Alcatraz
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Alcatraz

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Dubbed ‘The Rock’, it’s hard to believe that a small island off the coast of San Francisco became one of the most notorious prisons in the world. Starting life as a fort in 1859, Alcatraz Island’s remote location soon proved a handy spot for housing insubordinates, Civil War deserters and “uncooperative” Native Americans, though it wasn’t until 1934 that Alcatraz became a full-blown federal penitentiary. America’s first maximum-security prison was specifically designed to house the worst of the worst, with inmates deemed unfit for other prisons banished to the island. In it’s time, Alcatraz was home to prominent criminal ringleaders and notorious murderers, with Al ‘Scarface’ Capone and the infamous Robert ‘Birdman’ Stroud behind bars here. An inescapable prison, even today the dark history of Alcatraz still permeates, with more than 1 million travellers making their way to the offshore prison each year. One of San Francisco’s most unlikely and most popular of tourist attractions, a visit to Alcatraz will stay with you for life.

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Alcatraz

  • Our tips for Alcatraz

    Our tips for Alcatraz
    • Wrap up. Be sure to bring a jacket and extra layers on your Alcatraz tours. Even on a nice day, your ferry trip over to the island can be quite chilly.
    • Catch a film. Stop by the theatre for a short flick on all things Alcatraz. Beyond revealing the dark history of the island, this film explores the island’s future, uncovering the on-site restoration projects currently in the works.
    • Take some Instagram-worthy snaps. The island offers an incredible vantage point to take in San Francisco city. Head to the old prisoner’s yard on your Alcatraz tour to snap some great scenic shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito beyond.
  • Good to know

    Good to know
    Best Time To Visit If you’re a summer soul, book your Alcatraz tickets for September and October, which promises warmer weather and sunshine even in the cool cell blocks. For those who don’t mind braving the cold, wind and fog though, head to Alcatraz during the city’s rainy season (in the months of January and February) for a cheaper trip away from the crowds.
    Getting There The only way to get to Alcatraz is of course by ferry. Due to popular demand, ferries between San Francisco and Alcatraz run thick and fast no matter the weather, so you won’t struggle to make it to the island.
    Money Saving Tips Book your Alcatraz tickets as part of a combination package and you’ll save some serious cash. While Alcatraz tours are rarely discounted individually, pairing up your San Francisco sightseeing tours with a visit to Alcatraz promises a good discount. Have a snoop around this page for all the combo tour details!
    Did you know? Impress your fellow travellers with these interesting titbits on Alcatraz…
    • Plenty have tried, but no prisoner has ever successfully escaped from Alcatraz. While most escapees were captured, shot or drowned soon after leaving, one particularly determined inmate made it all the way to San Francisco. In 1962, inmate John Paul Scott covered himself in lard, squeezed through the bars of his cell, made it outside and miraculously swam the 1.5 miles to shore – a feat deemed impossible by authorities due to the turbulent, freezing waters and the distance. Scott made it to shore, but was found exhausted and unconscious on the ocean banks soon after, and sent back to The Rock.
    • One of the most famous inmates of Alcatraz was criminal mastermind and gangster, Al Capone. Dabbling in crime since he was just 14 years old, Capone was finally brought to justice after nearly 20 years in the business and was sentenced to 11 years in prison, five of which were spent in Alcatraz. During his five-year term, Capone was a cooperative inmate, and even played banjo in the Alcatraz prison band, the Rock Islanders, which gave regular Sunday concerts for inmates.

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