Here are some of the local places to launch your kayak in SF.
1. Islais Creek, SF.
A useful launch site on the south east side of San Francisco. From here you can paddle south to Candlestick, or north to Pac Bell Park. An ideal site from which to explore the industrial waterfront – lots of cranes, ships, piers and dry docks. A good place to start a paddle if the winds are westerlies (and too strong to paddle from Crissy Field, for example). Sticking to the shore, you will be in the lee North to the Bay Bridge, and South for a few miles.
Directions: 3rd Street and Arthur, San Francisco. (Mapquest). Islais Creek itself is about two blocks south of Cesar Chavez (formerly Army) Street. The launch site is on the west side of 3rd Street and on the south side of Islais Creek.
2. Pier 52/China Basin, (Bay View Boat Club) SF.
Easy put in next to Boat Club. Concrete ramp into water. Use CAUTION! The concrete ramp can be covered in wet moss, causing your vehicle to loose traction when trying to pull boat trailer back out of the water. Enters out in to large shipping channel where the ships are in hibernation. AT&T park cove about 1/4 mile to north. Great for access to AT&T or Bay Bridge, or even Alcatraz.
Directions: King street past AT&T Park. Take left to shoreline.
3. Aquatic Park, SF.
Aquatic park is very popular with swimmers for it’s calm (cold) water easy access, and gentle protected beach. Recently, swimmers were being accosted by an aggressive sea lion protecting it’s territory. Nevertheless, Aquatic park is a safe place to launch you boat to head out into the San Francisco Bay. Destinations from here include heading to Horseshoe cove, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and out under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Parking: Parking is a bit of a hassle here, as it is tight and metered. I usually opt for the nearby Crissy Field launch. Ghirardelli Square is a great place to get quarters (and chocolate) if you need to feed the meters (and yourself).
4. Crissy Field, SF.
A prime location to launch in the heart of San Francisco. From here you can head out north to Alcatraz and Angel Island, west to the Golden Gate or east along the city to Pac Bell Park and beyond.
Parking: There’s lots of free parking here but it does tend to get crowded on nice weekends with beach goers and wind surfers. Portage is about 50 feet. There’s sand right down to the water’s edge.
Directions: Crissy Field lies along the north edge of the Presidio in San Francisco, with spectacular views of the Golden Gate bridge and Angel Island. The easiest way to get to there is from Marina Blvd. Driving west, just before the entrance to the 101 Freeway, bear to the right onto Mason Street which takes you into the Presidio. After a couple of hundred yards, turn right and head towards the water. Crissy Field is a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area under the National Park Service.
Cautions: Watch out for small children and dogs when landing on the beach. Owing to its proximity to the Golden Gate bridge, there’s usually a pretty strong current just offshore. If you’re heading east from here, be alert out for sailboats and motor boats heading in and out of the St. Francis Yacht Club and marina. If crossing towards Marin, Alcatraz, or Angel Island, you will be crossing a shipping channel, so watch out for large ships (and be aware that they go faster than they look)!