Sitting on the western coast, San Francisco is one of the most popular cities in all of the United States, with millions of people heading for the City by the Bay every year.

The vibrant and colourful city has plenty on offer for visitors, including iconic sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge and oldest Chinatown anywhere in the USA, whilst the steep streets and the iconic cable car network are instantly recognisable all over the world.

San Francisco isn’t just popular with visitors of the human variety however, and a group who head for the city by sea every year have rapidly become - for want of another word - one of the most famous attractions there is.

The waters of San Francisco Bay - and the surrounding wetlands - have long been seen as something of a haven for wildlife, with the Californian sea lion amongst the species that would often be spotted playing in the waters of both the Bay, and also along the Pacific Coast.

That all changed in the late 1980s however, with movement on the San Andreas fault system led to an earthquake taking place just around 60 miles down the coast.

Although the damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake was largely centred around Santa Cruz, the 6.9 magnitude quake would cause issues in San Francisco, with part of the upper deck of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and a segment of the Cypress Street Viaduct a little further south both collapsing.

The Marina District of San Francisco would suffer heavy damage, whilst game three of the World Series baseball game between San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics - which was due to take place at Candlestick Park around half an hour after the earthquake struck - was cancelled due to the impact of the quake.

In the months prior to the quake taking place, work taking place at PIER 39’s K dock had seen the ships that were previously located there moved elsewhere, with a small number of Californian sea lions taking the opportunity to haul themselves out of the water to relax on the various jetties.

Within two months of the quake however, the numbers grew rapidly from the low teens to more than 100, with suggestions - which could never be proved - that increase was as a result of animals heading for the safety of the dock from Seal Rock on the edge of the bay.

Initially, boats continued to use the docks with owners forced to try and avoid the sea lions in the water, but as the numbers continued to grow, the decision was taken on the advice of the Marine Mammal Centre to abandon K dock and close down public access - leaving it as a home for the new residents.

The sea lions have remained in place ever since, although the numbers will rise and fall dramatically during the year - falling in the summer months when they migrate elsewhere for breeding season before rising again in the winter when they return to the bay.

Now a major tourist attraction in their own right, the sea lions are popular with visitors to PIER 39 who can take the chance to view them - from a distance - before heading to the Aquarium by the Bay to learn more.

Around the pier, there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or something to drink - with outdoor areas where you can take in views of the animals at the same time.

Should you want to book a trip to San Francisco that provides the chance to visit PIER 39 and the sea lions in person, then contact our expert team today to make your dream trip a reality.