Categories: CampingDestinations

Field Notes: Camping on the San Francisco Bay at Terminal 4

I am not a city gal. I’m used to open spaces and quiet places. I’d much rather pitch a tent and sleep under the stars than pay for a small hotel room with a street view. But living in the Bay Area, it’s no surprise that camping in San Francisco is virtually nonexistent. This is exactly why I was so thrilled to find Terminal 4.

Waterfront view upon entering the property | Photo by Dally Tram

The Terminal 4 campsites are hidden away from the city on a small peninsula between San Francisco and San Pablo bays, one of the few undeveloped pieces of land in the Bay Area. An absolute historical gem. With unique open spaces, picturesque views of Marin County across the water, and private coves to explore, this was exactly what I was looking for in a close-to-home getaway.

Bird’s-eye view of the peninsula where the campsites are situated. | Photo by Dally Tram

An easy 30-minute drive from downtown San Francisco takes you on a scenic trip up a hillside near the Richmond Bridge to the tip of the peninsula. Driving through the gate to Terminal 4 felt sort of like going through a portal from the bustling city to the somewhat industrial but calm bayfront campsites. It felt almost like I was on my own little island off of downtown San Francisco. You’re far enough away to feel like you’re out of the city, yet you’re close enough to still grab brunch from the local farmer’s market.

View of common area and a peek at San Francisco | Photo by Dally Tram

As soon as I arrived, I was greeted by Bobby, the Hipcamp Host, with the warmest welcome. His excitement and enthusiasm clearly showed me his passion for the property—he even took the time to give a personalized tour of the entire peninsula in his golf cart. We drove along the coast and zipped up the hills to the highest point for his favorite sunset view. During the ride, Bobby chronicled the rich history and stories of the land, and afterward, he invited me and other campers to enjoy fresh oysters and clams with him and his friends.

Hipcamp Host Bobby’s favorite sunset spot is on an overlook. | Photo by Dally Tram

This experience was genuinely made more special by Bobby himself. He’s a quirky Host, incredibly funny, and the epitome of hospitality. I could not have asked for a more memorable experience.

A look at Bobby’s camper. The waterfront views are hard to beat. | Photo by Dally Tram

After spending the evening laughing with the whole group, I set up camp on a flat, clean campsite and slept peacefully. The sites are simple, yet you’ll have spectacular waterfront views. A couple of amenities also helped ease my trip: clean porta-potties, a fire pit, seating areas, lanterns, and the bonus of electrical ports.

Amenities include common seating areas, private bay access, and electrical hookups. | Photos by Dally Tram


The next day, I woke up to the sound of boats, birds, and the water lapping up against the shore. I soaked in the sunrise views, explored the coves, hiked to the hilltop, and spent time at the Terminal 4 common area to rest, relax, and chat with the other campers. Later, Bobby invited us to the sensational Black Star Pirate BBQ, a wildly eclectic hidden gem within walking distance of the campsites.

A boat on the shore at sunrise | Photo by Dally Tram

When it was time to head off, I was incredibly glad I found such an easy and unique place to camp—the trip made for an easy way to explore the Bay Area beyond San Francisco. I definitely plan to visit again soon.

Book a stay at Terminal 4

Dally is a Hipcamp photographer and outdoor adventure fanatic who also dabbles in photography. Based in Boulder, Colorado, her photography focuses on capturing genuine moments from her adventures around the world.

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