We can all agree that the Hawaiian Islands are heavenly. Catalina? It’s adorable too. But San Francisco Bay is a small island paradise in its own right, dotted with large and small rocky outcrops, from the Sisters to Angel Island, Alcatraz and more. James Martin totals an astonishing 48 in his book “The Islands of the Bay of San Francisco”, from Belvedere to Yerba Buena, Red Rock and East Brother, whose Victorian era lighthouse and B&B are still closed.
Here are three that you can easily explore, including one that you might not even realize is an island.
the island of angels
With its 360-degree views of the entire bay, this state park offers some of the most breathtaking scenery around. Take the ferry from Tiburon or San Francisco and spend the day at this state park, once known as Ellis Island of the West.
The Perimeter Trail provides a 5.5 mile loop around the island for hikers and mountain bikers. Head to the top of 788-foot Mount Livermore for a full panoramic effect. There are bicycle rentals on the island, and tram and Segway tours. The US Immigration Station Museum was closed during the pandemic shutdown, but you can see the buildings and learn more at www.parks.ca.gov. (During non-pandemic times, the museum is open for guided tours and interpretive talks from Wednesday to Sunday, from $ 3 to $ 7.)
Grab a bite to eat at Angel Island Cafe and Cantina near the ferry dock at Ayala Cove. Or grab a picnic at Lil Sam’s, the market next to Sam’s Anchor Cafe at 31 Main St. in Tiburon, before boarding the ferry. There are picnic tables and a beach at Ayala Cove.
Details: Find the cafe and other details at https://angelisland.com. The Angel Island-Tiburon ferry operates Wednesday through Sunday with three or more round-trip crossings to the island starting at 10 a.m. at 21 Main Street in Tiburon. Tickets cost $ 5 to $ 15 and reservations are required; https://angelislandferry.com. The Blue & Gold fleet makes two round trips from Friday to Sunday from Pier 41. Tickets cost between $ 11 and $ 19.50; www.blueandgoldfleet.com.
One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, The Rock is as much a part of the city’s iconography as the Transamerica Pyramid. The former home of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and other criminal types was turned over to the National Park Service in 1972, much to the delight of the 1.3 million visitors who roamed these shores each year – by 2020 , in any case.
The island reopened in March for tours. Google search results notwithstanding, only one travel agency owns the National Park Service concession. Reserve your Alcatraz City Cruises tickets in advance ($ 25 to $ 41 for the day trip), then board the ship at Pier 33 for a 15-minute ride to Alcatraz Pier and a chance to explore this infamous island. By the way, the Alcatraz Cellular Home Self-Guided Audio Tour is also available as an Alcatraz Experience app, so you can listen to it on your phone with your own headphones. Find details at www.nps.gov/alca and www.alcatrazcruises.com.
An estuary separates this island – and its 78,000 inhabitants – from the mainland, with four bridges and two tunnels connecting the mainland, with its Victorian-era homes, cozy restaurants and a former naval base in Oakland. The Air Station has more than a fleeting resemblance to a ghost town, but it contains bouncy gems including Faction Brewing, Rock Wall Wine Company, and St. George Spirits.
The historic USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum is docked at 707 W. Hornet Ave. – the pier at the southern end of the resort – and is open for tours on weekends. And downtown is full of temptations, including Speisekammer, a German beer garden at 2424 Lincoln Ave. where you can take your schnitzel or enjoy it on the terrace from Wednesday to Sunday; http://speisekammer.com.