Sea Lions of Pier 39.

Famous Lounging Sea Lions

Field review by the editors.

San Francisco, California

Hundreds of lounging sea lions arrived at the calm waters next to Pier 39 on December 22, 1989, and have never left. Officials speculate that a new pier -- which is a kind of mall jutting over the water -- offered protection, and that the "plentiful herring supply" was too good for the sea lions to go anywhere else.

Sea Lion fans.

On any nice day there are scores of tourists snapping photos of the sea lions. A large "Pier 39" sign inserted into the scene dispels any notion that the spontaneous gathering is new.

The sea lions mostly lounge on wooden platforms, bellowing in unison and providing an occasional lifted head, wave of a flipper, or slick slide into the bay.

The sea lions do occasionally disappear en masse -- usually during mating season -- but they always return. A particularly abrupt vanishing act in late 2009 led to much worried speculation about the collapse of the ecosystem, but it turned out that most of the sea lions had simply taken a vacation, relocating north to Sea Lion Caves in Oregon. They were back at Pier 39 by Spring 2010.

In January 2014 Pier 39 opened Sea Lion Center, a kind of air lock between the sea lions and the rest of the world. Visitors can touch a sea lion pelt, study a sea lion skeleton, and see a numerical tally of current sea lion loungers. Tourists are warned about the smell before they walk to an outdoor overlook.

Famous Lounging Sea Lions

Pier 39

Address:
1642 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA
Directions:
Drive north on The Embarcadero to Pier 39, then walk out. The sea lions lounge on the left side, near the end of the pier.
Hours:
Sea Lion Center: daily 10-5
Admission:
Free
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

USS Pampanito Submarine MuseumUSS Pampanito Submarine Museum, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
Musee MecaniqueMusee Mecanique, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
San Francisco DungeonSan Francisco Dungeon, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.
In the region:
Television's First Broadcast Image, San Francisco, CA - < 1 mi.

More Quirky Attractions in California

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in California.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

May 26, 2017

My Sights

My Sights

Save Cool Vacation Destinations!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

California Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Stumpy's Hatchet House, Eatontown, New Jersey (May 22-28, 2017)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

More Sightings

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, San Francisco, California

Nightly rates found:

Find Hotels Near:

Book Online Now