WANDERMUST: ALCATRAZ ISLAND
Most of you are here because you Googled, ‘Things to do in San Francisco’”, the tour guide said.
Um, ...yeah. Our Alcatraz tour guide was right on the money. We had abandoned our raw vagabond spirit and gone straight to the source of finding things to do - Google. We know that we’re not alone in this instance, with many travellers' sightseeing itineraries being determined by their internet searching. Sometimes things are popular for good reason and Alcatraz Island has well and truly earned its spot as a Wandermust.
Located in the San Francisco Bay area, 1.25 miles offshore, Alcatraz is much closer to the action than you might think. It all starts at Pier 33, located in between the popular Fisherman’s wharf and the Exploratorium. Our hats go off to San Francisco Tourism, they really have made it easy for even the laziest or challenged tourist.
When you arrive at the Pier you will notice a ticket booth, cafe, toilets and of course the dock where the ferries leave from All ferries to Alcatraz Island are operated on an allocated time schedule, meaning you can only leave at your booked time. You are able to come back anytime you like however. Remember to take a photo of the ferry timetable.
We'll pause here; , and offer up an important piece of advice: BOOK YOUR TOUR IN ADVANCE. Do yourself a favour and plan ahead if only for this experience. Tours sell out most days, especially on weekends and particularly when the weather is nice. We saw several people get turned away because they hadn’t booked. If you’re only staying a few nights in San Fran, this might mean you miss out completely.
As you board the ferry, try to get a spot on-deck to witness a great view of San Francisco Bay. The ride itself is quick, around 20 minutes to reach to the island.
It might not look very big but don’t let it’s small stature fool you, Alcatraz is interesting and full of history.
many visitors, Alcatraz Island is first introduced through the story of inmates Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers escaping their imprisonment.
Over time, the island has also been native to First Nations people, used to house the military and criminals. However, nothing suits the Island better than the fantastic tourism site it is today.
Upon exiting the ferry, you’ll be greeted by one of the Island’s awesome hosts, who will walk you through how it all works. During the daytime sessions you can choose your own adventure and decide where to start. We recommend taking the guided walking tour (covered in the cost). Be transported to a different time as you hear some great stories about what life was like for the guards and their families living on the island. The guides are engaging and informative, offering the perfect history lesson to start your tour.
We then decided, with the aid of our audio tour, to delve into the history of the prison The audio tour is nothing short of amazing; everything has been extremely well planned, and well executed. You will be transported back in time, with the voices of real inmates and prison guards, as they take you through some of Alcatraz’s most memorable events. You will hear all about the attempted escapes, and life in prison. This experience s only heightened by walking through the prisoners' cells.
Alcatraz has many other points of interest. After completing the tour there is lots of time to walk around the island and view the sights. Many people pack a picnic lunch to make the most of the day. BYO water as prices are naturally inflated on the island.
If you just do the walking tour and audio tour, it will take around 2-2.5 hours. We highly recommend bringing a backpack with you and packing a jacket. It gets a bit windy on the island depending on the season and you will be glad for some warmth on the ferry.
For $37.25, initially it might seem expensive, however, don’t let that deter you as it is 100% worth it. For a ferry ride of the Bay, walking tour, audio tour and a whole day's worth of entertainment, it's a bargain. If you want to scare yourself to the bone consider taking the After Dark tour. (Make sure you bring lots of warm clothes).
Getting to Pier 33 is considerably easy. We were staying downtown and purchased a $12 USD Uber ride which only took about 20 minutes. Consider making it a day and check out Pier 39, Fishermans Wharf and Exploratorium.
There are so many beautiful San Francisco moments to enjoy including fresh produce, great views and great restaurants.
Alcatraz Island is 100% a Wandermust! You really can’t visit this city and not check it out. It incorporates entertainment, history, nature and wild life. You will find yourself in a location offering views of some of San Francisco’s most picturesque landscapes.
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