Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour. Alcatraz Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, 1.5 miles offshore from San Francisco, California. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a federal prison until 1963. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area.Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Alcatraz has been featured in many movies, TV shows, cartoons, books, comics, and games.