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Alcatraz is always listed as a ‘must-see’ attraction in San Francisco guides. It was once home to some America’s most notorious criminals, operating from 1934 – 1963. Hubby certainly had it on his list of places he had to see, so to Alcatraz we went.


It was going to take a bit of effort for Alcatraz to impress me. I kinda feel that all jails are the same. Bars, basic cells and a general feeling of desolation.


The ferry ride over to Alcatraz was lovely. It is short but it’s a great way to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different angle.  It was also nice to have some time on San Francisco Bay.

Hubby & BJ touring Alcatraz

On arrival at Alcatraz we were given a brief orientation talk and it was time to explore the island. Unless visitors have a wheelchair or mobility restriction then it is a walk to the top where the prison is located. It’s steep so we were thrilled to take advantage of the electric shuttle. You can read more about this shuttle service here.

Hubby and BJ really enjoyed Alcatraz. BJ won’t wear head phones so we just told him bits and pieces from the audio tour.

The self-guided audio tour can be done at your own pace and is narrated by former inmates and guards who lived at Alcatraz.

Tour Narrators

Hearing the voices of the correctional officers and former inmates brings the stories to life and gives them greater meaning.

AJ at Alcatraz

The island is home to beautiful plant and sea bird life.  The families of the guards enjoyed tea parties in the gardens, and gardening became a welcome pastime. For trusted inmates, the gardens were an escape from daily prison life. Even today, the thriving gardens are a stark contrast to the somber prison.

Alcatraz closed 21 March 1963


Alcatraz is often booked out weeks in advance so booking ahead is a must. I’d recommend booking your tour as soon as you have your San Francisco trip booked. Bookings can be made here.

Don’t queue in the regular cattle grid lines for the ferry. Wheelchair users are boarded first.

No food or drink is allowed on Alcatraz so eat prior to arriving or have something on the ferry on the way over.

Wheelchair access is available on Alcatraz Island. Check the times for the shuttle once you are on the island to ensure you have enough time to get your return ferry.

There are accessible rest rooms at the base of Alcatraz where the ferry arrives and departs.

Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island

The words of the last prisoner to leave Alcatraz were, “Alcatraz was never no good for nobody,” and yet it now draws millions of visitors each year. Although I was not convinced that I needed to see Alcatraz I’m glad I’ve been.

If you’d like to read more about Alcatraz you can do so on the official website.

San Francisco has a fantastic comprehensive guide to accessible activities in the area. You can download the free PDF here.


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