12 Things You Had No Idea You Could Do on Treasure Island

From wine tasting to sailing, music fests, and more, there’s plenty to see, eat, and do on Treasure Island.

Treasure Island has got one hell of a history and one hell of a future ahead. The artificial, 400-acre island lies almost halfway between San Francisco and Oakland, and was constructed on landfill for the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition, or World’s Fair. Two airplane hangars remain on the island: the vestiges of Pan Am’s sea plane activity and since-dashed hopes for Treasure Island to become a major airport hub. The onset of World War II, however, saw the Navy take over the island to use for submarine cleaning and subsequent toxic waste storage.

When the naval station closed in 1997, the city took over the island and turned it into a new neighborhood, much of which was for low-income, displaced, and formerly unhoused residents. Rent was cheap due to the limited island access and irradiated dirt full of arsenic and petroleum — which the Navy says is now cleaned up. On the fun side, the hangars were converted into sound stages for film and television, and the island also became known for its now-defunct annual music festival and monthly flea market. Treasure Island connects to the natural Yerba Buena Island, which is a bonus for cyclists and nature-lovers, who can overlook the bay from a couple of vistas on the island.

Rich Lonardo/Shutterstock

There’s a gorgeous SF skyline view from Treasure Island that developers have discovered in recent years, and a massive 20-year development plan is underway to bring hotels, more housing, retail spaces, and parks to the neighborhood. The development is also trying to keep its longtime residents in mind, with units of affordable housing going up, and is still home to nonprofits like JobCorps, One Treasure Island, and public charter school Life Learning Academy. The new ferry system is already in place and gets you from the Ferry building to Treasure Island in just 10 minutes.

“We consider the island our museum. Every time I turn over a rock, I find something unbelievable,” says president of Treasure Island Museum Michael Hennahane. While Hennahane has been involved with the museum for years, discoveries like how Treasure Island was the site of the first NCAA playoffs in 1939 are still surprising. With a dizzying amount of changes on the island, it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on, and the museum is a good place to start learning the history and future of the island. According to museum staff, Building One (the Administration Building), the towering structure you see as you first enter the island, is on its way to becoming something akin to a mini Ferry Building — with the museum and Woods Island Club taproom already there, as well as plans for a bar by Gold Bar Whiskey (which partners with the 49ers) and a gourmet grocery store.

From the best view of the SF skyline to sailing to wine tasting, this little island packs a punch, and it’s fascinating to think about how it will change with each visit over the next 15 years or so.


Strike a pose against the gorgeous SF skyline along Avenue of the Palms

Nearly the entire western side of Treasure Island is Avenue of the Palms, where the majestic view of the skyline spans from the Bay Bridge to downtown SF to Alcatraz if the weather is clear. Avenue of the Palms is actually lined with palm trees, and a short rock wall where people are constantly posing for photos, from wedding parties to wannabe-influencers to musicians making very windy DIY music videos. You can’t leave the island without snapping at least a quick selfie against the skyline. For a longer photo opp, hang out on The Great Lawn, which runs along the southern part of the avenue and includes Mersea Restaurant.

Aracely Cafe
Aracely Cafe

Since opening in 2014, Aracely has often been the island’s lone restaurant. Even though it now has a neighbor in Mersea, the cute brunch spot with a garden patio and outdoor fireplace still stands out for its creative new California cuisine with international influences. Case in point: the luxurious Eggs Benedict with salmon or bacon, spinach, and a jalapeño hollandaise sauce atop quinoa buns.


Speaking of Aracely’s restaurant buddy, Mersea has been posting up on the island’s The Great Lawn since 2018. Made out of multiple shipping containers, the restaurant has plenty of spacious outdoor seating and of course that bocce ball court, which makes Mersea a good leisurely hangout spot. The indoor dining room has glass walls, so no one will miss out on that SF skyline view. Chomp on an Oregon pink shrimp roll with Old Bay-seasoned fries and wash it down with a M3 cocktail — coconut vodka, pineapple juice, and ginger beer. Owner MeeSun Boice was also part of the Treasure Island Museum’s oral history project.

Treasure Island Museum
Photo by Annamarie Morel, courtesy of Treasure Island Museum

With such a dense and varied history of the island, it’s a good idea to stop off at the free Treasure Island Museum (if it’s a weekday) to look at artifacts from the World’s Fair, gorgeous murals that illustrate different chapters of the island’s life, and modern multimedia exhibits like Treasured Stories,” an oral history project with Treasure Island residents and workers, many of whom are formerly unhoused or low-income. The museum is housed in the striking Building One, that’s the first major structure you see upon entering the island, and you might recognize it from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Parent Trap, or Netflx’s The OA. Outside of the building, you can also scan QR codes on the surrounding sculptures from the World’s Fair, as well as informational panels by vistas on the neighboring Yerba Buena Island.

Woods Island Club
WOODS Beer & Wine Co.

The original location of Woods Island Club was on the southeast side of the island, in an old airplane hangar with a sandy beach outside. It shut down during shelter-in-place, and seemed like it would be gone forever. But like the carbonation that rises in its Retro Pilsner, Woods Island Club rises again in 2022, this time in the Art Deco lobby of Building One. If it’s a Friday, enjoy a brewski and an El Porteño-sourced empanada after visiting the museum.

Treasure Island Sailing Center
Treasure Island Sailing Center

Boating and nautical sports are not only for the frou frou. The nonprofit Treasure Island Sailing Center provides sailing lessons and rentals, as well as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding for youth and adults, and provides scholarships for those in need. You’ll use the calmer waters of Clipper Cove, which is a protected harbor tucked in between the south side of Treasure Island and the north side of Yerba Buena Island, and is the biggest, protected open-water cove on the city shoreline. Founder Carisa Harris Adamson is also part of the island’s oral history project.

It won’t be the island’s only grocery store for much longer, but it currently is and has been for years. If you’d rather just grab-and-go while exploring Treasure Island, the deli counter offers stacked sub sandwiches, burgers, shawarma wraps, and deep-fried goodness like fries and shrimp from a super friendly staff. There’s no booze there, though. So plan accordingly if you’re looking for an all-day hangout with coolers and folding chairs along Avenue of the Palms or on The Great Lawn. Bonus: Hear owner Abdo Nasser’s story in the Treasure Island Museum oral history project.

Clipper cove
Photo by Brian Gerson for Thrillist

Clipper Cove deserves its own entry, thanks to its hidden gem status. Originally used as Pan Am’s terminus for seaplanes, we recommend grabbing sandos at Island Cove Market, then trekking halfway up the hill to Yerba Buena Island before descending down the left-side stairs leading to the cove. You’ll get a great view of Yerba Buena Island, Treasure Island, and the Bay Bridge. Because the cove is in a safe, protected harbor, the water is calm enough to enter.

The first winery to open on Treasure Island in 2007, Treasure Island Wines has been a pioneer of SF’s urban winery movement and plays host to a rotating roster of local wine crafters, like natural winemaker Stagiare. While the slew of island wineries that followed made for a great wine trail, most moved to The Winery Collective at Fisherman’s Wharf earlier in the pandemic. T.I. Wines is currently the only winery left on the island, with tastings often conducted by the winemakers themselves in the winery parklet on weekends. Sip California varietals, like a bold Pine Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mayacama Mountain Range, or a rich Russian River Valley Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel barrels with just a touch of neutral oak. Staff usually has dog treats on hand and there’s plenty of space for Fido to run around, including the picnic tables that surround the winery.

Treecraft Distillery
Treecraft Distillery

If wine tasting or beer sipping is not enough for you, visit Treecraft Distillery. Utilizing a distilling method that’s less harmful to the environment than traditional techniques, Treecraft offers six-flight outdoor tastings by its enormous 500-gallon copper distilling pot — one of the largest in NorCal. Unusual offerings include lavender-hibiscus gin and chocolate bourbon.

Cyclists (and pedestrians!) coming from the East Bay can use the 2.2-mile Bay Bridge East Span Path to get to Vista Point on Yerba Buena Island. The recommended access point is by the IKEA in Emeryville. Check online for bike path construction updates before going, though. Construction of the path from the vista via Macalla Road, as well as the pedestrian sidewalk, are expected to be completed any day now. There isn’t a bike path from SF to T.I., but it is a future possibility.

All Day All Night Events
All Day All Night Events

While the Treasure Island Music Festival is no more, 2022 brings the Day to Night Festival, which will run Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16 on The Great Lawn. The line-up is all EDM DJs, with headliners Dom Dolla and Artbat, along with food trucks, art, and more. Who knows if this will be an annual event or just a one-off, but this will definitely be a gift to those who want to feel massive musical vibrations under the last of the late summer sun against the Pacific Ocean backdrop.

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Margot Seeto is a Bay Area freelance writer and a contributor for Thrillist.