The largest natural island in San Francisco Bay, Angel Island—a California state park—is often overshadowed by the much smaller Alcatraz Island. Yet with an equally interesting history as a West Coast version of Ellis Island, Angel Island also offers hiking, biking, and picnicking, all with views of the San Francisco Bay, city skyline, and Golden Gate Bridge.
If you don’t have time to visit Angel Island during your time in San Francisco, you can still take a look at it on a bay cruise or seaplane tour. Otherwise, get yourself there via a pleasant ferry ride, and then explore the island, trails, and Immigration Station museum on your own or with a guided tour. Bring or rent a bike, or consider a Segway tour or open-air tram tour, which provides audio commentary to learn about the island as you go.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Angel Island is ideal for outdoors lovers and those interested in US immigration history.
- No matter the weather or the season, bring layers to shield yourself from the wind on the ferry and while traveling around the island.
- The Angel Island Café is open daily from spring to fall; the Cantina, with live music, is open on the weekends seasonally.
- The Angel Island Immigration Station is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, but note that some grounds are steep. The trams are wheelchair accessible but you must email in advance to request a spot; strollers are allowed on the trams only if there is space.
- Bikes are permitted on the island, yet skateboards, scooters, roller skates, and rollerblades are prohibited. Those under 18 years of age are required to wear a helmet while biking.
- Dogs are not allowed on the island, unless they are service animals (which do not include emotional support animals).
How to Get There
Angel Island is accessible only by boat to Ayala Cove. The Blue & Gold Fleet operates ferries from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco; the Angel Island Tiburon Ferry operates from Tiburon.
When to Get There
Angel Island State Park is open every day, but ferry service varies daily and seasonally; check schedules ahead of your visit. The museum at the Angel Island Immigration Station is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Summer allows you to spend more time on the island with longer daylight hours.
Angel Island Immigration Station
From 1910 to 1940, the US Immigration Station on Angel Island processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from across the Pacific Ocean, the majority of whom were from Asia. As part of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, immigrants were detained and interrogated on the island. Now a museum, the restored immigration station is dedicated to the education and interpretation of this period of American history.