We all agree that the Hawaiian Islands are heaven. Catalina? That is also beautiful. But San Francisco Bay is a tiny island paradise in itself, dotted with ledges large and small, from the Sisters to Angel Island, Alcatraz, and more. James Martin lists an astonishing 48 in his book.The islands of the San Francisco Bay,”From Belvedere to Yerba Buena, Red Rock and East Brother, whose Victorian lighthouse and B&B is still closed.
Here are three that you can explore with ease, including one that you might not even know was an island.
With 360-degree views of the entire bay, this state park offers some of the most breathtaking scenery anywhere. Take the ferry from Tiburon or San Francisco and spend the day in this state park that was once known as Ellis Island of the West.
The loop trail offers hikers and mountain bikers a 5.5 mile loop around the island. Make your way to the top of 788-foot-high Mount Livermore for the full panoramic view. There are bike rentals, tram and Segway tours on the island. The US Immigration Station museum was closed during the pandemic shutdown, but you can see the buildings and learn more below www.parks.ca.gov. (During times without a pandemic, the museum is open for tours and interpretation talks Wednesday through Sunday, $ 3 to $ 7.)
Grab a bite at the Angel Island Cafe and Cantina near the ferry terminal in Ayala Cove. Or grab some picnic lunch at Lil Sam’s, the market next to Sam’s Anchor Cafe at 31 Main Street in Tiburon, before boarding the ferry. There are picnic tables and a beach in Ayala Cove.
Details: Café and other details can be found at https://angelisland.com. The Angel Island-Tiburon ferry operates Wednesday through Sunday with three or more round-trip trips to the island, starting at 10 a.m. from 21 Main Street in Tiburon. Tickets are $ 5-15 and reservation is required; https://angelislandferry.com. The Blue & Gold Fleet makes two round trips Friday-Sunday from Pier 41. Tickets cost $ 11 to $ 19.50; www.blueandgoldfleet.com.
The Rock is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and 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 – before 2020 anyway.
The island reopened for touring in March. Regardless of Google search results, only one travel company has the National Park Service concession. Pre-book your Alcatraz City Cruises tickets ($ 25-41 for the day tour) and board the ship at Pier 33 for the 15-minute ride to the Alcatraz Dock and the chance to explore this infamous island. The self-guided audio tour through the Alcatraz Cellhouse is also available as an Alcatraz Experience app so that you can listen to it with your own earphones on your phone. Details can be found 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 that connect the land mass with its Victorian houses, cozy restaurants and the former Naval Air Station to Oakland. The Air Station bears more than a passing resemblance to a ghost town, but it is home to some spirited gems, including Faction Brewing, Rock Wall Wine Company, and St. George Spirits.
The historic USS Hornet Sea, Air and Space Museum is located at 707 W. Hornet Ave. – the pier at the southern end of the station – and is open for tours on weekends. And downtown has plenty of temptations, including Pantry, a German beer garden at 2424 Lincoln Avenue, where you can enjoy your schnitzel to take away or on the terrace Wednesday through Sunday; http://speisekammer.com.