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Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

When I was a kid I was a massive fan of the film, Escape From Alcatraz. I must have watched it 100 times. Growing up it always seemed to be on late at night on the BBC, and I would wait up and watch it whilst I was supposed to be sleeping ready for school the next day.

The films stars Clint Eastwood and tells the story of the famous escape attempt by three prisoners from Alcatraz Prison back in 1962.

Due to the film, it was always my dream to go and visit Alcatraz and see the place in the flesh to try and soak up the history and get an understanding of what the prisoners had to go through to make their epic escape!

So, back in 2014 whilst on a road trip through the west coast, we heading off on a tour of the island to see what it was all about.

Tours of Alcatraz are extremely popular, so I made sure to book tickets before we left for our trip. This guaranteed we’d get to see it and also gave us a bit of focus on the trip because we knew we had a set date we had to arrive in San Francisco otherwise we’d miss the tour and have no guarantee of getting tickets for another day. I chose the night tour, and surely it would be a bit spooky at night? So when the time came, we headed down to Pier 39 to catch the boat over to the Island

Heading out you get spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Approaching the island you get a good look at the buildings that make up the complex. It’s much larger than I thought it would be. You arrive at the loading area and walk up to the buildings.

You’re greeting by this sign welcoming you to the island, and giving you a bit of background information that basically lets you know you’re not getting off unless you work for the government!

As you make your way to start the tour, there is this sign which lets you know the purpose of having the prison on the island. Top Tip – Don’t break the rules

It was quite crowded on the way in as you make your way with everyone else who arrived on the boat with you. But once you get past the initial bit, it was actually quite quiet as there is plenty of room inside and you’re allowed the freedom to move about as you wish to follow your recorded tour.

The living quarters themselves are pretty bleak. I wouldn’t have wanted to be holed up in here.

The cells are very small, but at least you got one to yourself.

I was quite happy to be locked away for 2 minutes though. Any longer than that and I’d have got a bit scared

They have kept one the cells which the prisoners tried to escape from, with the hole in the wall they chipped out with a spoon. It must have taken weeks of quietly working away undetected by the guards.

To be honest,  I’m not entirely convinced this is an original or something they mocked up once the prison was opened as a museum, but it’s still pretty cool to see what those guys did back then.

They had to squeeze through the hole, climb up to the roof, scale down the building, make it down to the shore and sail away in their stitched together makeshift boat all the while having the guards thinking they were sleeping in their cells. It’s amazing that they tried it, never mind got away with it – or did they! No one knows if they ever reached dry land.

Once you’re finished inside with your tour you can walk around the grounds of the island until it’s time to catch the boat back to the mainland.

All in all, we were on the island for about 2.5 hours and it was a fantastic experience and it was creepy walking around in the dark!


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