Summer closing in on us means what? Clouds and sunsets from our hilltop view Preserve are magnificent. That campfire at the visitor center still feels sooo great. Summer means what else? Mosquitoes!!! Come prepared, please. And since its warmer guess who has awakened from the deep sleep of winter? Our rare rattlesnakes along with gopher snakes, beautiful little ring necked snakes and lots of lizards live here, too. Join us for a natural season of wildness and gathering at one of our campsites. Tent camp spots on the Navy’s oldest ammunition depot in the Pacific, are guaranteed to be eclectic and unique! Drive to and pitch your tent on the loading dock or inside of one of our 1940’s bunkers with western views of San Pablo Bay and Mt. Tamalpais. PLEASE NOTE: We cannot stress enough that this is primarily a tent camp site. Ask about the possibility of car camping here. A lot of newer vehicles are not suitable for this site because the oak forest is encouraged to hang low over the road and encroach into the road. Just is. We've been asked by recent campers to clearly distinguish between the two different sites. Campsite #1 is at "Marker post labeled #14". It has a "fake" grass floor, substantial graffiti and a few items from a mural lying on the floor in a corner. Campsite #2 is at "Marker post labeled #13". It is the first bunker and loading dock you come to as you drive through an oak woodland canopy and very steep road. It has graffiti on the loading dock that says "Purple Rain". The floor in just concrete. There is a loading dock for outside camping under the stars at both. Both have stupendous views of San Pablo Bay and Mt. Tam.
BE PREPARED: this time of year the temps might dip to around 50 degrees at night. Our portable restroom is always refreshingly clean, but prepare to make the 1/3 mile trek back up the hill to use it, please. We really do have mosquitoes seasonally. So, be prepared. And, we really do have yellow jackets, although we try to keep traps up for them. This means maybe eating inside your tent or in the bunker and not leaving any food out.
Good news is that we don’t really have any people neighbors, so making music or being a little noisy here is cool. While you will still know urban life is nearby, you will experience the magic of the peaceful setting. Osprey, great-blue herons, great egrets, red-tailed hawks and white-tailed kites nest nearby in spring and summer. Owls are night visitors. A portable campstove is OK to use at the bunkers. Or, stop and prepare dinner at the visitor center cooking area before heading to your camp. A campfire is allowed only at our visitor center, a little over a mile walk back to the visitor center from the western bunkers Bay-view campsites 1 & 2. Note that beginning February 20, 2018, only a max of two vehicles will be allowed at each of these sites. And, plan ahead...once you arrive at the campsite with your escort, it turns into a walk-in site. That means walking to the visitor center for the campfire. And, not running back and forth up and down the hill in your car. That's because the access to the bunkers is on our main hiking trail and we also have critters from snakes to birds which hang out on the paved road. We've definitely discovered that they and cars just don't mix!
There are 2 other campsites under a different listing. Napa River View Walk-in 1/3 mile hike/walk to campsites with stupendous views of the Napa River/Mare Island Strait and Napa Valley.
The Mare Island Preserve is 1.5 miles from the Mare Island ferry terminal with daily service from San Francisco. Direct bus service from the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station to the Vallejo Transit Center lands you a little over 4 miles away from the Preserve. Catch your favorite taxi service or call/text us to pre-arrange a pickup. Bikes are allowed on both the ferry and shuttle buses from BART. Once you’ve settled in, hop on one of our bikes for a jaunt around the strangely quirky and kinda abandoned, sort of not, former Naval shipyard, the Navy’s oldest installation in the Pacific, founded in 1854. You will stop often to photograph both the beauty and the decay of a 150 years of maritime and marine industrial history. Hike and jog our 4-mile roundtrip San Pablo Bay Trail and even golf or visit Vino Godfather tasting room, a WWII landing craft support gunboat, St. Peter’s Chapel (by appt) or a museum of Navy history.
Two yurts are also available on the Preserve. The Garden History yurt is small 12 ft in diameter with a full sized bed in the historic Rowser Garden. The Old Tennis Court yurt is 16 ft with a twin, full and queen bed. It is set on the abandoned old tennis court, one of the historic sites in the Mare Island Preserve. Our volunteer team cleared overgrown trees and brush to discover the remnants of the tennis court with its net posts still intact. There’s room to maybe play a round of badminton. Note that at both yurt sites, regular Preserve users are welcome to use the picnic areas adjacent to your camp site. We've added a gypsy wagon tiny house to our camp lineup this past winter. Our policy for our Preserve is to “do no harm before you do good”, making a valiant effort to leave the precious place as we found it; we’ve pruned the native oaks and cultural landscape trees a bit and cleared the weeds, but we think we’ve left plenty of wildness to reconnect you with nature and nurture your soul and there’s ample history to spark your imagination. Your enthusiastic stays in our yurts and tent camp spots, help us protect and share our park with you.
IMPORTANT: upon arrival, please specify that you are at the drive-in sites, and not the walk-in sites.
- Check in: After 2PM
- Check out: Before 12PM
- Cancellation policy: Flexible
- On arrival: Meet and greet
- Minimum nights: None
- Accepts bookings: 12 months out
- Response time: Within 6 hours
- Response rate: 100%
The vibe at Bunker Bay View Drive in
If you stayed here and have some insider info for us, let us know!
The Bunker Bay and River campgrounds at the Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve offers such a fun and unique experience. You have the option to either camp right outside of or inside of an old 1930's Navy bunker with views of the surrounding cities and the Napa River and the San Pablo Bay. Hiking the trails to the "Spirit Ship" and the Visitors Center was a really nice late afternoon activity. We also attended an art show in the other bunker that an artist had rented out for the night! Such a cool, unplanned end to our night. Also really loved falling asleep to the sound of seals on the bay in the distance. Being there on the weekend means that the Preserve is open to the public and it was nice to see a handful of people on the trails either taking photographs, out to observe wildlife or taking their dog for a walk. Something to keep in mind also is that you do need to bring in your own water supply, although you are supplied with a bathroom. Definitely a night of camping I wont forget!
Bunker Bay and River View was a quirky and thoroughly enjoyable place to camp! Myrna is friendly and gracious. We set our tent up right on the loading dock just outside the bunker. The views of San Pablo Bay were stunning. Bunker site #1 has the door locked shut, but when we explored the other bunker site (#2) we found that door to be locked open and we got to check out the inside of the bunker! Getting to go inside the bunker was probably my daughter's favorite part! On the weekends, the preserve is open to the public, so there were a few folks that passed by out on a walk, but overall, the place is very private! We'll certainly be returning.
Pleasant, volunteer-run preserve with quirks, character, good views, and ospreys. Camping on the bunker dock made for some cool photo ops and a smooth, flat tent site. There are several trails around the preserve and a small community cooking / firepit area. Check out http://www.mareislandpreserve.org/ for background on the preserve. Bring your own drinking water, and bug spray if the season is appropriate.
Stayed in Bunker Site #2
The main differences between the two are:
Site #1 is a little further down the road and so would be more private. However once you get this far out here, both are pretty private in their own right. Site #1 has a picnic table in the front and the bunker is laid out with artificial turf. It makes for a nicer overall experience. For most people this would be a good thing, however if you are looking for something a bit more creepy/barren, Site #2 is the one to pick. There is a bench in front of Site #2 but no picnic table.
Overall a great experience. I loved the atmosphere and eerie creepiness of it all. Definitely worth the drive out. The short hike up to the top of Mare Island during sunset is beautiful sight. I recommend that to everyone. Myrna was a great host. Very friendly and accommodating. She even let me check out a little after 12 which was very appreciated.
The only thing that was a tad bothering was the main bunker doors would squeak during the night from the wind and if you are a light sleeper this can be difficult. Not a deal breaker by any means.
You don't need a car to go camping at Mare Island! Wow. I live in San Francisco, why did it take me so long to go camping at Mare Island? Kicking myself for not doing this sooner. My boyfriend and I bike camped to the Bunker on a weeknight and went back to work the next day and it was perfection.
We took the ferry from the SF terminal to Vallejo (you can also take it to Mare Island direct but we wanted more of a ride). There's a taphouse and rad little cafe right when you arrive. From there it's a beautiful ~4 mile ride from the ferry to the campsite. Looks like there's a winery and so many other fun things to do around Mare Island including a visit to the oldest Navel chapel in the United States, St. Peter's Chapel. You ride right by it!
Since you're sleeping in the bunker, you don't need a tent. Acoustics are great - bring a portable speaker. Bring LED string lights for max ambiance. :) I look forward to coming back and making a weekend out of it instead of just a night!
After living in the Bay Area for 10 years, this was my first time even hearing about Mare Island, and it was such a strange little discovery. This old, abandoned naval base is a hidden gem at the top of the bay, and is full of surprises.
The trek across the Mare Island base is a little spooky, but it sets the right tone for the nature preserve, which is also home to the oldest cemetery on the West Coast. We checked in with the friendly camp host, Myrna, upon our arrival, and she directed us to our bunker with a warm invitation to come back to the visitor center later for s'mores. She also let us know the trail would be light up, along with the "Ghost Ship." There were people out walking the trails with their dogs, and everyone was very friendly. We set up our tent on the patio outside the bunker, and hiked around a bit, taking in the incredible sweeping views.
We later explored the bunker, and while it was creepy-cool with awesome acoustics, we also found the corners to be full of some of the biggest spiders I've ever seen. I live in a basement apartment and I'm not squeamish about spiders, but HOLY COW. Promptly shut and locked the doors. We ended up sleeping in our car when the winds picked up considerably and the threat of rain made it the smart choice. The view upon waking was fantastic though, and we enjoyed the short commute home -- perfect for an overnight getaway.
We had an incredible Thanksgiving at the Bunker! We wanted a place with outside camping, but a covered space in case of rain. This place has both, plus a lot of hiking trails, random art installations and abandoned buildings to explore, and beautiful views of the bay! We actually slept inside the bunker which actually wasn't as spooky as I thought it would be. The host was around the perfect amount - just enough for us to get settled and then to make sure we had everything we needed. There is no electricity onsite and the toilet was an outhouse on top of the hill, but neither were an issue for us. It's a super cool site that we will be returning to!!
We had a great night staying at Bunker Bay. Specifically "bunker #2", where there was ample level ground to park our VW Westfalia. Myrna was very hospitable, offering s'mores and hot apple cider at the visitor's center.
With Bunker Bay a mere 1:15hr drive from SF and 25 mins from Napa, we'll definitely be coming back for a quick reset.