A parallax image

View over the prison wall at Alcatraz


Posted by Gav Grayston.
First Published Jun 2018; updated Jun 2023.

Alcatraz is a must-see place if you are visiting San Francisco. If the weather is good, you'll also get some great views of the Bay and the city.

The first time you visit San Francisco, a trip to the infamous Alcatraz is a must.

You can get a ferry from Fisherman's Warf to the island. Pre-booking on the internet saves some money and means you get on the departure time you want, as it is jam-packed in peak season. We went with Alcatraz Cruises.

Arriving into Alcatraz

The ferry ride to Alcatraz gives you a view of the city from the Bay, and you'll probably spot some of the many sea lions that have made the city their home. Even if it is a warm sunny day, remember to bring some layers. It can get quite windy out on the Bay.

Sea Lions at Fisherman's Warf

Sea Lions lazing at Fisherman's Warf

The rocky island is a reasonable size, and you are free to roam around the prison and the old fort buildings, which guarded the Bay long before the prison arrived.

An audio tour is available around the prison and is well worth doing as it brings to light the escapes and gun battles on the island. Our kids loved the audio tour (it's not really graphic or disturbing), though it won't hold the attention of very young kids.

Despite the prison's reputation, the cell sizes are quite large, and there's plenty of light too. Unlike some of the old prison buildings in the UK, which are a few hundred years older than Alcatraz.

Alactraz Prison Cell

As prisons go, this cell isn't too bad.

Of course, there's an opportunity to put your kids in jail. 😉

Kids in Jail

Who wouldn't lock them up?

If the weather is kind to you, and the Bay Area fog hasn't descended, Alcatraz gives you a fantastic view of the City.

View of SF from Alcatraz

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz. The city is surprisingly close.

Once you have done the tours, you can hop on a ferry back to San Francisco. Apart from the last ferry, there's no set return time so you can enjoy being imprisoned there as much as you like.

Golden Gate Bridge from Alcatraz

We took this picture of the Golden Gate Bridget from the rec yard on Alcatraz

In the next post, we'll cover a few more sights and sounds of San Francisco.