Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is comprised of 34 islands sprinkled throughout the city harbor. Just 45 minutes by ferry from downtown, the park is a picturesque escape, where visitors can explore a Civil War–era fort, visit the oldest lighthouse in the United States, head out for a hike, and spend a night camping.
Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is an ideal day trip from the city, with both natural and man-made attractions. Head to Spectacle Island for five miles (eight kilometers) of trails and scenic views of Boston Harbor; visit Georges Island to explore historic Fort Warren; or admire Little Brewster Island’s Boston Light lighthouse. Peddocks Island is a popular wilderness destination, while Lovells, Grape, and Bumpkin islands offer rustic camping spots.
To see the park from the water, head out on a Boston Harbor Islands sightseeing cruise and listen as a tour guide describes the area’s history. Views of the islands’ highlights also feature on many brunch and dinner cruises.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Only Georges and Spectacle islands have places to buy food and water, so pack a picnic lunch if you plan to visit other islands.
- A full day will enable you to enjoy two or three islands; more than that and you’ll end up spending more time aboard the inter-island water shuttle.
- The main ferries serving the islands are wheelchair accessible, but the smaller shuttles are not. Only a few islands have paved, level trails suitable for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
To reach Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park, take the seasonal ferry service from Long Wharf to Georges, Spectacle, Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, Lovells, or Thompson Island. Inter-island water shuttles service the smaller islands.
When to Get There
Facilities on the islands are open from May to October; passenger ferries and shuttle boats only operate during this time. Summer is the most popular time to visit, when it’s best to make an early start or opt for a weekday visit to avoid crowds.
Harbor Island History
This national and Massachusetts state park is rich with history. Native Americans and colonists used some of the islands to cultivate crops, while Grape Island got its name from colonists who discovered the wild fruit growing there. Fort Warren, built in 1845, was used as a prison during the American Civil War and is also known for its ghost legend of “The Lady in Black.”