Angel Island - What History Buffs and Outdoor Enthusiasts Have in Common and Don’t Even Know It...

Angel Island... though it's the largest island in the San Francisco Bay Area, most folks - even the locals - have never visited it.

So why go... you ask?

Well... it’s far more picturesque than its stony, infamous sister, Alcatraz.

And... not only is it great for hiking, biking, picnicking, or just hanging out in the cove, it’s, also, loaded with history.

Now a state park... it was kind of like the Ellis Island of San Francisco. Well... not really!

It was nicknamed ‘the Guardian of the Western Gate’.

Hilly and tree-covered... it’s been used by Bay Area residents for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

And for all you history buffs... there’s plenty to see.
Like the military and quarantine stations, the US immigration station... which operated from 1910 to 1940, Ayala Cove, and much, much more.

Angel Island in San Francisco Bay

But that’s not all. Like we said it’s great for hiking, picnicking, and just hanging out.

Angel Island has something for everyone, and they're always adding new & exciting things to do!

We discovered 7 places to explore. Like...

  • Ayala Cove - the place to go for munchies, drinks, and other fun
  • West Garrison - also known as Camp Reynolds
  • The Batteries - a coastal defense network that protected the Bay from the Civil War to 1915
  • Nike Missile Site - protected San Francisco Bay during the Cold War and more
  • East Garrison - also known as Fort McDowell
  • US Immigration Station - also known as ‘the Guardian of the Western Gate’
  • The Backcountry - the place to be to see all the spectacular views of the Bay area

Explore the island in a variety of ways... by Segways, electric motor scooters, bike - rentals are available, or even take a tram tour.

So... let’s pick a couple of Angel Island Spots to dive into a little deeper. Like...

Ayala Cove offers more than picnics and grills. Bring your sunscreen and appetite. Then get ready to slurp, sip, and burp!
The Cove Cantina Oyster Bar has opened for the summer, complete with an updated full kitchen and expanded menu.
The cantina’s outdoor seating, stage, and dance space are the "new buzz" of the Angel of the Bay.
After a few turns on the dance floor from the free live music from local area bands... belly up to the tin-roofed patio bar for some BBQed Hog Island Oysters and Lagunitas India Pale Ale to wash it all down.
Not a fan of oysters? That’s Okay!

Cove Cantina’s got burgers... grilled chicken skewers... and other munchies to tickle your taste-buds.

But that’s not all to do Ayala Cove.

Boaters and yachters... ease in behind a bluff and drop anchor.

Approach the dock carefully as you enter a narrow beach curving around the horseshoe-shaped inlet.

When yachting folks say they’re going to Angel Island... Ayala Cove is where they’re talking about.

The 740 acre - well-tended island, is filled with stands of oak, Monterey pine and eucalyptus.

All dotting the hills rising to Mount Livermore - the 788-foot peak mountain - and the island’s center.

Angel Island - its strategic position near the mouth of the bay acted as a military outpost and more...

West Garrison  - Camp Reynolds - an integral part of the west coast defense system - was part of a network of military fortifications in the San Francisco Bay Area from 1863 to 1964.

The first military installation on the island, by 1876, Camp Reynolds looked like a small town.

There were over 200 soldiers, along with... a chapel... a  bakery... a blacksmith shop... shoemaker... laundry... barber shop... trading store... and a hospital.

It even had a school, a cemetery, and a small farm and dairy.

Following the Civil War, the soldiers were often sent out to restrain Native American uprisings in the western and southwestern United States.

The Guardian of the Western Gate, Angel Island controlled immigration into the United States...

US Immigration Station  - North Garrison - processed over one million immigrants, mainly from Pacific Rim countries, between 1910 and 1940.

The harshest immigration laws - directed at Chinese immigrants, resulted in extended detention and unfair questioning practices of Chinese arrivals.

Like... 12 year old Yee Chang - not his real name - who left everything he knew in China... to travel to the United States to join his father in San Francisco.
When he landed at the Immigration Station on Angel Island, he was questioned extensively.
Yee knew his answers must match - exactly - to the answers his father had said when he had arrived. If they didn’t, Yee would be sent back to China.

His story reveals the same experience as many others who had come before him.

Many of them were so traumatized by the experience that they left poetic records carved on the walls of the Detention Barracks.

Many people who have passed through the US Immigration Station share their experiences with their children and grandchildren.

Beaches, trails, and viewpoints, Angel Island offers lots of hiking adventures and secluded beaches to get away...

The backcountry - includes the spectacular peak of Mount Livermore... beaches... trails... vista points, and other sites to explore.

Over 13 miles of trails and fire roads circle the island. And 8 miles of roadway are perfect for bike riding.

The island has hiking for every ability.

But the real draw here is the Bay itself. You can’t look anywhere without seeing bridges... hills... or the breathtaking skyline of San Francisco.

It provides 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay Area.
On clear days, rising 788 feet above the Pacific, you get an incredible "five-bridge" view of the...

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Bay Bridge 
  • Richmond Bridge
  • San Mateo Bridge and the...
  • Dumbarton Bridge - the shortest bridge across San Francisco Bay

There are loads of adventures for hikers, bikers and boaters.

Like Margaret Hawkins - not her real name - who, with her 13-year-old granddaughter, hiked the paved Perimeter Road to see the spectacular views of the city’s skyline... the Marin Headlands... Mount Tamalpais - in Marin County... and ALL five bridges.
The view of the Golden Gate Bridge blanketed in fog was stunning.

There’s so much more to see on Angel Island...

We’ve only touched on a few places to explore.   
There’s still much, much more to discover.  And we don’t want to give away all the secrets.
So what do you say... let’s hop on the ferry and see Angel Island for ourselves. Okay?

Let's go!

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