4 Essential Island Stops in the San Francisco Bay
From world class restaurants to beautiful natural parks full of outdoor recreation opportunities, San Francisco offers something for every traveler. Explore China Town or Ghirardelli Square, walk across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, or take a ride on one of the city’s lovely cable cars as you admire colorful Victorian houses.
The city is also home to the stunning San Francisco Bay which is filled with dozens of islands, Alcatraz being the most notable. Lets us explore some of the incredible islands on offer you should include on your next visit to The City by the Bay. Explore San Francisco hotel options through InterContinental Hotels Group for accommodation that is close to ferry and cruise services that will allow you to access most of the Bay Area islands.
Accessible from Tiburon or San Francisco’s Pier 41, Angel Island was once known as the“Ellis Island of the West”. Tour the local museum to learn the struggles that early immigrants faced when passing through this immigration station. The island is also home to incredible Civil War military buildings that were once part of Camp Reynolds. Later the island would become the location of an underground missile silo and Fort McDowell.
Today the island finds itself a national park that offers incredible panoramic views of the Bay. Hike the island’s perimeter or rest your legs and take an informative tram tour. The North Ridge Trail will take you to the top of Mt. Livermore where you will enjoy the best views the island has to offer. If short on time, rent a bike or motorized scooter to explore the island or camp overnight to extend your experiences.
angel island trail: photo by Robert wagner
Things go a little slower here than in downtown San Fran, especially when you consider the speed limit is a strict 25mph. Connected to Oakland by the underwater Posey and Webster Street Tube tunnels, the island can also be accessed via draw bridges to the mainland or a short ferry from San Francisco.
Check out Northern California’s largest antique fair held on the 1st Sunday of every month or pay a visit to the collection of artisan distilleries and tasting rooms along Monarch Street at Alameda Point. Learn about life under the Bay by visiting the 800-gallon aquarium at Crab Cove or take a dip in the Bay yourself by heading to Crown Memorial State Beach.
spirit alley: collection of distilleries on Alameda island
Alcatraz is by far the most notable island in San Francisco Bay. Famous for being the prison where escaping was thought impossible, it once housed Al Capone. Visit Capone’s cell and learn the full history of Alcatraz via an informative audio tour. Take a night tour for a bit of a creepy experience or opt for a day tour which will allow you to seek out the many nesting birds on the island such as cormorants and egrets.
Alcatraz offers a close-up view of the first lighthouse built on the West Coast as well as great sunsets over the Golden Gate Bridge. To get to Alcatraz, you will need to take a ferry hosted by Alcatraz Cruises, which thankfully offers round trips so you aren’t left stranded on the island as a prisoner yourself.
Treasure Island is a fun little island that was built for the World’s Fair in 1939. Unlike the rest of San Francisco, this man made island is relatively flat. Linked to the Yerba Buena neighborhood, the island is easily accessed by car via the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
Treasure Island is famous for its annual Treasure Island Music Festival as well as the monthly Treasure Island Flea Market, where you can find all kinds of creations by local artists as well as great food. The protected shoreline of Clipper Cove is perfect for kayaking or paddleboarding and is a popular picnic spot. Enjoy creative cuisine at one of many beach side eateries or enjoy a wine tasting. You could also may wish to seek out creations used during the Burning Man Festival, as many are said to be stored here.
Treasure Island Music Festival: photo by ethan kan