Top 20 San Francisco attractions

Cliff House San Francisco

Cliff House San Francisco

The historic Cliff House is located in the northwest corner of San Francisco, overlooking Pacific Beach. 

****CURRENTLY CLOSED****

The Cliff House San Francisco has a fascinating yet turbulent history. It was constructed in 1863, then rebuilt twice in 1896 and 1909 after devastating fires.

It houses an upscale restaurant and casual bistro, and both have incredible ocean views.  

There are also observation decks open to the general public, with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.

5 best things to do at the Cliff House

1. Visit the third version of the Cliff House.  

This is the third and final version of the Cliff House constructed in 1909.  It has a more low slung appearance than previous designs, to integrate with the landscape, and fashioned in the neo-classical style, characteristic of this era.  

Cliff HouseCliff House

2. Enjoy soaring views over Ocean Beach.  

The Cliff House San Francisco has incredible views of Ocean Beach to it's south.  Can you see Golden Gate Park to the left of Ocean Beach with its famous windmills?

Ocean Beach from Cliff House San FranciscoOcean Beach from Cliff House San Francisco

3.  Eat at the waterfront restaurant or bistro.  

This is the entrance to the Cliff House and it's lovely restaurant and more casual bistro (currently closed).

Cliff House restaurantCliff House restaurant

4.  Choose from three observation decks.  

You can also skip the restaurants and head straight to the observation decks.  Stand on the decks to hear the waves crashing below you.

The Cliff HouseThe Cliff House

5.  Take the path down to Ocean Beach.  

Ocean Beach San FranciscoOcean Beach San Francisco

Ocean Beach San Francisco CAOcean Beach San Francisco CA

10 fascinating facts about the Cliff House 

​1.  In the 1860s visitors arrived by stagecoach to the first Cliff House.  The first Cliff House was constructed in 1863, and was a low-slung, one-story structure with a wrap-around balcony.  It’s elegant restaurant attracted high society families like the Hearsts and Stanfords, and three U.S. Presidents.  They arrived by stagecoach along the newly constructed Point Lobos Avenue. 

2. The introduction of gambling brought a seedy element. However by 1868 the clientele became more lowbrow when gambling with introduced.

3. The first Cliff House burned down in 1894.

4. Wealthy Adolph Sutro rebuilt a second Cliff House in 1896. In 1891 wealthy mining engineer and philanthropist Adolph Sutro purchased the Cliff House SF.  He owned the estate overlooking it and wanted to improve the calibre of its clientele.  After the Cliff House burned down in 1894, Adolph Sutro rebuilt a massive Victorian structure in 1896. 

5. Sutro's Cliff House was a massive chateau. The french-chateau style building was seven stories tall, with turrets and towers.  It was referred to as the “Gingerbread House”.  The gigantic structure dwarfed it’s surroundings.  It was perched precariously on the edge of a cliff.  It had restaurants, lunch rooms, parlors, private dining rooms, art galleries, a gem exhibit, and the new Sutro Baths next door.  

6.  In 1907 the Cliff House burned down again!  In 1898 Sutro died, and in 1907 the Cliff house burned down again during a remodel. 

7. In 1909 Sutro’s daughter rebuilt a more modest version of the Cliff House. It was designed in a neoclassical style, constructed with concrete and steel, and more integrated with the landscape.

8. In 1937 the Whitney Brothers made the Cliff House into a roadhouse. In 1950 the Whitney Brothers remodeled the Cliff House into a roadhouse to complement their Playland amusement park business at nearby Ocean Beach. They even added a Sky Tram between Cliff House and Point Lobos with an artificial waterfall at Point Lobos.  In the 1970’s the Cliff House was painted a garish orange and blue before adopting a more subdued exterior in the 1980’s. 

9. Finally, in 1977 the Cliff House was purchased by the National Park Service. It was now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

10. In 2003 the Cliff House was remodeled to resemble the earlier neoclassical version that Sutro’s daughter had built in 1909. A new Sutro Wing was added on the eastern side overlooking the ruins of Sutro Baths.

Know before you go

  • Address:  1090 Point Lobos Ave.
  • Restaurant & cafe hours: Check here.  
  • Reservations: Reservations are highly recommended for Sutro’s restaurant.
  • Parking:  Lands End Parking Lot (600 Point Lobos Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94121).

Nearby things to do

  1. Legion of Honor - art gallery, war memorial
  2. Sutro Baths - coastal ruins.
  3. Lands End Trail - 1.5 mile one way cliff trail.
  4. China Beach 
  5. Baker Beach

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