The best way to see the Golden Gate Bridge is by walking along its red steel-trimmed path from one side to the other, taking in sights of everything from the Marin Headlands to Alcatraz Island to Salesforce Tower to the Berkeley Hills. Built in 1937, the one-mile-wide landmark is one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Wonders of the Modern World.
But taking in all that history and glory while decaffeinated is — if you ask me — not that smart.
The most elite way to enjoy this world-class tourist destination is to first order something warm from Equator Coffees, the company operating the historic Roundhouse Cafe at the southern end of the bridge since 2021. Even for those who’ve lived in the Bay Area all their lives, this is a sunny day rarity that can’t be overlooked. Plus, as few in the city have spent a day crossing the Golden Gate Bridge there are fewer still who have enjoyed the assortment of goodies at the reopened cafe since the worst of the pandemic.
Here’s the deal: Drive or take public transit to the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot. Equator’s Roundhouse location never gets too busy, though don’t expect a quiet scene, either, especially if the weather is giving. Order one of the shop’s rotating seasonal drinks for something fun, or, if you’re a purist, snag one of its top-tier espressos to pair with a croissant. You can feel good about this purchase, too: Equator was the first woman-owned, queer-owned coffee company in California to achieve B Corps status, and the business’ legacy as an investor in the Bay remains stronger than ever, having reopened its SoMa location in October 2023.
The entrance to the walking path is literally connected to the pathway outside the cafe. Follow that to begin your mile-or-so of walking across the bridge, as rich a San Francisco experience as they come. Be prepared for lots of people, but many of them will be hungry or losing steam due to caffeine withdrawals. Not you. The end of your journey might be the H. Dana Bowers Memorial Vista Point, which certainly lives up to that “vista” name on a clear day.
For the bold, there’s more to explore. You can head via Conzelman Road across the bridge to get to the Marin Headlands, another classic Bay Area experience for fans of hiking and secluded beaches with steep hikes in and out. For those looking for a reprieve halfway through the trek, head down Alexander Avenue or under the bridge to reach Cavallo Point, the former army base turned resort just below the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito. There are three new-ish restaurants there with decadent food in addition to spas and excellent coastal vibes.
I recommend a stronger coffee drink for the longer day, but that’s just me.
Equator Coffee Round House (Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, San Francisco) is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.