Angel Island has a long and storied history. It has been, at various times, a hunting and fishing site for the Miwok indians, a cattle ranch, an army post during the civil war, an immigration and quarantine station, a World War II Japanese internment camp and a cold war missile site. This long history means that the island has a treasure trove of historical (and abandoned) buildings to be explored.
Contemporary Angel Island
The island is currently a California State Park, offering hiking, biking, camping and historical tours. Getting to the island is an easy ferry ride from either San Francisco’s pier 41 or the Tiburon ferry dock. There is a 5 mile circuit around the island which visits all of the major historical sites and offers stunning views of San Francisco and the bay.
Urban Exploring on Angel Island
Since the island is no longer a military base, immigration station or cold war site, many of the building on the island have been abandoned or are in disuse. And while some of the crumbling buildings are off-limits (and unsafe), there are plenty of others that are available to the urban explorer. This photo tour offers a visual look at some of the more interesting spots on the island.
This old hospital sits near the east garrison. It was opened in the 1890’s as part of the quarantine station.
This electrical fire waiting to happen is located in the Fort McDowell hospital complex.
The hospital covered several stories, although the upper floors are no longer available to visitors. The Hospital sits on a upper road and offers great views of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.
This crumbling pile was originally part of the east garrison of Fort McDowell.
This building was originally the mess hall and barracks for Fort McDowell. While the building looks OK from the outside, a peek through the windows shows collapsed floors and piles of old plumbing.
This cozy and inviting spot is basement jail in the old Guard House. The dingy metal cells and bare light bulbs didn’t offer much comfort to the drunken (and incarcerated) sailors. The building is sometimes open to visitors so ask at the Visitor Center for the schedule.
The Wallace gun battery faces the golden gate and still shows clear remnants of the battery hardware.
They no longer store munitions at Battery Wallace, but these storage rooms are a great reminder of the site’s original intent.
The old barracks and parade ground at Camp Reynolds is one of the most lovely sites on the island. The barracks are lined up as if they themselves are a military parade. And the picnic area offers great views of the Golden Gate.
From Fort Reynolds, you can get really great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out this guide 14 of the best spots for viewing it.
How to Get There
Blue & Gold fleet offers ferry service from Pier 41 in San Francisco and Angel Island Ferry offers service from the Tiburon ferry dock. The ferry from Tiburon also allows you to bring on your own bikes.
How to Get Around
There is a primary road which circumnavigates the 5 mile circuit around the island. There are also spurs off the main trail which will take you to lookout points and battery sites. The island map can be found here and hours of operation can be found here. The park service offers tram tours. But if you want get in some exercise, you can walk the circuit or do it by bike. You can bring your own bike or rent one near the Visitor’s Center and ferry dock. If you want to leave all of your cool back on the mainland, you can also do a Segway tour.
What to Bring
Bring layers…it is the Bay Area after all. And pack a lunch as the food options on the island are limited. But most of all, bring your camera. Angel Island will reward you with beautiful habitat, great views and interesting architecture.
Other Cool Things to Do in San Francisco
- Get the local’s guide to cool things to do in SF.
- Find a great neighborhood to stay in.
- Explore the Golden Gate Bridge views from every angle.
- Take a walking tour of street art in the Mission.
- Visit bookstores and coffee shops in the Mission.
- If you are a foodie, check out the Ferry Building.