a VirtualTourist member
I am going to San Fran in a few weeks and I was wondering what time of day is best to visit Alcatraz and which ferry boat/tour company to use. Thanks for your insight!
Although i've heard good things about the night tour, i waited around for an extra day in order to get on the early bird boat. I was the first up the hill, and the first one into the prison. So i had most of the building to myself at the beginning which beat the heck out of being stuck in the hordes of slow-pokes later on.
Personally I would prefer mid to late afternoon tours. Only because by then the fog has lifted and you will get a great view from the island.
We visited Alcratraz last August. We took the last ferry 6:45pm out. I would advise do not take the last ferry out. Definitely the 6:10pm would have been better. Being the last group of people on the island was good but I felt it was a little rushed at the end. In the dark we could not walk around outside either, there are a couple of pathways outside. This may not be what you want to do anyway but it would have been nice to have been given the choice.
When we got off the ferry we were split into two groups for a bit of a walking tour that pointed out some of the parts of the island. We then got the audio tour inside. This takes a bit of time to dish out as well. At the end there were presentations in the isolation block and within the main cell block. We could not go to all of the presentations as some were running at the same time. The presentations by the staff appear only to be on the night tour according to the website but others may have more info about this. Everyone gets an audio tour so you can wonder around at your own pace. Take the headphones off and you'll notice how quiet it is. Just a warning, the exercise yard was out of bounds to all but it was that cold, I would not have ventured there anyway.
Once you get on the island you can stay there as long as you want as long as you get on the last ferry.
If you want the presentations thrown in at the night tour, make sure that you get booked on the 6:10pm ferry. If you are not bothered about that, get a ferry that gives you enough time to explore and return at your leisure. The website as above states how unique an experience it is to watch the sunset over Golden Gate Bridge. Based on my experience, that expectation would be a bit ambitious. The sun was never out in the evening during our stay there, the mist and fog had rolled back in.
Don't forget to book. We did and on the day we got there, signs showed that there were no tickets available for the next 4 days.
As far as I know there is only one tour company running this visit, as above but you can by tickets from all sorts of agencies. I would go direct. Alcatraz was a real highlight of our stay in San Francisco, you must go.
As has been stated before - book your tickets before you travel. Tickets will be sold out when you get there.