Alcatraz Island located in San Francisco Bay is one of the most popular and iconic attractions of San Francisco.
The island is approximately 2km (1.25 miles) off shore from San Francisco. Alcatraz Island has a long history with a past as a military fort, a site for a lighthouse, a military prison and a federal prison.
A federal prison from 1934 to 1963, is probably what it is most well known for. Some of the States’ most infamous and notorious criminals have been imprisoned here, including Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, and ‘Bird Man’ Robert Stroud.
From November 1969 the island was occupied by a group of Native Americans during a nineteenth month protest. There are still signs of the occupation.
Alcatraz Island is now managed by the National Park Service. Alcatraz Cruises is the official company providing transport to Alcatraz Island. Ferries to Alcatraz depart from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing and the journey is approximately 15 minutes one way. Booking in advance is advised as they do sell out. Tickets can be reserved up to 90 days in advance.
There are a variety of tours to choose from – earlybird tour, day tour, night tour, an extended behind the scenes tour and a combined Alcatraz and Angel Island tour.
I did the night tour. The advantage of a night tour is that I was able to do other activities during the day, and there is definitely an atmosphere being there at night. A downside with a night tour is that you don’t have as long on the island as a day tour.
It was a misty, grey, rainy San Francisco early evening when our boat departed a little after six thirty. I can’t complain too much as I had 13 days of San Francisco sun up until that point.
The tour includes self-guided audio tour with narration from former guards and prison inmates. The audio tour is important because unlike a museum there is not a lot of written information.