The Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area refers to the collection of 34 islands, located within the Greater Boston Shoreline in Massachusetts. These islands have a lot to offer visitors, yet they are most famous for taking vacationers back into history with its Civil War-era fort.
The Islands have a lot going on, so much so, that it is nearly impossible for vacationers to visit every one of them unless they are passionate travelers. These islands have rich natural and cultural resources. Campers and visitors can spend weeks here exploring the tide pools, hiking lush, scenic trails and salt marshes, climbing lighthouses, fishing, swimming, picnicking under the clear sky, or camping in your tents in a night full of stars.
And all of this is within grasp because they are all within reach of downtown Boston. Ironically, this crowded and busy harbor, once known to be the dirtiest in the country, through investment has now become a clean and scenic recreation area.
A ferry ride taken from Long Wharf will show you some of the most mesmerizing views, including the view of the oldest lighthouse in the country, spectacular overlooks, and remote and desolate island beaches.
The drive from the airport to the Boston Harbor Islands ferry terminal is a typical city drive and lasts about 15 minutes. The roads are well maintained but due to the urban nature of route, be prepared to encounter some traffic.
Since this recreation are is right in the city of Boston, there are buses that will take you directly from the airport to the ferry terminal. The closest stop is the one for the aquarium.
The Boston Harbor Islands Recreation Area does not have camping for RVs. For those interesting in tent camping, though, there are 33 campsites at Bumpkin, Grape, Lovells, or Peddocks Islands for tents only.
The sites are reservable online up to six months in advance. The camping experience here is primitive but campers will have access to composting toilets, picnic tables, grills, and shade shelters at the campgrounds.
Bring your own water to be on the safe side. Fresh water is only available at the campground on Peddocks Island.
The islands wow vacationers with some amazingly scenic trails. The World’s End Trail is 3.8 miles long, easy, and dog-friendly. It features rolling hills, rocky shorelines, and some all-encompassing views of the Boston Skyline.
Deer Island Trail is 2.7 miles long and good for people of any skill level. This trail is mostly used for walking and trail running. It has very pretty views and is dog-friendly.
Spectacle Island Perimeter Trail is considered the most fun trail in the islands. It has amazing views at every spot and is pretty wide and smooth. It is family-friendly and even a baby can be taken to the hike in a stroller. It is more of a walking trail than a hiking one. There are several benches and picnic tables on the trail to take a rest.
Fort Warren is one of the main landmarks that lures tourists, locals, and vacationers to Boston Harbor Islands National Park. Fort Warren is situated at the 39-acre long George’s Island. The fort was built in 1845, decommissioned in 1947, and is now a National Historic Landmark.
The historical significance of the fort is in the fact that it served as a prison during the American Civil War and became known for its slightly humane treatment. Entertainment here includes plays, musical performances, and historic shows – all free of cost.
History buffs will particularly love this part of the harbor islands because the lighthouses here aren’t just regular lighthouses, they are America’s oldest too. To watch these iconic lighthouses up-close, vacationers can take the two-hour Boston Harbor Lighthouse Cruise that goes past Long Island Light, Graves Light, and Boston Light. The latter was also America’s first light station.
The cruise also includes an onboard narration by the National Park’s staff and volunteers from the United States Coast Guard.
If you are a recreational boater, paddler, or sailor then you couldn't have thought of a better place to spend your vacation than the Boston Harbor Islands Recreation Area.
There are public moorings, anchorage sites, and an amazing view for you to enjoy as you cruise past. A multitude of different boating options are available for you to enjoy these vast waters and get to the many secluded islands.
With so much water all around, it’s really hard to resist the urge to swim, even though these islands aren’t exactly swimming destinations. Luckily for visitors, a lifeguarded swimming facility is available at Spectacle Island along with a designated swimming beach. The area also has change rooms and outdoor rinse-off showers.
A modern restroom is located at the Spectacle Island Visitors Center, which is just steps away from the swimming area.
The whale watching cruises at the recreation area are a combined effort of Boston Harbor Cruises and New England Aquarium. The experience is unparalleled and includes expert marine biologists onboard who share fascinating information. During this cruise, the vacationers get to see one of the ocean’s most fascinating creatures, super close.
On the cruise, vacationers get to see different species of whales like humpbacks, fin whales, and, minkes. They may also get to see pods of dolphins, many species of seabirds, and various other marine life in their natural habitat.