Forbes Island, Pier 41, Fishermans Wharf, San Francisco

The view of the San Francisco skyline from Forbes Island.
The view of the San Francisco skyline from Forbes Island.

If you have ever been to Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco, you’ve may have noticed a little island with a lighthouse flanked by tall palm trees floating just off Pier 41.

That would be Thor Kiddoo’s nautical fantasy, Forbes Island, a 700-ton barge featuring a 40-ft lighthouse, a dozen palms, a sandy “beach,” and a waterfall that flows into a hot tub. What was once Kiddoo’s private houseboat in Sausalito was transformed into an underwater restaurant, a stone’s throw from the renowned sea lions of Pier 39.

The Forbes Island lighthouse is the only privately built lighthouse in the United States.
The Forbes Island lighthouse is the only privately built lighthouse in the United States.

I’ve been curious about Forbes Island, which has appeared on the Travel Channel and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, for years. Some describe it as ostentatious and tacky but I wanted to see it for myself. I finally had an opportunity a few months ago when my friend who works aboard the Blue and Gold ferries invited me to meet him there.

To get there, visitors board a small ferry for a less than two-minute ride from the pier to the island. It was a drizzly night when we went but we explored the outside first including the lighthouse, white sand patios and creepy sculptures of pirates and maidens. The night views of the city were exquisite. Then we ducked down the narrow stairs to escape the cold and were enveloped by the cozy interior. It was elegant and delightful with warm wood paneled walls, white linen tablecloths and a fireplace. It was late and the dining room was empty but we nibbled on appetizers and chatted with the friendly bartender. It was definitely a unique experience to be sipping a cocktail at a bar with porthole windows that offered below sea level views.

The menu includes seafood dishes, lamb and filet mignon as well as tempting desserts including an apple tarte tatin with rum caramel sauce and whipped cream and a berry Napoleon with mixed berries, raspberry sauce, hazelnuts, and mascarpone crème. The boat doesn’t have a freezer, so everything is made fresh daily.

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Forbes Island hosts many events on board which I only can imagine would be unforgettable. After my brief visit, I’m convinced I’ll return to this unique slice of San Francisco quirk.

This post was contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion.forbes_ring

Forbes Island
Sea Lion Harbor
“I” Dock
Between Pier 39 & 41
San Francisco, California

415-951-4500

Inside the cozy candlelit dining room on Forbes Island.
Inside the cozy subterranean dining room on Forbes Island.