Alcatraz had been teasing me for years. Every time I visited San Francisco, I would see the island sitting out there in the bay, showing off its history and grandeur, but I was unable to visit. To be safe, you have to book your visit in advance, which I finally did this time so I wouldn’t miss out.
Alcatraz, of course, is the infamous prison where the country’s most notorious convicts were locked away from 1933 to 1963. Now a tourist attraction, it provides the opportunity to see what an old-time high-security facility looked like.
One of the best things about Alcatraz is that, unlike most historic sites, it starts off with a ride. The ferry trip over to the island only takes a few minutes and it offers great views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Alcatraz hours and prices vary – I booked one of the earliest tours in the morning. It was reasonably crowded, but not to an uncomfortably degree.
LINK: Check out these Alcatraz tours below to get your tickets for this attraction.
My first visit to Alcatraz came during my road trip a few years back. San Francisco is a great place to start a California road trip – see this article for a suggested itinerary.
TIP: If you’re visiting San Francisco, don’t forget to check out Coit Tower and the California Academy of Sciences as well. All of these attractions can be added to a 3-day San Francisco itinerary for a fun long weekend trip.
Visiting Alcatraz: Pictures from the Island
Alcatraz looks like a fortress as the ferry approaches.
After a brief speech from the NPS ranger, you’re on your own, and you can walk around and explore the island.
You can see why this was a scary place back in the day. Even now, there are still plenty of hidden, isolated corners that give off an eerie feeling.
And then there’s the morgue. Yeesh.
Inside the buildings is where things get interesting, as you can visit some of the cell blocks.
Photos From Inside Alcatraz Island in San Francisco
Inside, you can see the dining facility and the visitation windows. There’s also a door leading to what was the recreational courtyard for inmates who were allowed some outdoor time.
And back outside, some of the abandoned buildings and skeleton structures give more of a sense of just how bleak this place would have been to live in.
Once I finally soaked in all the history and intensity of the island, I took pictures of the San Francisco skyline until the return ferry to the mainland arrived. Alcatraz was worth the time and effort, and now I feel silly for waiting so long to check it out.
Have you been to the infamous San Francisco Bay island before? Do you have any tips for visiting Alcatraz?