Angel Island with Kids: Family-friendly Hike, Tram Ride and More - 510 Families
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Angel Island with Kids: Family-friendly Hike, Tram Ride and More

A day trip to Angel Island with kids is like a mini-vacation. Perfect for a weekend adventure or day off from school, the trip has a little something for everyone on your list: a ferry ride, outdoor time, food and drinks, history, beach, AND beautiful scenery. Sound good? Let’s go!

Angel Island View
Angel Island has the best views in the Bay! | Photo: Maureen Burke

Getting to Angel Island from the East Bay

Traveling to Angel Island with kids required a ferry ride, which is part of the fun! There are options from Tiburon or San Francisco. Our family traveled via the Tiburon Ferry. You’ll want to arrive early enough to find proper parking and allow a few minutes to walk from the parking lot. There are several lots within 5-15 minutes of the ferry depot. We’ve paid $5 to park in a lot near the CVS and $15 to park right next to the ferry terminal. The Ferry is punctual; don’t be in a situation where you miss your planned departure!

We took the 10 am Tiburon-Angel Island Ferry. Round trip fares are priced at $15/adult, $5/small children, and children 2 years and under are free. Advance reservations are required. Clipper cards aren’t accepted. Bikes, strollers, and wagons are allowed on board. The boat ride is a short 12-minute trip to the island—just long enough for your little ones to stay excited and short enough to avoid getting seasick. Our family likes to ride on the top level for the best views and to cool down in the wind. Our family has found it best to take the earliest ferry so there’s plenty of time for activities and exploring. The ferry schedule is seasonal so check the times before you plan your outing.

Angel Island Ferry to tiburon
Riding on the ferry’s top level offers stunning views | Photo: Maureen Burke

After disembarking, you’ll find clean restrooms, a welcome station, and a ranger station to learn more about activities on the island, bike rental, and the on-site cafe.

Pro tip: Pay attention to estimated travel times if you’re hiking or biking on the island. Make sure you’re back at the ferry depot about 15 minutes before your ferry departs. You don’t want to miss the boat! Our ferry back to Tiburon departed at 3:20 pm on the day we visited. It’s a long day, but there’s so much to explore on Angel Island with kids.

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What to do on Angel Island with small children

There’s so much to do on the island for all ages and abilities. We’ve visited the island with little toddlers and grandma in tow. The primary activities are hiking, sightseeing via tram, picnicking, biking, camping, boating, and enjoying the beach.

Pro tip: Hit the restroom and stock up on water and snacks at the cafe; these resources can be limited in other parts of the island.

Hiking on Angel Island with kids
Many trails are kid-friendly but a child carrier is handy for hiking the summit | Photo: Anna Azimi

Hiking on Angel Island

Family favorite: we hike west along Perimeter Road, from Ayala Cove to Camp Reynolds. The 1.5-mile hike can be steep at first, but then it’s fairly flat on a paved, yet rough road. My five-year-old can handle the walk, but my toddler needs to sit in the child carrier. There are plenty of gorgeous views of Raccoon Strait and wildlife spotting (butterflies, hawks, etc.) along the way to keep everyone interested. Once you arrive at Camp Reynolds, walk down the hill to explore the former army quarters and bakehouse. There’s also a handful of picnic tables for lunch, a beach to run along when the tide is out, and Instagramable views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The walk to Camp Reynolds is sunny; hats and water are recommended.

Pro tip: Skip the stroller because there are stairs along the trail.

Our second favorite: hike east to visit the Immigration Station. This route has two museums and great views of the East Bay. The trail has some steady inclines but follows along Perimeter Road for just over a mile. If you’re visiting with more experienced hikers, consider hiking to the peak of Mt. Livermore via the Sunset Trail or North Ridge Trail. Expect the hike to last about two hours. You’ll be able to see all three bridges at once from the top. Or travel around the island to see everything along the 5-mile Perimeter Road.

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the winning view from angel island
There’s plenty of wildlife and views to keep kids engaged on hikes | Photo: Nick Williams

Our new favorite: Tram Tour around Angel Island

The Angel Island Tram Tour is a wonderful and accessible option for visitors who want to see the entire island and all it has to offer. Our family was able to get to the scenic viewpoints and historic destinations without any delays or complaints. The tram itself was so novel to my children; they had a blast riding on it. We were able to visit areas that are normally too challenging to reach by foot for two littles. My five-year-old said the tram ride was her favorite part of our most recent visit.

The tram tour travels along the 5-mile Perimeter Road, starting and ending at the Angel Island Cafe. It lasts about one hour. Tickets range from $11 for children and $17 for adults. You can purchase tickets in advance online or same day at the cafe. There are usually two tram tours Thursday through Sunday: 11 am and 1 pm (check the schedule before your visit to confirm). The tour stopped several times for riders to get a view of a historic site or hop off to take a picture. Audio plays throughout to explain the island’s history, flora and fauna, and inhabitants. The driver supplements with additional facts. Even if you’re not a history buff, the tram tour is worth it for the easy access to beautiful scenery and lookouts. Riders also have the option to ride the tram and then hop off to hike.

Angel Island Tram ride with Kids
A tram ride offers accessibility, beautiful views and a brief history of the island | Photo: Maureen Burke

Our family took the 11 am tram tour and then hit up the cafe for lunch for a boxed meal. The timing was great for our kids and fun for all of us. Because we didn’t expend too much energy, we were able to stay on the island and play all day until the last ferry. Most importantly, my kids didn’t say, “I’m tired”.

Angel Island Beaches

There are a handful of beaches accessible by foot on the island. Most visitors stop by Ayala Cove’s beach. It’s near the ferry, cafe, main picnic area, restrooms, and visitor center. It’s a long and narrow beach that’s perfect for making sandcastles, chasing seagulls, swimming, shell hunting, or watching wildlife. My kids spent nearly two hours playing in the sand while my husband and I enjoyed an adult beverage from a nearby picnic table. (Did I mention the cafe sells beer, wine, and hard cider?!) It was such a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

Pro tip: The water at Ayala Cove is calm, but seals and sea lions frequent the area so make sure your children know to keep their distance.

Ayala Cove Beach
Dip your toes in the water or play on the beach at Ayala Cove | Photo: Maureen Burke

Camp Reynolds Beach. Our family has also visited the beach at Camp Reynolds. It’s lovely but is only accessible when the tide is out. Pick up a map when you arrive on the island to find more beaches. Several portions of the island are maintained by the US Coast Guard and closed to the public, so a map will come in handy on that front, too.

Beach near Camp Reynolds
Running along the beach at Camp Reynolds | Photo: Maureen Burke

Biking on Angel Island

Angel Island is an uber popular destination for biking. Cyclists can ride on the Perimeter Road to visit all the hot spots on the island. Bikes are allowed on the ferry so you can bring a bike from home. Or, there are seasonal rental bikes and e-bikes available on the island. Unfortunately, there are no children’s bikes, bike seats, or bike trailers for rent. Remember to bring a helmet!

Dining options on Angel Island

Visitors can enjoy al fresco dining during their visit. Enjoy the scenery of Ayala Cove from the deck at Angel Island Cafe and Cantina. There are options for breakfast, lunch, snack time, and self-proclaimed happy hour. We enjoyed the sandwiches in our boxed lunches. There are also hot dogs, burritos, nachos, frozen treats, coffee, soda, alcoholic beverages, and many snack options. The Cantina has live music on weekends during the summer months, which sounds so lovely.

Angel Island Cafe
Angel Island Cafe offers drinks, snacks, boxed lunches, and hot food items. | Photo: Maureen Burke

Many visitors pack a lunch or snack and enjoy a bite at the picnic tables or spacious green at Ayala Cove. There are also two reservable group picnic areas with plenty of tables and grills if you’re looking for a special destination for a large gathering. Grassy spaces make it fun to kick a soccer ball, toss around a frisbee, or take a nap in the sun.

A few campsites on Angel Island

Did you know you can camp on Angel Island? It sounds like such a unique experience and requires planning ahead. Visitors can reserve campsites and lodging six months in advance from the current date. There are ten hike-in campsites, 1 kayak-in campsite, and 1 group campsite. Camping in the middle of the Bay sounds amazing. Can you just imagine the beautiful sunrise or sunset from your tent?

Angel Island Immigration Station
Learn about the history of immigration to California while visiting the island | Photo: Maureen Burke

Explore the island’s rich history with self-guided tours. Stop by the Visitor Center, Immigration Station Museum, or U.S. Immigration Station Barracks Museum on the island to learn about the first inhabitants—the Coastal Miwok, how the Spanish landed on the island, and its use as a quarantine station and an immigration processing station, and more.

There’s a little something for everyone on the island. Best of all, you can explore at your own pace. Plan a trip to Angel Island with kids or relatives visiting from out of town. This family-friendly island is not to be missed!

Enjoying the view of Angel Island with kids
You can’t beat the outstanding views from Angel Island in all directions| Photo: Anna Azimi

What other family-friendly hikes or destinations are on your radar? We’re on the lookout for some good ones.

A big thank you to Basecamp Hospitality for inviting us to check out the cafe, tram, and island. My unbiased views are included in this guide are based on several visits, both invited and not.

View from Camp Reynold
Instagram-worthy views at Camp Reynolds | Photo: Maureen Burke

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