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Stowe Lake: The Heart of Golden Gate Park

Rent a Boat, Lunch on the Lakeside, Hike Up Strawberry Hill.......

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Stowe Lake: The Heart of Golden Gate Park
Photo by Ocean Malandra
Circumnavigating tranquil Stowe Lake by boat with a special someone is one of the most romantic activities in the city by the bay, but the area is also perfect for the whole family. The lake is the largest body of water in Golden Gate Park and rings Strawberry Hill Island, home to rushing waterfalls, a traditional Chinese Pagoda and a peaceful summit with views over the park. Visitors often picnic on the island or the lakes edge, but the waterfront cafe serves a variety of ethnic delicacies and the historic boathouse features tables on the water.

Visiting Stowe Lake

Stowe Lake is located just west of the Japanese Tea Gardens along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It is easily accessible by public transit from downtown San Francisco on the N Judah Muni Metro: just get off at 9th and Judah and walk across the Botanical Gardens.

Renting a Boat at Stowe Lake

Hourly rentals of rowboats, pedal boats and electric powered motorboats are all available at the historic boathouse.
  • Hours: Daily 10 am - 4 pm
  • Rates: Row Boats - $14, Pedal Boats - $19, Electric Boats - $29 (An Hour)
  • Contact: (415) 386-2531 www.stowelakeboathouse.com
The roughly donut-shaped lake passes under an old stone bridge to Strawberry Hill Island and opens up into several wide calm areas where swans, ducks and other waterfowl share the water with boaters. Those under 18 years of age will need parental consent to operate any of the rental boats.

Renting Bicycle at Stowe Lake

The backside of the boathouse operates as a bicycle rental outfit, and offers visitors a variety of options for exploring Golden Gate Park on two wheels including the popular bicycle built for two. Rates change seasonally but are usually based on the hour or half day.

The Stowe Lake Cafe

The Cafe operates during the same hours as the boathouse and besides serving coffee and espresso drinks throughout day also offers Russian, Central American and Asian pastries, sandwiches and salads.

Exploring Strawberry Hill Island

With a summit of 430 feet, Strawberry Hill is the highest point in Golden Gate Park. From its rounded top, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge to the north as well as out to the Pacific Ocean to the west and glimpses of many of San Francisco's surrounding neighborhoods including the Haight-Ashbury and the Richmond District.

There are several trails that wind up to the top of Strawberry Hill, including a path that goes alongside the man-made waterfalls that pour into Stowe Lake. Here you can also cross over the water on stepping stones and stand under the waterfalls.

Another trail leads around the perimeter of the island and will take you to the Golden Gate Pavilion, a gift to San Francisco from Taipei in Taiwan, one of its sister cities, in 1976. Here there is a plaque commemorating early Chinese settlers in California as well as colorful tables and seating right on the waters edge. The calmness of the area, the natural beauty of the lake and the ancient architecture of the pagoda are perfect for doing some quiet meditation or contemplation.

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