"Escape to Alcatraz" Alcatraz Tip by SteveOSF

Alcatraz, San Francisco: 292 reviews and 488 photos

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Alcatraz is an enjoyable attraction that is rich in history. The Rock is most famous for its use as a prison, but the history of the island is far more extensive. It housed the first lighthouse on the West Coast. It served as a Civil War era garrison and defended the bay with over 100 cannons. When the fortress became obsolete, the military continued to use the site as a military prison. Eventually in 1934 it became a maximum-security federal penitentiary that welcomed guests like Al Capone. The prison closed in 1963 due to the high operational costs. Only one person was known to have escaped, and he was captured clinging to a rock at Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge. One escape attempt was immortalized in the 1979 Clint Eastwood film ?Escape from Alcatraz.? The actual prisoners whose story the film was based upon were never found, but were believed to have drowned in the attempt. After the prison closed it became abandoned. In 1969, a group of Native American protesters seized and occupied the island. The occupation lasted until 1971. After the occupation, the island was again abandoned. But now Alcatraz is administered by the National Park Service.

You need to arrive by ferry. You can wander about the island. The cellhouse tour is self guided, but they give you an audio player and headphones that lead you around the old cells, complete with narrative from former guards and inmates. The views from Alcatraz are fantastic.

If you have ever wondered where seagulls come from you can find out on Alcatraz. The island, with no native predators, is a natural breading ground for the birds. When I visited, mother seagulls nesting with their young were abundant on the island.

The tours are only available through Hornblower Cruises. It is imperative that you purchase your tickets IN ADVANCE as the tours sell out. You can purchase tickets on-line, in person at the ticket office at Pier 33, or by phone.

Address: In the middle of San Fracisco Bay
Directions: The dock for the ferry service is located at Pier 33 on The Embarcadero and is well served by the historic F-Line streetcars.

Web site for Ferry Service:


Phone: (415) 981-7625
Website: http://www.nps.gov/alca/

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Oct 28, 2007
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