Destination List > Alcatraz


Photo by Bernard Spragg. NZ

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The history...

Alcatraz Island is located in San Francisco Bay, just off shore from San Francisco, California. Although the island was originally home to just a lighthouse, in 1828 a prison was built there to house military prisoners. Around 100 years later, in 1934, a federal prison was opened there and was run by the American government until 1963. It is one of the most notorious prisons in American history because of the high-profile people who were sentenced to prison there, and for the fact that many people believed that it was inescapable.

The federal prison, or penitentiary, was a maximum-security prison that was used to house some of America’s most notorious criminals. One of these people was Al Capone, the American gangster who was famous during Prohibition for being the head of the Chicago crime ring known as the Chicago outfit. Even though it was believed that you could never escape from Alcatraz, 36 different prisoners tried to escape 14 different times. Three men named Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin successfully escaped in 1962. Even though the men were able to get out, Alcatraz continued to be known as “The Rock”.

Today, people believe Alcatraz to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. Native Americans in the San Francisco bay area believed the island to be inhabited by evil spirits before it became a prison. But, in recent years, ghost investigators have visited the island and believe that its the site of many ghosts and spirits of prisoners who had been on the island.

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Take a self-guided tour of the island and the facilities.


Go inside one of the jail cells to experience what it must have been like to be a prisoner here.


Find the lighthouse built in 1909. It's a concrete tower that stands 95 ft above sea level.


Make a stop at the Warden's House, a mansion on the island that housed the warden and his family.


Visit the restored gardens that were once maintained by soldiers, guards, and inmates.

Did you know?



In 1934, Alcatraz was converted from a military facility into a federal prison.

1.25 mi


Alcatraz is small island located 1.25 miles (2.01 km) from the shore of San Francisco.

San Francisco, journey on...

Explore the city on its cable cars and grab a pic of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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