I lived in San Francisco all my life and this was my first trip to Alcatraz. The only way to access the island was by private ferry boats which are usually packed rain or shine.
I spent 4 hours there and wished I had additional time to see everything at a more leisure pace. The self-paced tour was very impressive where you could listen to prisoners' and guards' point of view while living on "The Rock", a nickname for Alcatraz. You might have seen the movie with the same name starring Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage.
I didn't realize the guards and their families lived on the eastern side of the island. Kids took a ferry to the mainland to go to school while the mothers tended to their gardens. Most felt so safe living on the island that they didn't even lock their doors at night!
The history of this island is so fascinating that I could not do it justice. There are numerous books written about this place. Here is a link to a great summary.
Stay tuned for more photos of my tour.