Geographically, Bay Farm Island should be part of Oakland: Unlike the rest of Alameda, which sits across the estuary, Bay Farm is attached to the mainland near the Oakland Airport and is no longer an island at all. Shoreline Park is a narrow, three-mile long strip that runs from the fence that marks the end of the airport to the bridge across the estuary to the main island. For most of its length, you will have a choice between a paved bike path and a wide trail of crushed gravel.
Today, the sky is Delft blue, but the wind is chilly. Walkers and joggers are wearing everything from shorts and T-shirts to sweaters, scarves and gloves. Starting at the south end of the trail, you walk past a landscape of been-heres and came-heres: ceanothus covered with thumb-sized clusters of blue flowers and purple tower-of-jewels as long as your forearm; manzanita, pampas grass and ice plant. The shoreline is broken rock, but fishermen find places to wedge their rods.
About a mile from the southern end of the park is the Harbor Bay ferry terminal and a large grassy strip perfect for kite flying. At this point, you leave the Harbor Bay Business Park behind and enter a neighborhood of neat, if cookie-cutter, houses whose back yards and balconies have an enviable view of the bay. In a mini-park a little north of the ferry terminal, two dozen teenagers in prom wear are having their pictures taken against the stunning backdrop.
The wind drops as you come around the head of the island and the view changes from San Francisco to downtown Oakland. Another mini-park is designed to look like the bridge of a Coast Guard cutter, with the cement “prow” giving a number of places to sit and enjoy the sights. Alameda parks are distinguished by their spotless maintenance, and this one is no exception: The fountain not only works, it dispenses cool, good-tasting water.
Getting there: One end of the park is off Harbor Bay Parkway, which runs off of Ron Cowan Drive. Parking is prohibited along much of the parkway, but is permitted on the water side near the south end of the park and near the ferry terminal and mini-parks. There is bus service to the business park.
Cool stuff nearby: Two benches on the rocky spit at the south end of the park allow you to sit and watch planes take off overhead.