Now Departing Pier 33
Tickets to Alcatraz Island must be purchased as far in advance as possible due to the popularity of this attraction. Tickets will include transportation by ferry to the island and generally leave every half hour. Your ticket will specify the exact ferry departure time which you have purchased. Prepaid tickets can be picked up at the window on the pier. Tickets can be bought online at alcatraztickets.com.
Be aware that you should be on the pier EARLY--at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure, but some sources say be there at least an hour in advance. Also be aware that these tickets cannot be used for other times or days and all sales are final.
The ferries themselves are very comfortable with covered and open areas. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and should be taken advantage of if hungry or thirsty as there is no food available on Alcatraz itself. San Francisco has a reputation for being chilly year round and you would be wise to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket for evening tours but sometimes even in the day time.
The ferry ride is a rather short one and it is beatiful in the day time, but at night it is extra special. Seeing the illuminated skyline of San Francisco is something to remember -- I kept thinking of Jimmy Stewart in the movie "Vertigo" which took place in San Francisco. When we visited in 2000, the sign for old Pier 41, where our ferry left from, was there and was quite nostalgic! I believe it was the original sign and was probably around even when Jimmy Stewart was there to make his movie.
San Francisco's Famous Cable Cars
It's almost a sure thing that if you are visiting San Francisco for the 1st or 31st time, you will probably want to ride the famous Cable Cars. If you use the cable cars to take you to Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 33, you will be "killing 2 birds with 1 stone." Cable cars from Union Square will take you to Fisherman's Wharf and the awaiting ferry transportation to Alcatraz Island.
Since we were already staying near Union Square during our visit, it was fast and convenient to get to Fisherman's Wharf. The cost was a couple of dollars or so for the cable car when we were there in 2000, but I saw many locals who took a chance and paid nothing to ride. I'm sure if we had done that, we would have not only gotten caught but seriously embarrassed!!
There's only one way to get to Alcatraz. Well, two if you're inclined to swim, but that's not recommended because the water is cold and choppy and you'll probably be denied entrance should you actually make it to the island. But the traditional way of visiting is on board the Blue and Gold Fleet, a ferry service run by the National Park Service The ferries run every half hour from the dock at Pier 41 on Fisherman's Wharf and from the Alcatraz Island loading dock. When you book your tour, you'll be assigned a departure time for the ferry. Its hard to miss the loading point because there is almost always a huge line of people waiting to board. When on Alcatraz, you can board any return ferry you wish, provided that there is space on board.
- National/State Park
Alcatraz is an island, so it is not so difficult to explain that you go there by boat.
There was a boat every 45 minutes; departure was at gate 39 on Pier 41.
From the boat you did have a beautiful view over the San Francisco skyline (see the picture)
Do not forget to take sweatshirt as it can be a bit chilly on the boat.
- Historical Travel
You can buy tickets from closeby Pier 39 but it's generally booked ahead of time. Go to the following URL to reserve tickets:
Blue and Gold
The Blue and Gold fleet is a commercial ferry that travels the Pier 39 - Alcatraz Island route. You can book via the their website [see below]. It's included in the Alcatraz tour booking.
- Family Travel
It's easy, tickets are sold on Fisherman's wharf. A small ship takes you there and picks you up. Food and drink are sold on the ships, because no food or drink items are allowed on Alcatraz island.
- Study Abroad
- National/State Park
- Historical Travel