Alcatraz Island (San Francisco Bay) - A short ferry ride into the San Francisco Bay will take you to Alcatraz Island. The history of Alcatraz is surprising to many. It was a Civil War fortress, an infamous federal penitentiary (closed in 1963), a bird sanctuary and the first lighthouse on the West Coast. The tour of the prison is a highlight of Bay Area attractions! In addition to the historical significance, there is also a natural side to "the Rock," where you'll find gardens, tide pools, bird colonies and incomparable bay views. It is now a sanctuary for seabirds and is a premier spot for viewing cormorants, pigeon guillemots, snowy egrets and black-crowned night herons.