Visiting Alcatraz: Scenes From the Infamous San Francisco Bay Island

The thought of visiting Alcatraz had been on my mind 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 ensure that you get tickets, 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.

alcatraz-island

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

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approaching-alcatraz

Alcatraz looks like a fortress as the ferry approaches.

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alcatraz-tower

After a brief speech from the NPS ranger, you’re on your own, and you can walk around and explore the island.

nps-ranger

administration-building

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.

visiting alcatraz scary room

Visiting Alcatraz gives you a chance to see gritty and unexpected scenes like this.

alcatraz-scary-room

locked-door

alcatraz-hallway

And then there’s the morgue. Yeesh.

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Inside the buildings is where things get interesting, as you can visit some of the cell blocks.

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alcatraz cell block

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inside alcatraz cell

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.

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visitation-windows

breakfast-alcatraz-1963

recreation-yard

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.

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old-structure

family housing

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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.

san-francisco-skyline

While you’re in San Francisco, consider also visiting the Rainbow Honor Walk, and the Cable Car Museum. Or head across the Bay and find some fun Berkeley activities!


Have you been to the infamous San Francisco Bay island before? Do you have any tips for visiting Alcatraz?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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4 Comments

  1. Yeah, it’s pretty rad. I especially liked the guided headphone tour, where the inmates walk you around the building and tell you about each room.

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