Located in San Francisco Bay, the Alcatraz Island is two kilometres to San Francisco’s offshore. The small Island has a total of 22 acres of land with an elevation of 131 feet. Alcatraz Island was developed with structures and facilities for a federal prison, military fortification, and a lighthouse.
Popular landmarks on the Alcatraz Island are the Water Tower, Lighthouse, Cell house, Library, Dining Hall, Parade ground, Building 64, Recreation yard, Industrial buildings, and the ruins of the officers club and warden’s house.
The lighthouse in Alcatraz was the first in the western United States. The place was converted to a penitentiary between 1934 and 1963. The penitentiary housed popular convicts such as George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Al Capone.
The Island became a national recreation area in 1972 and it was designated in 1986 as a National Historic Landmark. The Alcatraz Island is opened to tours and it is managed as part of the 80,000 acre Bay area’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area by the National Park Service.
Visitors can visit the Alcatraz Island via a ferry ride from Pier 33 near San Francisco Ferry Building area in Embarcadero, close to the Fisherman’s Wharf. The official ferry provider that tours the Island is the Alcatraz Cruise.
The Alcatraz cruises resumes work daily at 9:30 AM and they are available to convey people to the island every 30 minutes throughout the day. It is important to book your cruise in advance, especially on holidays and summers because the cruises sell out fast.
The Alcatraz Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco. Visitors visit the cell house to see where the prisoners lived. The inmates were transferred off Alcatraz in 1963 but the prison block — claustrophobic (9 x 5-foot) cells, steel bars, library, mess hall and the “dark holes” where the recalcitrant were punished — is structurally intact.
Visitors tour the island at their own pace. There is an excellent audio tour for the cell house. Visitors can buy this award winning audio tour when they arrive at the island or with their ferry ticket. The audio tour is available in different languages such as English, German, Italian, French, Japanese, Spanish, Mandarin, and Dutch.
Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers while visiting the Alcatraz Island because the weather is always unpredictable and varies daily. It can be wet, windy or warm any day of the year.