Known as 'The Rock,' the island of Alcatraz was a maximum security prison between 1933 and 1963.

TravelCurious Tip

Get the earliest ferry over at 8:45am so you are the first people to arrive on the island. It gets more and more crowded as the day goes on!

Alcatraz, also known simply as ‘The Rock,’ is an island just off San Francisco. For thirty years in the middle of the 20th century it was home to one of the world’s most famous prisons, along with many of America’s most notorious criminals. Al “Scarface” Capone and the murderer Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud were among those who were held there. No inmate is known to have escaped with their lives, although more than a dozen attempts are were made.

Beer and Birds

It all started in 1775 when the Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala sailed past and dubbed it the Isle of the Pelicans. Fast forward 80 years and the US had made it the first US West Coast fort and started using it as a holding pen for Civil War deserters and US army deviants. It got pretty full at times, but the army simply gave it an upgrade with a new concrete military prison in 1909.

However, Alcatraz only really earned its stripes when the prohibition kicked in. Unsurprisingly for everyone other than legislators, the public was unwilling to comply, so gangsters stepped in to help them out. In the 30s when authorities sought to make an example of the ringleaders, Alcatraz was the place. Although ‘The Rock’ would only ever have 264 inmates at a time, the roster was a true who’s who of organised crime in the US.

Visit the island and you can get a very brief taste of what they experienced. You can see the cell houses where prisoners lived, along with the mess hall and library. There is also a national park that was occupied by native activists when the prison stopped being used. But perhaps most importantly you can pay tribute to the place where that fine collaboration between two giants of the 21st century, Michael Bay and Nicolas Cage, was shot: “The Rock.”

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in San Francisco
Coit Tower
An emblem of the city skyline, this 65 metre tower provides a 360 degree view of the city.
North Beach
The Little Italy of San Fran, North Beach hosts some fantastic Italian restaurants and is one of the city's best nightlife districts.
Fisherman's Wharf
A neighbourhood with Italian roots, this area has seafood restaurants aplenty.
Jack Kerouac Alley
Learn about the literary movement developed in North Beach in the 50's and the legendary City Lights Bookstore.
Italian Desserts
Treat yourself to an Italian espresso, freshly made cannoli or gelato as a way to sate your sweet tooth.
Washington Square Park in North Beach
This beloved park with view of Saints Peter and Paul church located in North Beach is one of the city's oldest parks, established in 1847.

Related Tours

Private Full Day Highlights, with Alcatraz Island
Immerse yourself in the highlights of San Francisco, and discover the infamous history of Alcatraz. On your private tour of San Francisco, you will:

  • Soak up the San Francisco skyline from the top of iconic Nob Hill 
  • Explore Union Square, San Francisco's bustling shopping area
  • Immerse yourself in the customs, cuisine and curiosities of Chinatown 
  • Snap panoramic pictures from statuesque Coit Tower 
  • Venture through North Beach to absorb the community’s Italian heritage 
  • Enjoy striking views of the Golden Gate Bridge from atmospheric Fisherman's Wharf 
  • Dig into some of San Francisco's famous seafood - like clam chowder soup in a sourdough bread bowl (price not included)
  • Visit the world’s most notorious island penitentiary, Alcatraz.
On this Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights, you will learn about the city’s founding in 1776, when Spanish colonists settled the area during gold-rush fever. See first-hand San Francisco’s colourful mix of quaint buildings and modern architecture in a stunning ocean-facing city that is more than just flower power and social consciousness. 

Your Private Half Day Tour of San Francisco Highlights will take you through an urban landscape, set on the northern tip of a peninsula, shaped by glaciers, earthquakes and the Pacific’s rolling waves. At the top of Nob Hill, soak up an extraordinary cityscape at cable car height. Iconic landmarks, such as Golden Gate Bridge, Japantown, the Colt Tower and the oldest Chinatown in North America. Set on San Francisco's picturesque steep slopes, enjoy a stunning skyline across streets criss-crossed by street cars, yellow taxis and jogging trails. 

Wander through some world-class shopping centred on Union Square, where big-name brands and local stores nestle amongst chic boutiques. At beautiful North Beach, known colloquially as Little Italy, soak up the ambience of the city’s lively historic Italian-American community. Lastly, Fisherman’s Wharf, lined with seafood cafés, is home to basking sea lions, jugglers and mime artists and enjoys striking views across the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island. At the ‘dress to character’ ferry, your guide will leave the tour so that you can explore the world’s most infamous island prison - Alcatraz. 

Your guide will leave you at the dock for Alcatraz, once you are in line. Then, take an audio tour at a leisurely pace to hear tales of notorious felons such as Al-Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud in this former fort, military prison and maximum security federal penitentiary.  

Please note: Alcatraz tickets are in high demand during the summer and tickets cannot be guaranteed at the time of booking. We will contact you soonest should we be unable to obtain tickets.


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