Every year, thousands of tourists descend upon San Francisco to explore this charming fog city. Many also cross the Golden Gate bridge to visit Muir woods and Wine country. However, those are best reserved as full day trips. If you want shorter, half day or even evening trips and tours, the following San Francisco Bay Islands are a good option. These are as follows:
San Francisco Bay Islands #1 Alcatraz Island
USA’s most famous federal penitentiary (prison) stands on this island and has been the subject of many Hollywood movies such as “Escape from Alcatraz” and “The Rock”. Chicago’s famous gangster Al Capone was imprisoned here for some time too. The prison shut down in 1963 but its sordid saga continued in the form of a native American occupation that lasted for 19 months. As of now the island thrives with native flora and fauna, thanks to the state’s conservation efforts. Tours are held regularly, both during day and night and ferries depart from Pier 33 (see the official tour provider’s website here). Food and drinks are allowed only at one designated spot (landing area) on the island. Also, advance ticket reservations are recommended due to the popularity of this tour. For more details, read my full Alcatraz tour experience in this post.
San Francisco Bay Islands #2 Angel Island
Often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the West”, this island served as the first point of entry for nearly a million Asian immigrants (mostly Chinese) from late 1800s to 1940 (when a fire closed the immigration station) who came to the shores of California in the wake of the gold rush. This island, once home to the Coast Miwok native Americans, was named Isla de de Los Angeles by Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala, a Spanish Naval officer who first sailed into the SF bay in 1775 with his crew. The island also formed a heavy artillery and military base for California during the Civil war to ward off attacks by the Confederacy. Today, it is not only a conservation center with several hiking trails, but is also a reminder of the immigration woes of Asian Americans that can be viewed at the Immigration station and detention center, now converted to a public museum (entrance fee is $5 for adults). There is also an “immigration wall” (paved with tiles named after family members) built by current Asian Californian Americans in memory of their ancestors who landed in San Francisco after a harrowing time at these detention centers, located right of the bell tower area overlooking the bay. You can hike along the periphery of the island or simply hike (1.3 miles) to the immigration center and call it a day! If you are not up to too much walking, then I recommend taking the paid shuttle ($7 for round trip) to and from the immigration station that starts from the ferry landing area /Ayala cove which also has a cafe. Ferries depart from San Francisco to Angel island and Tiburon from Pier 41. For more information on this history of Angel Island, visit the official website here. Dogs are not allowed on Angel island except service dogs.
San Francisco Bay Islands #3 Treasure Island
Ending this short post with one of the most fun San Francisco Bay islands to visit, which you can actually drive to! Yes, just take the I-80 east and you will be at Treasure Island in no time! Not only do you get fantastic views of San Francisco from here but also this place hosts a flea market every last weekend of the month with lots of stalls and food trucks. This is also a man-made island (built during 1936-1937 for the 1939 Golden Gate International exposition) and considered part of San Francisco, along with the other Yerba Buena island (Yerba Buena is actually one of the oldest names for San Francisco). A naval station was built here as well in the 1940s which closed down in 1997. Besides these boring facts on the omnipresent military and Federal government, a little known fun fact is that the aircraft hangars in this island have been used as sound stages for famous movies such as The Matrix and Rent and was featured movie setting for Patch Adams, What dreams may come and Flubber (all native Robin Williams movies) amongst many others. Treasure island used to be the home to a 40 foot “bliss dance” statue/ dancing woman statue that debuted at Burning man. The statue has recently been relocated to Las Vegas (BOO) owing to rusting caused by harsh sea winds and foam. I highly recommend visiting the Treasure island flea market (you can check their FB page here) and spend and afternoon with great food,music antique hunting and friendly Bay area folks! Dogs are welcome on Treasure island. For more ideas on how to spend your day at treasure island, here is a guide from Thrillist.
(Bliss Dance Photo credit: Iranian in Vienna)
Thank you for stopping by! For more great ideas on how to make the best of your San Francisco trip, click to read my previous posts with links below:
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