National Park Getaway: Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

By Mary Raczko, Partnership Liaison, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
Updated April, 2018

Kids sitting around table with park ranger.
Children learn more about Boston Harbor Islands with ranger talks.

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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.

What better place to start than Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area? Underneath the wavelike canopies of the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion, you'll be welcomed by a park ranger. You'll also learn about the park's natural and historic resources, purchase ferry tickets, and shop at the park store.

If you can't make it to the pavilion, check the park ferry schedule to plan your trip. Just choose your island.

Two visitors sitting on a ferry out in open water with a cityscape in the background.
Ferry rides can transport visitors back and forth from Boston Harbor Islands.

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Spectacle Island is a great destination for those who want to whisk themselves away from life in the city to an island venue. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the visitor center. Chill to the sound of jazz on Sundays, or take a swim, go hiking, or participate in other outdoor activities that get you moving. Accessible and just minutes away from downtown Boston, it is an easy and enjoyable trip for all ages.

Find yourself wanting more? One of the best-kept secrets in Boston is the salt marsh tour and inter-island connection between Spectacle Island and Thompson Island.

Georges Island is a favorite of adults and kids. Be sure to stop by the visitor center, pick up a map, and check out the exhibits. Explore the tunnels and rooms of Fort Warren, a Civil War-era prison, and transport yourself back in time.

Are you an avid camper without a car? The camping islands (Bumpkin, Grape, Lovells, and Peddocks) are all accessible by public transportation from Boston. Campers with cars find it easy to park at Hingham Shipyard and catch the ferry from there. You can find helpful tips and reservation links on the go camping page.

Kid holds up seashell she found on the beach.
Children enjoy looking for seashells along the islands' shores.

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Looking for more adventure? The Boston Light Tour was dubbed “The Ultimate Lighthouse Experience” by The Boston Globe. Little Brewster Island, home to Boston Light, provides a unique experience and spectacular views. Climb the 76 stairs and two ladders to reach the top!

There is no shortage of things to do on the islands of Boston Harbor. Check the the park calendar for up-to-date information on events.

Boston Harbor Islands is managed by a unique, 13-member partnership, which includes the National Park Service and other public and non-profit organizations. An advisory council provides a formal mechanism for public involvement.