Few visitors make it to the west-most edge of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, but those who do are often startled by the sight of this enormous windmill facing onto the Pacific. Queen Wilhelmina’s Windmill is one of two enormous windmills that were built in 1902 to help bring water into Golden Gate Park and nearby areas. This recently restored treasure is surrounded by a lovely small garden, which explodes with tulips each early spring and dazzles with other blossoms most of the year.
It’s the perfect place to bring a picnic or plan your lunch outing while exploring San Francisco’s west side. Even on sunny days when the afternoon winds pick up along the coast, this garden treasure is still fairly well sheltered from the coastal breeze by surrounding trees and its slightly sunken location. The windmill itself inspires photos of all sorts, and you may happen upon an artist at work capturing its likeness in paint. Small children love to race around the garden paths and explore the nooks around the base of the structure.
While you’re there:
Ocean Beach is right across the street, so stroll on over to make a sand castle. Also, the Beach Chalet restaurant is just a short stroll away, with its “Park Chalet” outdoor service that is very popular for families with tots on sunny, warm afternoons as we are so lucky to have spring and fall (not so in July). They often have live music as well, adding to the festive ambience. Here is a shot of the approach from the park-side footpath; you can also enter from the front side on Great Highway. The windmill is also an easy stop on your way to or from Fort Funston–another great FREE attraction in San Francisco.
I’m very sorry to say the SF Culture Bus has been discontinued due to insufficient ridership, which now makes reaching most destinations in Golden Gate Park by public transportation—especially the west end—a very slow undertaking for visitors staying downtown. The Fulton 5 line will take you along the northern edge of the entire park, but slowly (more public transit help here). For most visitors with small children traveling out from Fisherman’s Wharf or the financial district, a car would certainly simplify things–and will make it easier to explore other nearby attractions in the Outer Richmond district and along the coast.
This post is part of my “Cheap and Free San Francisco” series.