If you want to do some open water swimming in San Francisco, there’s a very good chance you will be doing it in Aquatic Park. Located near the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, Aquatic Park is a great place to swim and hang out.
Location in reference to the rest of the city:
Aquatic Park Swim Distance
The Aquatic Park swim distance depends on how you want to do it. Typically, people either swim the buoys or the perimeter of the park. For any beginner swimmers I would recommend sticking to the buoys. If you are a little more advanced and don’t get freaked out by the potentially rough water and being further away from the shore, the perimeter is a very fun swim.
As for distances, from the most western bouy (if looking out at the water from the beach, the buoy little flag on it on the far left) to the most eastern buoy (the tall white buoy that tilts about 45 degrees to the side) is roughly 1/6 of a mile. So if you do a loop (one back and forth) it’s roughly 1/3 of a mile. Three laps (three back and forths) is roughly one mile.
Here’s a very crude visual depiction of the buoys and distance. Click on the picture to see the full version:
Many people also swim the perimeter of Aquatic Park.
Another crude visual depiction this time of the Aquatic Park perimeter distance. Click on the picture to see the full version:
I have swam both in my day. I typically will do the bouys if I am swimming by myself, as there are usually others out there and it doesn’t freak me out. The perimeter is a little scary as you are further away from the safety of the beach. There’s really nothing to be scared of, but there is more to think about as there are boats anchored out there and many times kayaks and other small boats will be coming and going from the park that you need to watch out for. Always assume the boats do not see you! You must look out for yourself. I recommend only doing the perimeter if you are swimming with a buddy.
Now, if you can’t handle cold water, Aquatic Park may not be for you. Here is a link to the current temperature of the San Francisco Bay:
As you can see, it’s cold. The water usually ranges from the low to high 50’s year round. It’s cold. Very cold. Now, I typically wear a wetsuit, which helps tremendously. You will still be in a bit of a shock when you first jump in the water, but that shock should fade within a few minutes. The main area where the cold really gets you is your face. It will typically take me a good 5-10 minutes for the face to get comfortable.
Many times you will see people swimming in Aquatic Park sans wetsuit. While I think this is a bit crazy, I have actually done it a few times to see what it is like. I honestly didn’t think it was horrible. Not awesome, but not too bad. The body adjusts and your able to function ok. Once I was out there for about 30 minutes though, that was all I could handle. That water really chills you to the bone. The few times I’ve done it, it took me a good hour or so before I felt warm. (This is after a warm car ride home and a hot shower and tea)
Overall swimming in Aquatic Park is highly recommended. It is quite exhilarating. There is a huge adrenaline rush when you jump in. The cold water will wake you up and once you’re done swimming you will have such a great feeling. One of great accomplishment and refreshment.
Check out some deals on great swim gear for Aquatic Park:
Some other great things about Aquatic Park:
Beach: There is a nice sandy beach area. On a nice day this is a great spot to hang out. You can bring the kids, beach essentials and enjoy the day and the beautiful city.
View: The view is amazing from Aquatic Park. I’ll have to bring my camera next time I go down there. On a nice day you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlines, Sausalito, Angel Island and Alctraz.
Ghiradelli Square: Aquatic Park sits just a few yards in front of Ghiradell Square. The square is a great spot to hang out, do some eating (great sundaes!) grab a cup of coffee and chill out.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park: More information here: http://www.nps.gov/safr/index.htm. There are a number of historical vessels in Aquatic Park, you can learn all about them at the museum.
4th of July: Currently they are redoing the concrete viewing area at Aquatic Park, but this is a wonderful spot to watch the 4th of July fireworks in San Francisco. The seating area is large and I can only assume will be comfortable once the construction is finished.
Grass: Not only is there a nice beach and concrete seating area, there is a grass section where you can lay a blanket down, have a picnic, soak up some rays and people watch
People: This is a highly traffiked area. If you are anything like me and enjoy watchign people this is a great place to do it.
Fisherman’s Wharf: A great tourist area with a lot of great seafood, shops and entertainment. This is only a few short steps away from Aquatic Park.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Aquatic Park. There are many things to do here and the swimming is fantastic. Thumbs up from me, definitely get down here as soon as you can. Just be sure to look up every now and again when swimming so we don’t collide!