Welcome to It’s a Date, a series of date idea guides to help you navigate your love life in the Bay through thoughtfully planned and curated itineraries, field tested by our staff. Next up, escape to San Francisco's Treasure Island with your plus-one.
Built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, man-made Treasure Island served as a naval station during World War II and a terminal for Pan American Airways (better known as Pan Am). Now, the artificial island between San Francisco and the East Bay is set to be transformed by $6 billion worth of redevelopment.
Just a short ferry ride away, the island has much to offer—including an affordable booze crawl, good food, bocce ball and fantastic views of San Francisco. This excursion has three stops and is walkable despite active construction—the sidewalk literally ends in some spots—and you’ll likely have to share the place with some seagulls. We recommend wearing sturdy shoes.
But if you and your date are down for an island day full of adventure, this itinerary has boatloads of it.
Great For: Second or third dates, day trippers, history nerds, foodies or architecture geeks
Vibe: Boozy, adventurous
Time: 4-6 hours
While you could take the number 25 Muni bus or drive across the Bay Bridge, we recommend taking the Treasure Island Ferry, which started shuttling between the Ferry Building and the man-made isle last year, especially since this excursion is planned for imbibing.
Tickets are $10 round trip, and unlike other ferries on the bay, you can’t use your Clipper card to hop aboard. Instead, buy your tickets ahead of time at the Treasure Island Ferry’s website or download the app. Vessels depart from Gate B at the Ferry Building about every 20 minutes, though we recommend getting there early so you don’t miss the boat! Visit tisf.com for the full ferry schedule.
The ferry will get you to Treasure Island in less than 10 minutes. On the short but scenic route, you can take in stunning views of the Bay Bridge, San Francisco’s skyline and the faint tip of a new spire on Yerba Buena Island called “Point of Infinity” by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. Go to the top deck for the best views.
Tucked in the interior of Treasure Island is one of only two LGBTQ+-owned and operated distilleries in the United States. Taking a grain-to-glass approach, Treecraft Distillery sources all the ingredients for its gins, vodkas, rums and whiskeys from within 100 miles of its Treasure Island facility.
On weekends, Treecraft turns its patio into an outdoor tasting room where you can sample six of its tipples for a mere $15. If co-owner Gordon Rempel is on hand, he’ll walk you through the samples served in small scientific-looking beakers. Sample liquors laced with notes of lavender, Earl Grey tea or Dandelion Chocolate cacao.
Treecraft also serves what may be some of the cheapest cocktails in a city where mixed drinks can easily run you $20 or more. Here, $10 buys you a French 75, a Moscow Mule or a Red Snapper, Treecraft’s take on a Bloody Mary. If the weather is warm, try the Trees Knees, which features the distillery’s lavender hibiscus gin with lemon juice and honey. Last call for a tasting is at 4:15 p.m.
Once appropriately liquored up, head to Mersea for lunch. The indoor-outdoor, counter-service restaurant housed in two shipping containers has arguably some of the best views of San Francisco anywhere.
There can be a wait for a table at this popular local joint, so be ready to linger—or just flip the itinerary and start your day off with brunch when Mersea opens at 11 a.m., followed by drinks at the distillery. Mersea is open till 2 p.m. on Saturdays, 4 p.m. on Sundays and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Check the restaurant’s Yelp page for updates.
While you’re waiting on the mahi mahi ceviche or tender swordfish on toast—the menu is a rotating mix of seafood-focused specials—challenge your date to a round of bocce ball or make use of the putting green.
Or just take in the very San Francisco scene of your fellow diners and their dogs at this canine-friendly restaurant, which also offers a “Furry Friends Menu” with a “Howling Veggie Bowl” of scrambled eggs, spinach and roasted vegetables and a “Meaty Boy” meal of crispy bacon, beef and chicken.
You may catch a calypso band or someone else’s nuptials. (The venue next door hosts weddings—no pressure!) Other points of interest include the public art piece “Signal” made of three 12-ton girders from the former eastern span of the Bay Bridge.
By now, you have boated, lunched and imbibed together. Seal the bond with a toast at Woods Island Club, the Treasure Island taproom for experimental Bay Area-born brewer Woods Beer & Wine Co., which also brews its beers on the island and has five neighborhood-tailored taprooms on the mainland.
Situated in the historic Administration Building a few hundred feet away from the ferry dock, the taproom is a throwback to Treasure Island’s naval and Pan Am days, reflecting the building’s art moderne-style architecture. The semicircular 1930s-era hall played a Berlin airport draped in Nazi flags in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and also functioned as a terminal for Pan Am’s China Clipper, one of the airline’s signature long-distance flying boats.
Woods Island is the perfect spot to cap off your date as you wait for the ferry to take you back to the city. We recommend ordering a glass of Woods’ Treasure Island Pale Ale.
If you have time, stop in at the Treasure Island Museum in the Administration Building for an extra dose of history. If you’re lucky, the security guard may give you a free postcard, which you can take home as a souvenir!
The taproom is open till 5 p.m. on weekdays, 7 p.m. on weekends, and the last ferry leaves for the city at 8 p.m. on weekdays and 8:30 p.m. on weekends.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at email@example.com