Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Quick Facts

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Massachusetts

(617) 223-8666

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Boston Harbor Islands national park area includes 34 islands situated within the Greater Boston shoreline. The islands are rich in natural and cultural resources. Imagine a place where you can explore tide pools, walk through a Civil War era fort, climb a lighthouse, hike lush trails and salt marshes, camp under the stars, or relax while fishing, picnicking or swimming...all within reach of downtown Boston. Youth programs, visitor services, research, wildlife management, and more are coordinated on the park's 34 islands and peninsulas by the Boston Harbor Islands Partnership.

Map of Boston Harbor Islands

Latitude, Longitude: 42.323016, -70.985413

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Activities

  • Boating

    Boaters and kayakers are very welcome in the Boston Harbor Islands national park area, which includes plenty of protected water, interesting coastline, and coves to explore. You can fish, camp, hike the island trails, walk along the shore, and more. Whether arriving by motorboat, sailboat, or kayak, everyone's invited to come ashore to see all that the islands have to offer. Docks are available seasonally on some islands. Hundreds of boaters use Boston Harbor Islands as a place to explore. The islands offer protected harbors and great views. So if you're a boater, get the information you need about marinas, moorings, and more.

    Ranger-guided kayak sessions are available on Grape Island.

  • Camping

    Permits are required for on-island camping. The Boston Harbor Islands offer rustic camping within sight of downtown Boston. Reserve a spot on one of the three islands that offer camping--Grape, Bumpkin (each with 10 sites for up to 4 people), or Lovells (3 sites for up to 4 people). If you have a crowd, group sites are also available. The camping season generally runs from the end of May until the beginning of October. And the park ferry gets you and your camping gear to your island and back. Reservations are required for your campsite, but it's easy to make one. Rustic camping means no flush toilets, showers, fresh water, electricity, telephones, or supplies. So you'll have to carry it all in, and carry it out. While you're camping, you can see the sun rise over the harbor and experience the islands in a whole new light.

  • Fishing

    Boston Harbor is one of the few areas along the Massachusetts coastline that offers good sport fishing year round. There is recreational fishing throughout the harbor for striped bass, mackerel, winter flounder, and bluefish. Many of the harbor islands offer excellent shore fishing locations. There are no public fishing piers. Fishing equipment rentals are available on Spectacle Island

  • Hiking

    There are walking/hiking trails and trail guides available on all the islands staffed for visitors. Peddocks Island, Thompson Island, and Worlds End offer more extensive trail systems. Roughly paved trails can be found on Georges, Peddocks, and Bumpkin Islands. If you like historic hikes, take a stroll through Fort Warren on Georges Island. Peddocks offers the longest shoreline of any harbor island to walk. Hike past Fort Andrew's officer quarters, prison barracks, and guardhouses or past private summer cottages. Peddocks also offers natural attractions, including a sand spit, salt marsh, and woods of maple, pine, cottonwood, and birch. For nature hikes, Grape Island is always a favorite. Pick grapes from the island's wild grapevines. The many bayberry and blackberry shrubs growing on the island support a large songbird population. Or seek out "lover's rock" on Lovells Island and hike the steps of Fort Standish's massive concrete gun emplacements.

  • Historic Sites

    Beautiful and historic lighthouses are one of the many attractions of the islands. Special tours get you to the lighthouses quickly and safely. You can 1) climb Boston Light, the oldest continually used light station in the U.S. or 2) tour three historic lighthouses by boat with a park ranger.

  • Picnicking

    Georges Island has toilet facilities, drinking water, food service and refreshments, and cooking grills. Visitors may bring grills to the islands, as long as they are of quality and relatively easy to carry.

  • Water Sports

    Swimming is allowed at island beaches on Grape, Bumpkin, Lovells, Peddocks, and Spectacle Islands, although after periods of heavy rain it is advisable to ask the rangers about the current water quality. Check with rangers about swimming locations. Swim at your own risk; lifeguards are only present at Spectacle Island. On other islands, swimming is only prohibited near the docks and at Hull Gut. Beaches vary from sandy to large cobblestone beaches. Spectacle Island has a sandy, lifeguarded, swimming beach. Lovells Island has a popular cobble beach. Most shorelines have cobbled beaches.

Directions

Driving

There are also four peninsula areas accessible by automobile. Take your car if you are visiting Deer Island, Nut Island, Worlds End, or Webb Memorial.

Public Transportation

Most people arrive at the Boston Harbor Islands via a brief ferry ride from Long Wharf-North in Boston. The ferry system gets you to the islands (and home again) quickly and easily. Watch the Boston skyline fade into the background as you approach Georges or Spectacle Island.

Going to Lovells, Grape, or Bumpkin Transfer at Georges, or leave the mainland from the South Shore. Thompson Island is served by its own ferry, from Spectacle Island or South Boston.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(617) 223-8666

Links