Starting at the ferry terminal at the end of Clay Street is a well-maintained one-mile stretch of the Bay Trail, using boardwalks, sidewalks and decomposed granite paths to reach Estuary Park and the Jack London Aquatic Center. The sound of boat horns and the occasional rumble of a passenger train pulling into the Amtrak station nearby give this walk an exhilarating feel, as if at any moment you could step off for the Yukon or the South Seas.
Before you head north, take a moment to gawk at the Potomac, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s yacht, which is docked near the ferry berth and the Lightship Relief, another historical vessel. Then continue along the waterfront, following the boardwalk around the Waterfront Hotel, Miss Pearl’s cajun restaurant and Scott’s seafood restaurant. All the restaurants were doing good business on this sunny holiday weekend. In fact, there were so many people in the square, it was hard to understand why so many retail spaces were empty.
At the north end of the square, the new Harvest Home market building dwarfs Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, the bar where Jack London met the model for his Sea Wolf. The log cabin in front of Heinold’s was reconstructed from half of one that London stayed in while prospecting in the frozen north. (The other half went to build a similar monument in Dawson.) A public viewing platform shaped like a lighthouse gives you an opportunity to get above it all for a moment.
Past the platform, the Bay Trail becomes a decomposed granite path and curves between condos and marinas. There is a pleasant picnic spot at the end of Alice Street, and fishermen are keeping a cursory watch on their rods. As the trail nears Estuary Park, it becomes rougher and the scenery, a bit grittier. An unmarked abstract sculpture of tectonic steel plates has been turned into an open-air bed.
If you want a slightly different return path, take First Street back from the Aquatic Center to Oak Street, cross the railroad tracks on Oak and follow Second Street back through the Produce District.
Getting There: The Oakland Ferry Terminal is at the west end of Clay Street.
Cool stuff in the area: Besides everything mentioned above, Yoshi’s jazz club and Japanese restaurant is just a few steps away.
More information: On the Estuary Park from Waterfront Action.