Alcatraz Island Travel Guide

  • Alcatraz Island
    by pakistanibrain
  • Alcatraz Island
    by Pod
  • Where the ferry arrives on the island.
    Where the ferry arrives on the island.
    by CDM7

Alcatraz Island Highlights

  • Pro
    starship profile photo

    starship says…

     Place of history & legends of the notorius 

  • Con
    GinGinCoo profile photo

    GinGinCoo says…

     Hard to get in, make a reservation a day or 2 in advance 

  • In a nutshell
    canuckmike profile photo

    canuckmike says…

     Damn Cool. 

Alcatraz Island Things to Do

  • Touring Alcatraz

    Alcatraz Island is located about one and a quarter miles out into San Francisco Bay and which is only about 10 minutes from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It is reacheable solely by ferry boat. No admission tickets are sold on the island itself. As Alcatraz is very, very popular, it is wise to purchase your admission and excursion ticket combo...

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  • Other Famous Inmates ~ Part 2

    Another inmate at Alcatraz, Henry Young, might be famous for a couple of reasons. Warner Brothers made a film entitled, "Murder in the First," portraying Young's early life as virtually the same as the Jean Valjean character right out of Victor Hugo's famous work, "Les Miserables"!!. Supposedly in the film, Young was a teenager convicted for...

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  • A visit to Alcatraz Island

    We caught the ferry at Pier 33 for the 10 minute trip out to the island and were so lucky as the weather was perfect.On arrival you are given a short welcome by a National Park Ranger and then free to explore the island and the prison.The 35 minute audio set tour of the Alcatraz cellblock gives you a good idea of how life was here.We found that 2.5...

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  • Robert Stroud, Birdman of Alcatraz Cell...

    Even with the likes of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelley being inmates at Alcatraz, Robert Stroud, known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz" is its most famous prisoner. Stroud was portrayed as a short-tempered, but brilliant man by Burt Lancaster in the movie "Birdman of Alcatraz," a movie which Stroud himself was never allowed to see. Unlike his...

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  • Other Famous Inmates ~ Part I

    As previously stated in another tip, Alcatraz was home to several famous or infamous criminals -- perhaps the most famous of which was Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz." But other notorious criminals called Alcatraz home at one time or another. Mafia boss Al Capone spent hard time at Alcatraz compared to other prisons he had been in. Unlike...

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  • Alcatraz

    We visited Alcatraz last August. We took the last ferry 6:45pm out. I would advise do not take the last ferry out. Definitely the 6:10pm would have been better. Being the last group of people on the island was good but I felt it was a little rushed at the end. In the dark we could not walk around outside either, there are a couple of pathways...

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  • Free iPhone App Tour (Save $8)

    iPhone Tour is self-directed--faster and more interesting than the official tour. You can get a refund on your $8 "official audio tour" if you ask as you enter the cellblock.

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  • ALCATRAZ AUDIO TOUR

    If you do the tour the Alcatraz Tour, choose the one that has the Audio option. You are given individual headsets and controls, and are directed where to go to fully experience the area where the cells are. There are narrations/recollections by inmates themselves, sounds from when the prison was operational, etc. It's a well-developed audio tour,...

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  • New!! The Gardens of Alcatraz

    A new attraction on Alcatraz that was not present when we visited in 2000 is the "Gardens of Alcatraz"! Throughout the island's history of various uses, the cultivation of gardens on "The Rock" represented the softer side of life for those individuals and families who lived there. This was also true for a privileged few Alcatraz prison inmates who...

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  • You Think Your Life is Miserable!

    When Alcatraz functioned as a federal prison, it was known for its harsh rules and regimen. (Click on the picture to see the list of rules.) Nearly every minute of the inmate's day was structured and accounted for. There were virtually no breaks during the day. Silence was expected at all times except at meals and in the recreation yard. Breaking...

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  • Famous Escape Attempts from the Rock

    Alcatraz is unlike almost all other prisons in that it has natural barriers to thwart escapes. The fact that it is basically a big piece of rock surrounded by the strong, cold currents of San Francisco Bay, and a distance of 1 1/4 miles to San Francisco itself is formidable enough; however, those cold currents also sweep out into the Pacific Ocean....

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  • "Island of the Pelicans"

    Alcatraz was originally known as "La Isla de los Alcatraces" or "Island of the Pelicans" when it was given the name by a Spanish explorer, Juan Manuel de Ayala, who charted the San Francisco Bay in 1775. It was uninhabitated except for birds. In the mid 1800's, the "Island of Pelicans" was recognized as having strategic military value and...

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  • ALCATRAZ TOUR

    The old prison/island that is now a tourist destination. I did the tour in October 2005 with some friends from work. It was an interesting and educational experience. To be in a real, hard-core prison was surreal... I felt like an intruder. I think most visitors feel that way because inside the prison itself, there were fewer conversations, not a...

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  • Corridor of cells

    The cells were never at maximum capacity which was 302 at that time. Average number of prisoners ~ 260I can imagine the noise the prisoners would have made!

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  • Alcatraz and Gardens

    Alcatraz is not all decaying cement and cold prison cells. There are many beautiful flowers and plants now growing in the wild on the island. During the 1860's the island was a military fort and prison. Homes were built and formal gardens were started. The gardens were maintained by the military until the Federal Prisons occupied the island from...

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Alcatraz Island Restaurants

  • Grabbing a Bite on the Alcatraz Ferries

    Unfortunately there are no restaurants on Alcatraz Island. But I think Alcatraz Cruises has done a nice job of providing a few good choices of food and beverages on its ferries on your ride to and from the island.They have fresh baked goods, yogurt & granola parfaits (YUM!!) along with hot drinks for the early birds. For daytime or evening, choose...

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  • Cafeteria closed

    Although rumor has it that the food on Alatraz was, in fact, very good, the dining room has been long closed. The park service does not sell food or beverages of any kind on the island. Those in need of food drink or alcoholic beverages should take advantage of the concession stand on the ferry boat, as you can purchase all of the above during the...

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  • You wouldn't want to eat here

    This, of course, is a joke. Just thought this would be a great place to put a picture of the dining hall where the Alcatraz inmates ate their meals. Lots of fights happened during chow time, it's pretty quiet now. The menu board from the last meal served there was still proped up by the kitchen. The last meal was spaghetti!

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Alcatraz Island Nightlife

  • The Cellblock

    The cell block is very eerie. You can almost feel the spirits of the past inmates. It is dark and the cells are very small and close together. Wouldn't want to be there, especially at night. There have been reports of "hauntings" in the area and I believe it. Stripes?...ha ha

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  • Bay Bridge At Dusk

    If you are on a night time tour of the island make sure you check out the Bay Bridge when the sun goes down. It was a nice night and the sky filled with reds and oranges over the bridge. Maybe some warm clothes (windbraker or sweater) it can get a bit chilly at night.

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  • Wind music

    Everything you need, darkness, silence, ghosts and lots of wind...bring your own CDs !Actually at night, there are numerous boats blasting music on Friday and Saturday nights. Very very warm....bring blankets and winter jacket. If you see a guy with orange pants and a stripped shirt, it might be me.

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Alcatraz Island Transportation

  • 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...

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  • 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...

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  • 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.

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Alcatraz Island Local Customs

  • Escape from Alcatraz

    As you may have guessed, escaping from Alcatraz would be difficult, if not impossible. The water surrounding the island rarely, if ever, reached a temperature of above 58 degrees, making hypothermia a certainty within minutes. The strong currents of the bay were difficult to swim against, as escapees would learn. Contrary to popular belief though,...

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  • Alcatraz and the civil war

    Alcatraz began as a fort constructed to protect the west coast of the United States. The original buildings built on the island were for housing the military. It quickly became used as a military prison. During the civil war, military prisoners and Confederate sympathizers were confined on the island. In the early 1900's the military tore down the...

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  • Native Americans on Alcatraz

    After the prison closed and Alcatraz was left vacant, a group of Native Americans attempted to claim the island on behalf of Native Americans of all tribes. The determined group went so far as to make an offer of purchase to the United States government. The sale price: $24 in beads and other trade goods. In their written proclamation, the group,...

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Alcatraz Island Warnings and Dangers

  • Anti-Scalping on Alcatraz Tour tickets

    If you book tickets for the Alcatraz Tour online, you can get the actual tickets in any of the electronic kiosks near the pier. Except when you book for a large group. There were 7 of us doing the tour, the kiosk didn't work so one of us had to go to the ticket booth. The attendant still asked to see/count all of us, just to make sure...

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  • Going, going, gone!

    Alcatraz is hugely popular. Since everyone wants to visit and there are only a limited number of tickets, they sell out fast, especially on weekends and holidays. Make reservations in advance if you really want to do this tour. Otherwise, you'll find yourself waiting in a long line, and, most likely for nothing as tickets sell out days in advance.

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  • Amount of People

    Not a real danger or anything but the amount of people that come here is a lot. So it will hard to get some pictures without lots of other tourists in the photo. If you wait for when the boat comes to the island you can get some privacy in main areas when people head towards the boat to leave and before the next tour begins.

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Alcatraz Island Off The Beaten Path

  • The city across the bay

    From the dock area, the city of San Francisco is visible in the distance. To tourists arriving to visit "The Rock", its just another scenic view. To the inmates, its another reminder of everything they are missing.

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  • The cell

    Inmates peep out through this little window to have a glance at the buzzling SF piers, it gives them a little hope....but for most of them the word hope never existed in Alcatraz.

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  • Exercise yard at Alcatraz

    Inmates of Alcatraz had an exercise yard. It is high atop the rock with high walls and no way of escape. I imagine the inmates still appreciated getting out doors after the dark, dungeon-like cells they were accustomed to.

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Alcatraz Island Favorites

  • Alcatraz and the civil war

    The fort built at Alcatraz was operated as a defense point during the civil war. A fortress was built on the island's highest point and protected by rows of canons. No shots were ever fired from here though. The fort was decommissioned in 1907. Several exhibits describe the defenses of Alcatraz and the lives of the soldiers who guarded it.

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  • Barracks and apartments

    The barracks once used to house military personnel became the apartments where correctional officers and their families lived. This portion of the island was fenced off for security for the families who lived there. But there were no attacks on the officers and their families while Alcatraz operated as a penitentiary.

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  • Warden's house

    The home of the military commandant became the warden's house. It was a large 17 room home which was occupied by each of the 4 wardens and their families, including their children who also lived on the island. In 1970, a fire destroyed the warden's home, leaving behind only a shell of the building.

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Explore Deeper into Alcatraz Island
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The fortified prison
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The cells 2
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Dining Room
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The hospital
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A Block
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Escape from Alcatraz 2
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D Block
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Infamous Inmates
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Most famous ecape attempt
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Small cells
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