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Alcatraz Island

Explore Alcatraz Island & Prison: Pier 33

Do you remember the Rock movie! Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris were the starts of the movie. If you’re in San Francisco visiting Alcatraz Island is the must-to-do thing for you. Alcatraz is an island which is very close to San Francisco, a little more than a mile. Island is worldwide famous. Alcatraz Prison also is known as a “The Rock” was a federal prison that operates between 1934 and 1963. Like Al Capone and Whitey Bulger, infamous inmates stayed there.

Alcatraz Island & Prison

Alcatraz Island & Prison is a worldwide famous landmark of the United States of America. Today, you can visit the island and prison both. Event spends some time inside of cells.  Here is a must to see places when you go to San Francisco. You can explore the historical insights, stories, prison and cells. There are also great gardens with spectacular San Francisco view.

History of Alcatraz Island

As you know Alcatraz Prison was also known as a “The Rock” based on the island and geomorphology. Almost 30 years between 1934 and 1963 Alcatraz served as America’s premier max-security prison. Alcatraz was the last stop of many dangerous prisoners of the states. You can visit this site to learn more about the history of Alcatraz.

Alcatraz Island in 1934
Alcatraz Island in 1934 (Source)

If you want to learn more about the island you have to 1854. In that year the West Coast’s first lighthouse was built on Alcatraz Island. Those days that lighthouse used to guide the ships coming and going through the Golden Gate. “The Rock” nickname of the island actually came from those times. Officials realized that the island properties were perfect for a federal penitentiary with cliff, tides and cold water that prevents the escapes. Alcatraz also served as a military prison during the Civil War until 1934 Aand then converted to the federal one. After closing of the prison the island became a very popular tourist destination and famous around the world. Of course, Hollywood movies have their own part of that fame. Movies like Escape from Alcatraz (Clint Eastwood) and The Rock (Sean Connery) help that.

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Visiting The Alcatraz Island

Reaching the island is quite easy. You just need to take a 20-min boat ride from the bay. Ferries are available from the Pier 33 from 09.30 am with a 30-min interval during the day. By the way please don’t forget to buy your tickets advance because Alcatraz is a very popular place so that the tickets mostly sold out. You can check this site to but Alcatraz tickets. You will also find a detailed map of Alcatraz Island from this site. If you want to print the map of Alcatraz Island you can download it from here. Map of the Alcatraz prepared the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of Interior. The map will show you the audio tour start, building and various paths for the visitor.

How to Go Pier 33

If you want to visit Alcatraz Island you need to take the ferries leaves from Pier 33. Pier 33 is located northern waterfront of the San Francisco.  There are multiple ways to reach Pier 33 from south, north and east. If you’re coming to Pier 33 from the north you need to take the Highway 101 North and follow the sign toward to the Bay Bridge, take the 4th street exit and merge onto Bryant Street. Follow the Byrant and then turn left to the Embarcadero and follow the way approximately 3 km. From the north, take Highway 101 South across the Golden Gate. Take the Marina Boulevard exit and go on the same boulevard. Go through the Bay Street and turn left to the Embarcadero, Pier 33 is on your right. To reach Pier 33 from the East, cross the Bay Bridge, take the Fremont Street exit, turn left onto Fremont Street, follow it until Howard Street then turn right to the Embarcadero. Follow the Embarcadero approximately 3 km.

Alcatraz Cruises
You will take this ferries to reach Alcatraz Island (Source)

Pier 33 Parking

If you have a question about parking lots around Pier 33, you will find lots of it. In a total five-block radius there are more than 3000 parking spaces. So, you won’t have any problem with parking. If you’re looking for on-street parking it’s little complicated than parking lots. During peak summertime, it can be hard to find empty on-street parking spaces. You should also be aware of daily and hourly restrictions about on-street parking. Visiting Alcatraz will take at least 3-4 hours, so plan your on-street parking carefully. You will also find accessibility drop off zone at Pier 33.

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Alcatraz Tours

 There 5 different tour-type for visiting Alcatraz Island & Prison and their prices vary from 39.90 $ to 78.65 $ for adults. Of course, there are other options and discounts for the groups. Early Bird, Day Tour and Night Tour will last about 2.5 hours. 30 minutes of the time will spend on the ferry to go and back the island. Actually, there are content differences between the Early Bird and Day Tour. Night Tour has special tour activities, onboard narration and guided tour also. If you take the Behind The Scenes Tour you will pay more but get more also and it will take about 4.5 hours. This tour also has an intimate experience, exclusive behind the scenes guided tour and exclusive access to an area not available to the public. The last of the tours is Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour. It will take 5.5 hours with Angel Island Tram Tour. You will find brief information about the tours below;

  • Early Bird Tour: Departure only 8.45 am
  • Day Tour: Departure every half hour starting from 9.10 am
  • Night Tour: Available Tuesday – Saturday (On 5.55 pm and 6.30 pm)
  • Behind The Scenes Tour: Departures only 4.20 pm and 4.50 pm
  • Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour: Only between March and October
Prison cells at Alcatraz Island
Prison cells at Alcatraz Island (Source)

Buying a ticket in 90 days advance is highly recommended due to high demand. There family packs and group tours with discount price. For the age policy minor under the 18 won’t be allowed to visit the island without an adult.

If you ever visited Alcatraz Island & Prison please share your experience and suggestions to improve this guide.

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