Angel Island is one of those Bay Area not so hidden gems that is definitely worth a visit. Just a mile from San Francisco, I took the ferry to the immigration point turned national park and spent the day exploring for my birthday!
And it was one of my best birthdays ever. There is so much to see and it felt like I was on a mini vacation somewhere far away! And since we went on a Monday at the end of November, we were one of just of a few people on the island. Check out my explorations and tips for your trip to Angel Island.
To get to Angel Island, you board the ferry from Pier 41, and doing it the first time in years was pretty exciting. The trip takes about 20 minutes there and about an hour back. Angel Island is the first stop along the loop from SF to Tiburon and then Sausalito.
Sit back, relax, and take in the views on the way! And on the trip back, we were treated to the beginnings of a beautiful sunset.
TAKING IN THE SIGHTS
- Immigration Station – this was the first stop on our ride, this was the first stop for many immigrants who were seeking to enter the US. It was eye-opening to learn that it wasn’t quite the warm stop that Ellis Island was, and many, Chinese especially, were detained for a long period of time.
- Camp Reynolds is the oldest permanent settlement on Angel Island, and today it’s one of the best-preserved groups of Civil War military buildings in the country.
- An underground NIKE Missile silo was built on the southeast corner, you can see the above-ground portion.
- The views are a sight all on their own. You have the ability to see all sides of the Bay Area from different parts of the island. My favorite was from the picnic tables outside of the NIKE missile site. You have a view of Oakland, the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and all the way across to the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Beaches along the ride. There are numerous beaches around the island. From the pebbly beach at the Immigration Station, to the white sand beaches along the east side, there are beautiful beaches at every corner. Lucky for us, we had each beach to ourselves!
- Old Military buildings. It was so much fun exploring some of the old buildings!
BIKING ANGEL ISLAND
We got around the island on bikes – and for an amateur biker, I would say it was moderately difficult. Getting up a few of the hills was a challenge, but for the most part, the paved roads were no problem to ride. As many of the sights, there are bike racks to leave your bike outside and then walk into the structures.
We arrived on the island in the late morning, and took the last ferry out at 3:40 and had plenty of time to make our way around, stopping to enjoy each attraction as well as a stop for a pleasant picnic lunch.
- If you want the island to yourself, I recommend going on a Monday or Tuesday during the offseason. The shops, tours, and restaurants are closed on these days, so there are fewer visitors than other days
- With that, you need to come prepared if you do choose to go one of those days:
- Pack your lunch! There’s no food available
- If you plan to bike, rent your bike while in SF. The bike rental is closed on the island Mon & Tues
- Bike counter-clockwise! We received this helpful advice from a park ranger, and I definitely recommend going in this direction to maximize the downhills on your bike.
- If you want a guided tour or are not too keen on biking, I recommend you visit on the weekend or during the high season April – October. You’ll have your choice of transportation, including tram, bike rentals, or Segway rentals.
- Last piece of advice: don’t miss the last ferry! I hear there is a hefty fine!
Angel Island was such an enjoyable trip! I believe there is something for everybody – given the time of the year. Get out and explore.