Urban Exploration: Vallejo's Mare Island
The Bay Area is full of amazing places to get out and explore. Parks abound and offer many ways to experience each unique region of the area. If you’re looking for something a bit different, Vallejo’s Mare Island might fit the bill! It’s also very lightly travelled, so social distancing is easy.
Mare Island opened as a Naval Shipyard in 1854 and continued building ships and submarines until 1996, when it was decommissioned. Since then the island has slowly transformed into a place where history meets industry, education, and nature. There are many original buildings that have found new uses and even a part of the island that hosts a small university, but the rich history is very apparent and begging to be explored.
Because it’s fairly large, Mare Island Naval Shipyard is best seen by bike. A great place to start a ride is from the Vallejo Ferry Building (which is also home to Mare Island Brewing Co. - still open daily for beer and food to go) and then following the bike path along the waterfront. Just head north toward the Mare Island Causeway bridge, which you can’t miss. When you get across the bridge, there really isn’t a route, just pick a direction and start exploring! The east side of the island is where most of the history is. Giant cranes still loom over the waterfront and the old buildings are full of character. The tree-lined neighborhood where officers lived is still in great condition. A can’t-miss is St. Peter’s Chapel. Built in 1901, it’s home to a famous collection of Tiffany stained glass windows. The southern end and western side of the island are home to the Mare Island Preserve which has hiking trails, bird watching, and some great views. There’s a lot to see, so allow for a few hours at least!
Mare Island is a lot of fun to explore as there really is something for everyone. Though this ride (or hike if you’re ambitious) can be done on any bike, having something with robust tires will allow you to make the most of it. Surface conditions are varied and there are also a few gravel trails you can take. After meandering around Mare Island for a while, just head back across the bridge to the Ferry building and enjoy the rest of your day!