By DENNIS WYATT
Northern California’s biggest – and arguably the most stunning flea market when it comes to ambiance – is found on one of the newest pieces of real estate in California.
TreasureMart is offered the last full weekend of each month and takes place on the 400-acre Treasure Island created from mud dredged from the bottom of the San Francisco Bay and compacted on the northern edge of Yerba Buena Island that serves as the mid bay anchor for the 4.46-mile San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The flea market has many of the trappings you’d expect at a street fair. Besides 400 plus vendors, there are more than 40 food trucks that are rotated month-to-month making it arguably the best place to enjoy a smorgasbord of food and cooking styles. TreasureMart also has live music and kids’ games.
The next TreasureMart is Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Entry is $5 for teens and adults while those under 12 are admitted free.
You’re probably thinking why should I drive a couple hours, pay a $5 bridge toll, then fork over $5 a pop for everyone in the car 12 and older when I can drive up Highway 99 to the Galt Flea Market and get in free?
For starters this isn’t used junk vendors, with 10 places selling toiletries, and every fifth booth selling the same stuff. It’s more street fair grade with antiques, art work and more.
Galt also doesn’t have wineries and tasting rooms in easy walking distance, a perfect cove for bay fishing, unique picnic areas or a world-class view of the San Francisco waterfront.
There are eight wineries on Treasure Island that create their offerings from grapes grown north of the Bay in Napa and Sonoma counties.
The eight wineries offer seven tasting rooms all within a square mile. The most unusual is the Sottomarino Winery. Its wine tasting room was once a World War II submarine training vessel that was commissioned as the USS Buttercup. It still has many of its submarine features despite now being on land.
Treasure Island Wines is a collective that features wines from five local (as in San Francisco) winemakers.
Fat Grape Winery on Saturdays offers local music as well as a free flight of wines.
The other wineries include Bravium Winery, Kendric Winery, Sol Rouge Winery, The Winery, and Vic Winery.
Several offer tours of their wine making operations as well.
In addition to the food trucks during TreasureMart there are regular dining spots such as the Aracely Cafe, Mersea Restaurant, and Tammy’s Chicken ‘n Waffles and others.
At Clipper Cove you can rent paddle boards for $25 an hour. Thanks to the cove being sheltered, fairly shallow, and relatively protected from the winds along with weak currents it is possible to paddle board comfortably without a wetsuit.
If you want a bit of land-based exercise you can rent a clunky beach cruiser at Tran’s Bay Bike Shop and make your way around the flat 400 acres that is Treasure Island.
There’s fishing of course and plenty of interesting photo opportunities. The best place to get stunning photos is taking the short hike up to Blue Park that’s actually part of Yerba Buena Island. Here on a bluff the Bay Bridge is on your left, the Golden Gate Bridge on the distant right and the San Francisco skyline dead ahead.
Those are actually the three reasons why Treasure Island was created. The island was built on shoals that were a hazard to shipping being less than 27 feet down. The Army Corps of Engineers created the island in the mid-1930s just as the two bridges were being completed. The 1939 World’s Fair or Pacific Exposition took place on the island to celebrate completion of the two bridges as well as the emergence of California and San Francisco as major economic powers in the Pacific.
Two hangars built on the islands as part of the fair were to be used by Pan American World Airways along with a building for use a terminal after the fair for the Pan Am flying boats known as the China Clipper.
Plans to turn Treasure Island into San Francisco’s second airport were derailed by World War II as it was pressed into service by the military. Treasure Island at one point processed over 12,000 men a day as they were shipped out to the Pacific Theatre.
The Navy still operates a base on Yerba Buena Island.
The fascinating history of Treasure Island that is now a San Francisco neighborhood with more than 2,000 residents can be explored at the Treasure Island Museum.
Besides static exhibits there are interactive displays as well. You can learn how the island was created – think of forming a strong pie shell from rock with dredging as the fill – as well as discovering such tidbits about how it involved planting 4,000 trees, 70,000 shrubs, and 700,000 flowering plants.
It also tells the story of the 1939 World’s Fair that had an attendance of more than 17 million as well as the military uses and operations at Treasure Island.
If you want to forsake the crowds drop by on other weekends or better yet mid-week to enjoy a low-key stroll and picnic.
Treasure Island is the epicenter for organized youth and amateur sports in San Francisco including Little League baseball and softball, rugby, sailing and other pursuits.
You can drive to Treasure Island via Interstate 80 and the Bay Bridge or take BART to downtown San Francisco and catch the Muni bus that serves Treasure Island.