Visit “The Rock”
Alcatraz is a must-see for any traveler visiting San Francisco.
The Alcatraz Island tour starts with a scenic 10-minute ferry ride from San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Taking the ferry to Alcatraz will afford you amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco city skyline from the north. When you land on the island, you’ll get a short history of Alcatraz, and then head up into the prison! You’ll be equipped with an audio tour titled “Doing Time: The Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour”, which features interviews and stories of prisoners and correctional officers who either worked on or were incarcerated in the United States Penitentiary-Alcatraz.
An orientation video, ranger-led tours and docent tours are also available.When you’re through at The Rock, you simply catch a ferry back to land: they run every 30-40 minutes!
You may choose to skip the crowds and travel a little later, taking the Alcatraz Night Tour. This includes all of the same highlights as the day tour, but it’s usually less crowded, and the sunset view of the bay is amazing.
Alcatraz Island sits about a mile and a half off the north coast of San Francisco. Roughly 0.3 x 0.1 miles across, this island is one of 18 in the San Francisco Bay (this count includes both uninhabited rock formations and larger bodies like Angel Island, Alcatraz, and Treasure Island. Alcatraz was named after the Spanish or Portuguese word for “pelican”, for the birds that roosted on the island. It was called “La Isla de los Alcatreces” (the island of the pelicans), and was later shortened to “Alcatraz”. The island of Alcatraz became a military asset in the early 1850s at the end of the Mexican-American war, when California became a part of the United States. In the beginning of the American Civil War (1860s), it was determined that Alcatraz was a good protection from approach by sea, and over 100 cannons were mounted on the island. The island functioned as the arsenal for San Francisco’s firearms and began to be used as a holding place for military prisoners (mostly Confederate sympathizers). In 1868 (after the war), Alcatraz was designated as a long-term military detention facility, and the population increased during the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1907 the prison was officially designated as the Western United States Military Prison, and in 1909 construction began on the main cell block that still stands today. Alcatraz is most famous for its time as a Federal Prison from 1934-1963, when it housed such famous prisoners as Al Capone, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Most of the inmates were bank robbers and murderers, and they came from all over the US. While there are many urban legends about escapes from Alcatraz, it is believed that no inmate ever successfully escaped from The Rock. The federal prison was closed in 1963 by Robert F Kennedy (then the US Attorney General) for financial and environmental reasons. From 1964 to 1971, the island of Alcatraz was occupied by Native American activists, the major occupation taking place from 1969 to 1971. The Native Americans were protesting federal policies that denied land rights to native tribes. This occupation continued until President Richard Nixon created new legislation that rescinded the previous policies that denied federal recognition of the tribes. The occupation, which lasted 19 months and 9 days, ended in 1971. To this day, there are many cultural activities and exhibits on the island recognizing the native people that occupied the island. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area under the protection and management of the National Parks System, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986. More than one million people visit Alcatraz Island annually to learn about its rich history. Book your tickets today to see The Rock for yourself!
A Memorable Experience in Wine Country and Alcatraz“The whole experience was more than I would have expected. Mitch your guide for our NAPA/Sonoma day trip was very knowledgeable and made our day very enjoyable. Our trip to Alcatraz was amazing and the ease of picking up our tickets and getting to Alcatraz made it that much enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this tour to all my friends. Thank you for making this a memorable experience.”
– Robert T Traveled March 2016 Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Tour with Alcatrazread more
Perfect Combo of Nature and Culture“This was an excellent full day tour. Just the right combination of nature and culture. The bus was first rate and very comfortable. What really made the trip was the excellent driver/tour guide. Sarah was absolutely excellent!”
-Vicki T Traveled August 2017 Muir Woods and Sonoma Wine Tourread more
Wonderful and Educational Tour“It was a wonderful trip in the second week of August. The guide did a wonderful job of giving us the history of the park. We enjoyed the nature’s beauty, and I will surely return back and spend more time in the park. The Alcatraz reminded of how life was when I saw Clint Eastwood’s movie Escape from Alcatraz. The audio tour was very descriptive and thorough with the entire island’s history.”
-Shivakumar C Traveled August 2017 Alcatraz and Yosemite Day Tourread more