Secret Sausalito

Surprise-filled walks reveal three different sides of Marin County's most scenic town

Amy McConnelL

Phil Frank is known for writing the "Farley" comic strip for the San Francisco Chronicle. But he got his start exploring the goings-on of Sausalito. Among his piles of sketches is a drawing in which a blockhead-looking character by the name of Arthur "Art" Colony announces his intention to run for city council. His campaign slogan: "Where is Art Colony?"

Frank laughs when asked what inspired that. "I came up with Art Colony because everyone always asks, 'Where is this art colony?' as if there were a big tourist attraction here clearly marked with a sign saying 'art colony.' The other question people always ask is, 'Why are there elephants in the downtown park?'"

The artist community is spread throughout the town. And the sculpted elephants? Frank shrugs: "Why not?"

That blend of art and whimsy epitomizes both Frank and his hometown. Sausalito is a place that everyone thinks they know ― they know its views, its tourist shops, its summer-weekend crowds. But in his role on the board of the Sausalito Historical Society, Frank spends time lecturing and "noodling around, finding stuff" to celebrate Sausalito's hidden corners. "Locals tend to surrender the town ― especially the crowded downtown ― to tourists," Frank says. "It's as if you have to get them to rediscover Sausalito."

If, like the locals, you need to be reminded what a special place Sausalito is, here are three walks that will do the job. Each offers unexpected pleasures ― a boatbuilding school, a sidewalk cafe, a hidden bay view. Taken together they give you a good idea of what makes Sausalito so special.