Day 5 brought us to prison, even though we never wanted to end up there. Who knew that going to prison would be so fun! From the staged prison cells, to the one phone call, we got to get a glimpse of what hardened criminals experienced during their time at Alcatraz. What was life like on the rock? More importantly, how did we escape?
The boat launch for the trip was at Fisherman’s Wharf, where we got to see a tourist haven full of shops and restaurants. Someone on our bus tour recommended we go to Scoma’s Restaurant, so we made it a point to stop there for lunch and had some fish ‘n’ chips. It was completely worth it!
Boat Ride to Alcatraz
The trip from Fisherman’s Wharf was a little cold and windy, but afforded beautiful views of the bay. Excitement was building as we got closer to Alcatraz, and before we knew it, we were there. Our arrival was much more pleasant than the prisoners who occupied this place half a century ago.
The lighthouse would have an amazing view, but we did not go inside. Tours are given by the U.S. Lighthouse Society, but it was not a part of our tour. We had enjoyed the ones we saw along our road trip to San Francisco at Cape Blanco and Mendocino, and assumed this one was closed off completely. However, we loved the view of the tower from below.
Many of the buildings were burned during Native American occupation in the 1960s. Some were torn down but others existed as hollowed out structures. Walking around on the remains felt like walking through ancient ruins, and we had to take our time viewing it. Just watch that last step!
The moment we were eagerly waiting for: going inside! The prison cells looked about as we would expect, but life in these conditions would be unimaginable to us. Handling a small space is one thing, but a cold dark cell would be difficult even for a hardened tourist.
We couldn’t help but think about the movie Shawshank Redemption while touring this facility. How could you possibly escape this place? “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”
This was a staged cell that gave a glimpse into the life of a prisoner. Inmates in good standing were allowed the following:
- One pack of cigarettes, three days per week
- Movies shown twice monthly
- Magazines and books from the library
- Use of typewriters to work on your own case
- Yard activities such as baseball, handball, and various table games
We have visited a friend in a local state prison. It looked pretty cozy compared to this place. Can you imagine visiting inmates on Alcatraz island? Here is what is left of the visitation rules.
The Trip Back
We enjoyed a nice view of San Francisco from the south end of the island. Do you think you could swim to the shore? Our trip back was enjoyable and we will never forget our time on the island.
In the end, we escaped from Alcatraz. Our time there was quite easy compared to those who spent years there thinking of ways to escape. Luckily for us, there was a nice tour boat that ferried us back to Fisherman’s Wharf to enjoy the rest of our day.
Have you ever been to Alcatraz? What were your first impressions?
Next up – Road Trip: 4th of July on San Francisco Bay – Day 6
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One thought on “Visiting San Francisco’s Alcatraz Island”
Visiting Alcatraz in August, really looking forward to it. This was a great read and insight in to what to expect 🙂