[photopress:IMG_3416.jpg,thumb,alignleft]I know, I know. Alcatraz is an obvious tourist destination, as Buckingham Palace is in London or the Statue of Liberty is is New York. Equally, I couldn’t not go.

In the end we chose the evening tour on a Friday. Going later in the day would allow better light and the trip includes a number of thing such as an audio-tour that cost extra during the day.

The trip starts near Pier 33 where there’s a queue for the ferry. At least, that’s what it claims to be. The line is actually for a photographer taking “souvenir” pictures for those customers who simultaneous have more money than sense and no camera. I didn’t see anyone buy a print so in practice it seems to be for people who feel unable to do what we did: join the line after the photographer. Such rebels.


The ferry circles around the island, allowing views of all parts of it and back to San Francisco and some magnificent sunset views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once my feet were back on solid ground, the tour takes everyone up hill to the main building in the centre of the island.


[photopress:IMG_3435.jpg,thumb,alignleft]We first enter the shower room. As the guides are keen to tell us, this is not the shower room that you see in the movie “The Rock.” Here there is no balcony for the guards to look down (and shoot) from. These days this is where you get your audio tour. They tell you to press the play button when you get to a particular sign in the cell blocks.

Given the amount of time that the prisoners would spend each day in their cells, they are frighteningly small. I think I would lose my mind sat in them each day every day. But many of the ex-inmates who provide some of the audio commentary are nostalgic about them. I guess if you spend enough time somewhere is does become home. They also note that the cells were safe from attack from other inmates.

[photopress:IMG_3464.jpg,thumb,alignleft]Once the audio tour had finished there was still plenty of time to wander around, take in some talks by rangers and see some videos. The latter seemed popular but we decided to check out the view of sun-set over the San Francisco Bay.

One “spooky” bit was back inside the main hall. Most of the exhibits had been static during the rest of the tour, but here they opened and closed a whole row of cell doors. The sound is so frightening, even to people who have not been incarcerated, that the effect has been used in many films, including Star Wars!

Overall we were impressed. We were expecting it to be overly cheesy and touristy but it was very well done and gave a good insight to the island. Having good weather only improved things.