Sutro Baths Ruins and Cave
San Francisco, California
The coastal ruins of the Sutro Baths are impressive, overlooking Seal Rocks and in close proximity to the cityscape of San Francisco. There's ample public parking on two higher cliffs, a dining vantage point from the adjacent Cliff House, and ramps and stairs descending down to the crumbling walls and sea cave.
Entrepreneur and silver mine millionaire Adolph Sutro built his huge recreational facility in 1894 and opened in 1896, with a salt water pool and an aquarium. He soon added a 3 acre public bathhouse so that the people of San Francisco could enjoy the healthful benefits of swimming. After Sutro's death in 1898, the Baths continued for decades, but eventually failed as a business. Sutro's grandson tried to turn the Baths into an ice skating rink forty years later, but that also succumbed. The whole thing went up in flames in 1966.
What's left is something that feels like an archaeological dig at a half-sunken ancient city. The public has broad access, and leisure explorers clamber around on the rocks and walls. The sea cave can be entered, but heed the Pacific ocean's unpredictable "sneaker waves," which can roll across lower areas. A few incautious/unlucky visitors have drowned. Danger advisory signs are everywhere.
A National Park Service visitor center near the parking lot features historical displays about and artifacts from the Baths, Sutro Heights, and the equally ill-fated Cliff House, which burned down a number of times. There's a gift shop.