Alcatraz is accessible via a ferry that leaves from Pier 33 near Fisherman’s Wharf every half hour. It takes about 15 minutes on the ferry to get to Alcatraz, and the same to get back. Overall, you should expect to spend about three hours for your Alcatraz visit. However, you can shorten that time should it be necessary.
Seeing Alcatraz was easily one of my favorite things to do while visiting San Francisco. I made sure to watch some History channel documentaries on the island to get a really good understanding of the history, including the infamous prisoners that were jailed here, and the infamous escape which people still can’t agree if was successful to this day. I think anyone visiting would be wise to take the same approach if possible.
Today, Alcatraz is a place of contradictions, with a grim past and an enduring future as one of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks and tourist attractions. Among those who served time at the maximum-security facility were the notorious gangster Al “Scarface” Capone (1899-1947) and murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud (1890-1963).
As soon as you step on the ferry, the staff begins to tell you about the history of Alcatraz, making the ride go by quickly. The short ride was perfect and provided beautiful views of the island, bay area, skyline & sunset.
The prison is huge, and as tourists, you are allowed to walk around the cell block floor level, as well as the hospital wing upstairs.
Alcatraz is very well preserved and truly gave me a feeling of what it must have been like to be incarcerated here all those years ago.
The audio guided tour is a great addition. It really walks you through what went on here, and gives you so much more information about this landmark.
Some of the cells have been left as is since the doors closed in 1963, so you get a visual idea of what these criminals had in their quarters. The D-Block was of particular interest. It was here that inmates who were unable to follow the rules were taken. Solitary confinement at Alcatraz was about as bad as it could get!
If I had to pick a favorite part of this tour aside from the boat views, our tour guide, and authentic surroundings, it would be the stories about the escapes of Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris. While back on the ferry to return, I couldn’t help but try to figure out how they did it? How far did they have to swim to shore? What did it feel like?
No food was allowed to be eaten other than at the Alcatraz dock. So make sure to eat before or on the ferry ride because they offer a few items.
They start boarding the boat a half hour early.
More things to know:
*Purchase tickets online well in advance and only from the official tour website.
*Physical tickets are required in order to board the ferry for the tour.
*Arrive early to ensure time for parking and walking to the pier.
*Dress warmly! The bay is windy and it gets very chilly out on the island at night.
*Check the official website for info regarding accessibility on the ferry and the island.
*Wear comfy shoes, you’ll be walking and standing on cement for hours.
*There are restrooms on the pier, the ferry and the island.
*Gift shop on the island and don’t miss the history film after the tour.
*Bring a camera for fantastic photos of the bay, the city, the island and the tour.
*Talk with the guides; it’s obvious they enjoy what they do and they made our visit even more interesting.
For more information or if you want to buy a tickets you should check out: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com/by