ANGEL ISLAND STATE PARK
In the middle of San Francisco Bay sits Angel Island State Park, offering spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais.
The island is also alive with history. Three thousand years ago the island was a fishing and hunting site for Coastal Miwok Indians. It was later a haven for Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala, a cattle ranch, and a U.S. Army post.
From 1910 to 1940, the island processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the majority from China. During World War II, Japanese, and German POWs were held on the island, which was also used as a jumping-off point for American soldiers returning from the Pacific. In the '50s and '60s, the island was home to a Nike missile base.
Today, there are two active Coast Guard stations - at Point Blunt and Point Stuart - on the island (these area are off limits). Angel Island became a State Park in 1954.
The movement to make the island into a public park got underway in 1947 and 1948, after the federal government declared it surplus property. A thorough study of the island's historical background was carried out by the National Park Service, and in 1954, after various delays, a number of citizens' groups managed to persuade the State Park Commission to acquire about 37 acres surrounding Ayala Cove. Meanwhile, the US Army had selected the island as a site for a Nike missile launching facility and radar control station. Despite this partial re-occupation of the island by the army, additional acreage above the cove was acquired by the State in 1958, and the mountain top itself was re-christened Mount Caroline Livermore, in honor of the dedicated Marin County conservationist who led the campaign to create Angel Island State Park.
In 1962 the Nike missile base on the south side of the island was deactivated, and the army once again left the island. In December of that year, the entire island was turned over to the State of California for park purposes -- with the single exception of the unmanned Coast Guard stations on Point Blunt and Point Stuart, which continue in active operation to this day.
There are no lifeguards, and swimming can be hazardous because of the very strong currents that run past the island with each change of tide.
The beaches at Quarry Point and Ayala Cove are both sandy and protected from the afternoon breezes that so often blow in from the ocean through the Golden Gate. Quarry Beach is especially pleasant for sunbathing. There are no lifeguards, and swimming can be hazardous because of the very strong currents that run past the island with each change of tide. The water at Perle's Beach is considerably rougher, and the beach is more exposed to wind and weather. The view, however, is spectacular, and Perle's Beach is a delightful place for walking and general beachcombing.