On The Tracks of „Basic Instinct“

When I was preparing to travel to San Francisco nine years ago, I came up with the idea of ​​visiting some locations of the thriller „Basic Instinct.“ Inspired by the chase on the winding country road from San Francisco to Stinson Beach I had decided to follow this trail myself by car.

There were three places that were identifiable in the film from photographs of signs and other clues such as an address on an envelope:

  • The coastal road where Detective Nick Curran persecuted suspect Catherine Tramell on a breakneck drive from San Francisco to Stinson Beach
  • Catherine Tramell’s house, which was located on a road at the coast of Stinson Beach
  • The house of Catherine Tramell’s mother in Mill Valley, which was visited by Nick Curran in the investigation

Already durig the preparatory research, I encountered some difficulties in determining the location of the objectives envisaged. While the coastal road could easily be found on Google Maps, the hints hidden in the film on the two houses could not be determined so easily on the map. The street on which the mother’s house was located on the envelope did not exist in Mill Valley, but only in another nearby town. So a visit to this location did not make sense, the address was probably just a fake. How could I believe that the locations had a real connection?

However, the house of Catherine Tramell still left hope. The named street exists, but I could not assign the house number to a unique location using Google Maps. But at least there was a street with the name shown in the movie in the right place. So I decided to follow the coastal road from San Francisco, aiming to get closer to the road in Stinson Beach where the house was supposed to be.

First, I crossed the sea from San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge heading Sausalito. Once you have left this settlement, the road meanders up the mountains, where I could look back at a high point on the coastal town with its marina and take a first photo.

View of Sausalito and the marina

As an intermediate destination, completely unrelated to the film, the Muir Woods National Monument, a park in which the tallest trees on earth, the sequoia trees (Sequoia sempervirens) grow. They can reach up to 115 meters in height, in Muir Woods it is a maximum of 79 meters in height. Incidentally, this sanctuary in Marin County was founded in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt and named after naturalist and conservationist John Muir. There I wanted to make a stopover for a hike in the forest of the Sequoias.

Entrance of the Muir Woods National Monument

Coast redwood – Sequoia

After leaving the park, I stopped by at a few other distinctive points because I liked the view. Muir Woods was still densely wooded, so the area here was more of the barren side. There were no parking spots in the narrow serpentines, so unfortunately I could not take any pictures. That was a pity, but it was inevitable because of my own safety.

On the way to Stinson Beach

Barren landscape on the way to Stinson Beach

The road now followed the coastline. At some points there were parking spots next to the paved road, so you could safely park there and enjoy the scenic view of the Pacific. In the distance the silhouette of San Francisco was shimmering. With the help of the strong zoom of my camera, I was able to identify the Sutro Tower, which is barely visible in the first image. So I was sure that the city on the horizon was San Francisco.

A ship in the distance on the shimmering silver horizon

Looking back to San Francisco

The Sutro Tower is the most visible icon of the Bay Area. The antennas of the almost 300-meter-high steel tower provide clear signals for TV and radio stations in the entire San Francisco Bay Area among other services. The Sutro Tower is used by 11 broadcasters, four FM radio stations, satellite and cable providers, and almost two dozen public and commercial wireless communications services.

Zoomed in: the Sutro Tower in San Francisco

Finally I reached Stinson Beach. Located directly at the beach was a parking lot, where I parked my car. When I got to the water I shot some photos before I took a round trip in town.

The small town is located directly at the California Pacific coast, just a 45 minutes drive from San Francisco. The sandy beach is a destination popular with locals and tourists alike. Nearby there are other tourist attractions such as Muir Beach, Mount Tamalpais and not to mention the Muir Woods National Monument, which I had visited before I reached Stinson Beach.

Stinson Beach

Stinson Beach

When I came back to the main road, I still looked around in the center. I particularly liked the house on a hillside, which must have a wonderful view from the large balcony to the nearby sea for sure.

Residential house on the hillside in Stinson Beach

I also noticed „Many Villages“, a women’s fashion and accessories store, which has probably given way to a store called „Destination Stinson“ after a few years.

„Many Villages“, Accessories and Women’s Clothing

After this walk, I finally made my way to the end of town to reach my ultimate destination, the fictional home of Catherine Tramell, which I suspected was at the end of the street. The road led me to a small peninsula with many waterfront homes, which were unfortunately sealed off from the environment by means of a barrier. The road was not on a slope like the location of Catherine Tramell’s house. But this was no real surprise to me because of my findings during my research. So my disappointment was pretty much limited.

On the way back to San Francisco I passed crossroads where the picturesque Hotel Pelican Inn was located, which also houses a restaurant, so I just had to stop there. On the homepage you can read:

„The romantic escape over the hills to the beach. . . an inn capturing the spirit of 16th century England’s west country awaits you.“

Pelican Inn on Pacific Way in Muir Beach

On the opposite side of the road, I discovered an impressive long line of mailboxes that are so typical of the area so that I could not pass without taking a picture. Why have all mailboxes been placed in a central location? This question urged me and Wikipedia gave me the answer.

It is obligatory in the US to have a „chargeable“ address and to indicate the residence at the registration office. The location of the mailbox can be determined freely. However, the homeowner is liable if the delivery person is injured on the way to the mailbox in case he did not clear the way. So they make it as easy as possible for the postman and set up the mailboxes close to the road, which is common in the US.

Mailboxes along the way

So the day came to an end without achieving the desired goal of visiting the original locations of „Basic Instinct“. But some routes in the hairpin bends by the sea seemed pretty familiar to me. I was pretty sure that some scenes of the chase were being shot there.

Despite some disappointment that the locations were deliberately veiled, it was still an interesting journey that led me to destinations I would never have visited without this idea, perhaps exempting Muir Woods.

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