Fireworks on the Bay

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18

The American tradition of launching fireworks on Independence Day is a festive event on the San Francisco Bay. If we have a Fourth of July when the skies are clear it is especially spectacular, but the ubiquitous San Francisco fog is also enjoyable.


These are photos from the past two Julys: 2018 was clear, 2019 had fog.


San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18


Many of the surrounding cities also set off fireworks, like Oakland and Sausalito. Here you can see Sausalito’s fireworks in the background.


Fourth of July on San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18. Sausalito fireworks in the background.


San Francisco hosts two synchronized sets of fireworks, one near Pier 39 and the other from a barge in the Bay. With so many steep hills, there are many perches for watching the fireworks, restaurants, rooftops. Pier 39 is a party all day long. No pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge, however, after 9:00 p.m.


My favorite is taking a boat cruise on the Bay.


The fireworks begin at dark, approximately 9:30 p.m., so boats start cruising the Bay around sunset.


Sausalito Hills, California, 07.04.19


Sausalito Marina, California, 07.04.19


Whether it’s foggy or clear, it is always cold on the Bay.Β Locals know to dress in winter clothes. We wear our parkas to watch the explosive extravaganza, without a regret for the days of summery fireworks in shorts and flip-flops.


Blue and Gold Fourth of July Cruise, 07.04.19


As the sun inches lower, cruise boats and private vessels move to the center of the Bay and drop anchor; the excitement builds.


Sail boat on the SF Bay, 07.04.19


Police boats with red and blue lights circle the fireworks barge, to keep others at a safe distance.


The fireworks are always fantastic. State-of-the-art pyrotechnics, firing off in rapid succession.


The water reflects the colors for miles…the rockets’ red glare.


San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18


The fog reflects a massive glow.


Fog glow, SF Bay, 07.04.19


Whether it’s foggy or sunny, cold or dark, there’s never a bad time cruising on the San Francisco Bay.


Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

San Francisco Bay, 07.04.18


85 thoughts on “Fireworks on the Bay

  1. Jet, this is such a wonderful post. I dreamed of living in San Francisco for 20 years before eventually giving it up. (Although I’ve finally made it back to the desert southwest, and I’m happy there.) You made me feel like I was there. I especially love the Bay boat photo. Hugs on the wing!

    • It’s an honor to bring you back to San Francisco for the Fourth, Teagan. And I’m really glad you’re enjoying your new digs in the desert southwest. My warmest thanks, and hugs to you.

  2. What a way to see the fireworks! I have always maintained that San Francisco can be one of the coldest places on earth having come the very first time with a thin sweater in the middle of summer. Bring on the parkas i say! Fantastic photos captured by Athena. They made me feel as though I was on the boat with you. Which of course would have been extraordinary good fun.

    • You most definitely know the cold summers in San Francisco, Sue, easy to see that. It was a great way to see the fireworks, and if you’re ever around during the Fourth, let’s hop on the same boat. Great fun. I know how you and Dave like diving into arctic-cold waters, but no diving off this boat. lol. Warmest thanks.

  3. Amazing photos! I know it’s not easy taking good night pictures. Also, I know it’s often colder on the water than on land, but I was surprised how warmly people are dressed for the beginning of July, and in California. It’s what I would expect off the north coast of BC or Alaska, but California!!!? Brrrr!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the firework photos, Anneli, you know boats and taking photos off them at night is a tricky endeavor, so I’m glad you appreciated it. The weather is really frigid, especially when the fog’s in. There were a few people who didn’t know better and only had shorts and sandals on, I felt sorry for them. They almost all stay on the lower deck, which was enclosed. Many thanks.

  4. spectacular photos of Athena! thank you for sharing San Francisco fireworks on the 4th, Jet. i love watching fireworks; it brings the child in me. thank you again for such a wonderful treat! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • Yes, the fog adds a different element to the fireworks. I’m glad you liked them John. And I can imagine how odd it would seem to you, living in the desert, to see us all wearing such wintry clothes. But it sure comes in handy on the Bay. Thank you very much.

    • I agree, Eliza. I love taking cruises on the Bay, and there are many to choose from, as the Bay is pretty big. Then fireworks do, as you say, just add icing to the cake. Thank you!

  5. Athena’s photos are beautiful this week, Jet. We have also been fortunate enough to see the 4th of July fireworks from a boat on a few occasions and it is a spectacular POV. The shows seem to get better every year.

    • I love hearing from you on the SF posts, Allan, you always have a local’s perspective. It really is quite something to see the Fourth fireworks from the water, isn’t it? And yes, the show does just get more and more elaborate as pyrotechnics continually improve. Really great. Last year the water was calm enough that we got to cruise under the GG Bridge, your bridge, and, as you can imagine, it was super. Many thanks.

  6. Colourful either way, I know you’d enjoy the trip and being on the water! What a great city, and thanks for sharing this – have a wonderful weekend! Hopefully no need for the parkas…

    • I agree, pc, the fireworks were colorful either way, and yes, I always love those Bay boat trips. Out in the seas I tend to get sick from the motion, but in the Bay I never get sick, so that’s a real plus. Glad you enjoyed the fireworks with us. Hoping you and Mrs. PC and Scout have a very happy weekend.

  7. I went down to SF to see the fireworks once – almost got trampled in the crowds at the Embarcadero bart station so that was the last time for me! Boy, those shots of the fireworks are spectacular – really award winning.

  8. A quotation often attributed to Mark Twain, but almost certainly not his, still holds true. Someone once said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” It’s exactly right. When the valley heats up, it pulls that fog in through the Golden Gate, and it’s look for the sweater/jacket/parka time.

    The photos are glorious. We have the same tradition here, with boaters of every sort heading out into Galveston Bay for the fireworks. It’s especially beautiful when conditions are calm, and the reflections play on the water.

    I just realized I have another connection with San Francisco, apart from my time there. If you look at this history of the Anchor Brewing Company, and scroll down to 1965, you’ll see Fritz Maytag purchased the company. Fritz was part of “the” Maytag family whose factories were at the heart of my Iowa home town; my dad worked for the company, and I knew some of the family members, including a grandson who was a couple of years ahead of me in school. I still drink Anchor Steam; it would have made a nice addition to your evening’s celebration!

    • Yes, that quote is a true one, and those of us who live in the area don’t fight the fog or regret the weather, it’s just another special aspect of SF. And so is Anchor Steam. I enjoyed the link, Linda, and getting an update on this iconic SF company. When I first moved to SF, I lived on Potrero Hill and the roasting smell was permeating every day. Fritz Maytag was a bold and innovative man, how wonderful that you have a connection. Thank you, as always, my friend.

    • And these fireworks were booming ever so loudly, shooting very high right above our heads. Fantastic! I’m glad to have brought them to you, Janet. Thank you so much for your visit.

  9. Where I live in Georgia is about 4 hrs. drive to the coast. So, there’s no chance to see any bays of large body of water and see the fireworks. But I can visualize in my mind what you describe on your post and get a good idea of what you may have felt. When I lived up North I’ve seen plenty of fireworks in past years. Thank you, my friend… πŸ™‚

    • I’m happy you could visualize the spectacle of fireworks over the bay, HJ, and that you enjoyed seeing the SF fireworks. This tradition is so many hundreds of years old, that in one lifetime each American-born citizen has seen or heard many fireworks. I enjoyed hearing about your experiences, and, as always, I so appreciated your visit.

    • You know how the SF fog is, Bill, having been a frequent visitor. If we let it cloud our days, we would have may cloudy days, wouldn’t we? Thanks so much for your clever comment and visit today.

    • Yes, it certainly was a flashy kind of day, and it sure was fun, cool, and foggy, David. I enjoyed your comment, as always, and look forward to reading your fog-inspired share. My warmest thanks, dear friend.

    • Oh how I loved your spirited comment, Gunta–I’m smiling from ear to ear. Athena did a great job of photographing, didn’t she? I, too, believe the bay cruise is the only way to enjoy these fireworks. You feel like you’re right under them! So glad I could bring them to you, my friend. Thanks so much for your visit.

    • I like the Sausalito pre-dark photos too, Jo, glad you enjoyed them. And yes, it was fantastic to be out there in all the colorful explosions — happy to have you vicariously along, my friend.

  10. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fireworks in person, so thanks for taking us there. I was a little surprised by the parka though. I had no idea it would be that chilly. In the meantime, the temperatures are in the 80s here at 6 am. It’s going to be another hot and sticky one today.

    • Yes, as soon as it gets warm here, the heat pulls in the fog, so there aren’t too many hot days in SF. More inland it gets super hot in the summer, but not in SF. I’ve heard much of the central and eastern parts of North America are dangerously sweltering right now. I hope you’re staying cool, Joanne. Thanks so much.

    • I am very glad you enjoyed the fog and fireworks here, Sharon. Fog is so unique, and always different. A great scene seems to always be unfolding. My warmest thanks, I hope your week has been lovely.

    • Yes, it is really special to watch the fireworks from the water, Andrea. I liked the fog glow ones more than I ever would’ve expected, and of course the fog is just always interesting — happy to share them with you. Thank you Andrea.

  11. The fireworks look even more amazing in the fog! Great opportunity to watch the display from a boat and get your winter clothes aired πŸ™‚

    • Yes, it’s nights on the bay that make me happy to have winter clothes. But oh how hot it is driving from the hot inland to the bay, in thick blue jeans to see the fireworks. lol. Really glad you enjoyed the fireworks, Inese, thank you.

  12. There you go, making me homesick again! We used to live a 10-minute walk (in Tiburon) from that view of the fireworks over SF. More July 4ths than not, it was so foggy we couldn’t see the fireworks. And most July 4ths, we had a wood fire going on in the living room fireplace until it was time to walk down (in our winter coats) and watch the display. I admit, some years we just stayed huddled in front of the fireplace. πŸ™‚ GREAT photos.

    • Really enjoyed hearing your Tiburon experiences of the Fourth Fireworks, Pam. You captured the chill of it well. We take the cruise out of Tiburon, and you might enjoy knowing in spite of the fog and cold the little grassy area by the waterfront was dotted with plenty of blankets and interested parties. Many thanks for your visit, always fun.

  13. Thank you for these lovely photos, Jet. I can imagine this would be an amazing spectacle and it must be all about getting the best vantage point. I do love san Francisco. It’s such a beautiful city.

    • There is a lot of jockeying around of the boats, especially when it’s a clear night. But I am blissfully unaware of the boat steering part, as a mere passenger, and that’s fun, and then when you like the foggy and clear nights, the cold and the excitement, it’s all just f.u.n. That you love SF, Draco, is apparent because it shows in your photos of the Bay Area. Meanwhile, I loved your Lisbon adventure. Many thanks.

  14. Spectacular photos!! WOWOW!! I love the fog effect most of all. You really live in a vastly different world from me, Jet. I’m so glad you shared your world and the 4th celebrated SF way. Glorious!! 🌟🌟🌟

    • I’m happy you enjoyed seeing the fog and the fireworks in SF, Amy. I live several hours (by car) away from here now, but I lived in SF for many years, and there are many aspects to it that I still love, and take pleasure in sharing. Glad you enjoyed it too. Thank you.

  15. Looks like the travel to see the fireworks was worth time. Seems so close overhead, and Athena got great shots πŸ™‚ The fog made for an interesting view and that red shot. For Australia Day here in Australia, we do get fireworks and it’s always during the summer. Here in winter, some cities have winter celebrations and sometimes there are fireworks πŸ™‚

    • Wonderful to have you stop by, Mabel. Yes, the fun part about being on the water are that the fireworks are so very close. I liked hearing about your fireworks in Australia. I have seen photos and videos of the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, and light shows that are the greatest ever. Amazing pyrotechnics in Australia! Thanks so much.

      • Sydney puts on a great NYE fireworks show each year. Probably one the visually appealing fireworks show each year. Every other state in Australia pales in comparison to Sydney’s lol. Hope you get up close watching the fireworks again, Jet πŸ™‚

  16. Lovely shots by Athena…. I especially like the first one with the photographer and his camera (or maybe phone) as it is nicely composed and tells the story.

    • Lovely to “see” you today, Roslyn, thanks for stopping by. I like that first photo too. It’s not easy to tell a picture story in the dark, but Athena did a good job. Thanks so very much.

  17. So interesting to see the difference with and without fog! Both have their own beauty, yes? Made me smile to think of the times we have ventured out and around the water together. Also made me shiver. ha

    • I’m really glad you enjoyed both the fog and fogless Fourth fireworks, dear Nan. How fortunate we have been to traverse the SF Bay together so many times. Your comment gave me a smile, thank you.

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