hero!
- There is actually a really good cafe at Ayala Cove, so if you’re going for a few days, pick up your lunch from there rather than bringing it with you. It’s less to carry and is a welcome break from camping food!
- Make sure you take some essential toiletries with you- hand sanitiser and soap were our godsends!
- Take separate pans for heating your water, breakfast and dinner. It’s hard to wash up properly and having tea with a faint taste of your dinner from the night before isn’t that enjoyable…
- Take books to read and a pack of cards. The campsites are secluded so you need to provide your own entertainment.
- Take a spare battery pack for charging your phone/ camera as they’ll be nowhere to charge your devices once your at your campsite.
We really loved camping at Angel Island State Park- why don’t you check it out if you’re visiting California?
We’d love to hear your favourite camping spots in the UK and US? We’re planning a longer camping trip and need some inspiration!