Alcatraz Island is located 2 kilometres offshore in San Francisco Bay, California. Originally developed as a lighthouse facility, it became a military, then a maximum security federal prison until its closure in 1963. The abandoned prison is home to a huge seabird colony, rock pools and the oldest operating lighthouse on the U.S West Coast. However, many travel to the island to view inside the infamous prison which has housed some of the world’s most notorious criminals.
When arriving on Alcatraz Island, visitors will be surprised at the size of the structure and surrounding land. There is much to see and do on this foreboding 22-acre rock. Explore the main cell house which housed some of America’s most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Shroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. The island was not just home to the dangerous inmates, as it also provided housing for staff members and their families in Building 64. Visitors can walk eerie corridors of the prison, explore the dining hall, kitchen and hospital area. The island had no water supply of its own, it had to be imported from the mainland, this makes the Water Tower possibly one of the most important structures on the island. It’s the tallest building standing at 29 metres and can carry a water volume of 950,000 litres. Visitors can wander around Recreation Yard, a raised level area surrounded by a high wall and fence. Imagine how inmates spent their days and how it felt to be trapped on the island with no escape. Alcatraz Island offers travellers a fascinating insight into one of America’s most iconic, yet notorious prisons.
The boats leaving for Alcatraz Island depart from Pier 33 in San Francisco. The excursions are popular, try to reserve tickets in advance. The boat ride to the island takes 15 minutes each way, and visitors should allow between 2.5 to 5 hours to see everything the island offers. Visitors can reach Pier 33 via bus, streetcar, cable car and on foot from many central locations in San Francisco.
From 1934 to 1963 some of America’s most notorious felons were detained on Alcatraz Island. The most famous escape attempt was in 1946.The U.S Marines were called in when six prisoners overpowered cell block officers. The prison closed in 1963 due to lack of funding, plus the isolated buildings had begun to crumble from the salty sea air. Alcatraz remains a curious entity for tourists, with many making the trip to San Francisco solely to visit the island. From its early heritage to tales of the inmates, it’s a fascinating day out for every visitor.