Most people used a boat to get to California, if they could afford it. They went south, and had to choose between one of three ways. One way was to go to Panama and cross the Panama Isthmus to the Pacific Ocean then back up to California. Another option was to go to Cape Horn, and come back up on the other side of South America. From there they went to California. The last chose applied only to the people on the Pacific coast. This was the simplest of all, either go north or south to California. The most common landing place was San Francisco.
There would be hundreds of boats just sitting out in the water because both the passengers and the crew wnanted to mine for gold. Most ships held about 200 passengers. To keep the passengers from getting bored or rowdy, the ships usually provided entertainment. Some types of entertainment were, amateur theatricals, military drills on deck, improvised musical performances, and also, some businesses provided small lectures. Many of the trips took more than 6 weeks if you started at the Atlantic coast, and also weeks to pack for. Some, more inland people, took a boat down rivers until they reached the Gulf of Mexico, then hitched a boat ride from there to the Panama Isthmus or Cape Horn.