Benicia’s beautiful waterfront creates an air of mystery and romance as you walk along the First Street Promenade and imagine a time when a robust maritime commerce filled the shoreline with bustling activity and a bit of intrigue.
As the former site of shipyards, tanneries, canneries and a ferry terminal, Benicia has seen its share of salty, nautical characters living and working along its waterfront. Jack London, who once fished the Strait near Benicia, used some of the lore surrounding the waterfront in Benicia as literary fodder. A marker at the foot of First Street recognizes Jack London as “The author who immortalized this locality in John Barleycorn and Tales of the Fish Patrol.”
Today, Benicia’s waterfront location remains one of the city’s greatest attractions. The shoreline of the Carquinez Strait is the exclamation point to the beautiful, quaint downtown. Stroll the Promenade to the pier for bridge to bridge views and see fishermen, watercraft from sailboats to large ships, kite surfers, paddleboarders, kayakers, outriggers and abundant wildlife. There’s even a dog-friendly beach! And their human friends can get their feet wet, too!
Aside from its spectacular vistas, the waterfront area is full of fun things to do, from the Benicia State Recreation Area to the Benicia Marina. Of Benicia’s more than 20 parks, three are along the waterfront so you can enjoy picnicking and fishing. The Alvarez West Ninth Street Park (at West K Street) is a favorite for families and boaters. The park includes a public boat launch, playground, small beach and three kayak/canoe put-ins. The area is also part of the San Francisco Bay Trail System, the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail and the Great California Delta Trail.
Benicia’s proximity to the water provides a stunning backdrop for a relaxing stroll along First Street or an invigorating hike along the trails in the State Recreation Area. The Carquinez Strait connects Suisun Bay with San Pablo Bay, a northern extension of the San Francisco Bay. So the city reaps all the benefits of a seaside, but sheltered, location: a mild climate and more fog-free days that make the views out over the water seem limitless!
The downtown waterfront area in Benicia encompasses the Waterfront Promenade, Benicia Point Pier and First Street Green. Beyond downtown, the waterfront is accessible at many spots on the southern edge of Benicia, via pedestrian and bike routes from the Benicia Marina to West 14th Street, and at outdoor recreation areas that extend farther west along the Straitthrough the Benicia State Recreation Area.
The Benicia Marina, located on the waterfront between East Second and East Fifth streets, is a full-service marina offering a fuel dock, pump-out station, launch ramp, general store, restrooms and showers, laundry facilities and secured gates. It’s a great stop for boaters who want to visit for the day or stay overnight. And it’s an easy walk to the shopping, dining, spas, nightlife and visitor centers on First Street.
Boat Launches: The Marina Boat Launch is located on the East Fifth Street side of the Marina and is operated by the Harbor Master’s Office.
Benicia Yacht Club: Located at the Marina, the Benicia Yacht Club has among its membership boaters (power and sail) and non-boaters. The Club offers events and functions to satisfy those interested in the social aspects of the Club, as well as those interested in the water-oriented activities. Each April, the Yacht Club sponsors “Opening Day on the Strait,” an all-day event with a decorated boat parade and blessing of the fleet, arts and crafts vendors, live music, food, games for the kids and dinner and dancing in the evening.
Benicia offers plenty of opportunities for activities that require water, such as kayaking and fishing, but also for other forms of outdoor recreation that benefit from the beautiful, beside-the-water setting. Here are some of the places you can enjoy your favorite outdoor activities:
The area includes 438 acres of land with 2½ miles of paths set aside for cyclists, runners, walkers, equestrians and roller skaters. The trails roll through the marshy, grassy hillsides and rocky beaches along the narrowest portion of the Carquinez Strait. Dillon’s Point is a favorite fishing spot. The State Recreation Area is also home to the Forrest Deaner Native Plant Garden sponsored by the California Native Plant Society. Directions: From I-780 West: exit onto Columbus Parkway, turn left onto Rose Drive, and then turn right into the park. From I-780 East, exit onto Columbus Parkway, and then turn left into the park. You can also enter the State Recreation Area from West K Street by exiting I-780 at Military West and turning right onto West K.
Ten great bike rides and walks in Benicia are highlighted in these maps, ranging from easy to strenuous: Overview of Benicia Walks & Rides, Benicia State Recreation Area, Dillon Point, Waterfront, Downtown Historic, Benicia Marina, Historic Arsenal, Community Park to Southampton Park, Community Park to Waters End Park, Lake Herman Loop, and the 25 mile Grand Tour.
Bay Area Ridge Trail: A walk along this trail follows the Carquinez Strait waterfront through Benicia and Vallejo. Enjoy breezes and occasional fog as you watch the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers funnel into San Francisco Bay. This route travels mostly level trails, including sidewalks, paved and unpaved trails and paths. Directions: From the Rose Drive entrance to the Benicia State Recreation Area, follow Dillon Point Road, which heads west and skirts the wetlands and the western shore of Southampton Bay. Look for the trailhead on your right as you approach Dillon Point.
Matthew Turner Shipyard Park: Located at West 12th and K streets, this park is suitable for fishing, picnicking and launching kayaks and canoes.
Benicia Point Pier: This is a great place to drop a line and see what’s biting. For more details about where to go fishing, visit Benicia Bait and Tackle.
West Ninth Street Boat Launch: This is a public launch operated by the City of Benicia at the West Ninth Street Park, located at West Ninth and K streets. In addition to the two public boat launches in Benicia, there are three kayak and canoe put-ins along the waterfront that provide easy access to a day of fun on the Carquinez Strait.