Angel Island State Park

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Considered by many to be the Ellis Island of the West, Angel Island State Park, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, has played a number of roles over the years for the U.S. and the State of California. The entire island is a California Historical Landmark and the Immigration Station at its northeast corner is a National Historic Landmark. It offers visitors a unique view, both literally and figuratively, of northern California.


Initially discovered by the western world during the journey of Juan de Ayala into San Francisco Bay, Angel Island, or “Isla de los Angeles” has an intimate relationship with the white settlers of northern California as well as the San Francisco that we know today. Ayala initially anchored his ships off the shores of Angel Island and subsequently gave it its name in 1775. The island was then primarily used for cattle ranching through most of the next century. Then, in 1863, the U.S. Union army established Camp Reynolds on the 1.2 square mile island to be used as an infantry garrison during the Civil War.

Later on in the 19th century, the entire island was annexed for military use and dubbed Fort McDowell and used as a discharge depot during the Spanish-American War. It continued in that capacity through the 20th century, most notably World War I. However, the enormity of World War II and the importance of maintaining the Pacific during that time overtaxed the small island. Though additional facilities were added, eventually processing was moved to Fort Mason in San Francisco proper. Instead, the island was primarily used to house German and Japanese POWs. Following the war’s end, the island was decommissioned.

In addition to its role as a military garrison, the outlying location of Angel Island also made it a perfect location for immigrant processing. The Immigration Station that the island is famous for was constructed in the early 20th century and was responsible for processing over 1 million Asian immigrants between the years of 1910 and 1940. It is this role that earned it the nickname “The Ellis Island of the West.”

However, the reality of Asian immigration in the early 20th century was quite different than that of the European immigrants on the other coast. In fact, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 led many immigrants to call Angel Island home for years as they awaited approval to enter the U.S. As such, the designation of Angel Island as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 was a direct effort to recognize the Chinese community of San Francisco and, indeed, was in response to a strong lobbying effort from that community.

Main Attraction

Made a state park following its decommissioning, Angel Island is a great location for San Franciscans and visitors to the area alike who are looking for outdoor activities and historical entertainment. Governed by the California State Parks commission, the island is accessible only by ferry or private boat. Ferries leave from several locations in the Bay area including San Francisco’s Pier 39. Ferry tickets are priced in two groups: children/seniors (65+) and adults. Active duty military members and young children (under age 5 or 2, depending on the ferry company) are free. Each ticket sold is for a round trip fare and includes the entrance fee to the State Park.

Once on the island, visitors will find a host of bicycle and hiking trails as well as beaches as Quarry Point and Ayala Cove. There are also daily tours offered through the Angel Island Company which include the island itself and the Immigration Station. What’s more, the location of Angel Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay affords it some of the best views of the city, Golden Gate Bridge, and northern California coast available. Individuals, couples, and families will find more than enough options to occupy themselves while on Angel Island.

Why It’s a Must-See

Boasting first-class views of the city, serene beaches, and great outdoor fitness opportunities, spending a day at Angel Island State Park is a great way for visitors to the San Francisco area to enjoy the great outdoors. Only a short ferry ride away, this amazing location provides entertainment and history as well as an inexpensive way to enjoy the city.

Where to Buy It

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Angel Island State Park either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. The Angel Island Ferry service is available on the Go SF Card