Between the horn of Cape Ann to the north and the defiant, jutting arm of Cape Cod to the south and east, the Boston Harbor forms a giant crescent in the central coast of Massachusetts, and is the beating heart of the New England shoreline. The harbor sits within an ancient feature, known as the Boston Basin, which predates the formation of North America. Over the course of over 400 million years, it has seen tropical latitudes, multiple advances and recessions of the sea, and multiple periods of glaciation—the latter couple of which deposited and then carved many of the hills that currently dapple its surface. Today, within a vibrant metropolitan area, the Boston Harbor Islands provide a dynamic assembly of ecosystems, ranging from rocky, windswept shores to dense forests to developed and filled land—all with a long and complicated history of human use.
Stand at the dock and find a cloud of comb jellyfish drifting through the pilings; watch a double-crested cormorant drying its wings atop a navigational buoy; find trees that rise clear out of the asphalt—there are few places where the intersection of urban and coastal ecology are so well illustrated.
Explore the plants, animals, and landscapes of the islands.
Natural Features & Ecosystems
Discover Boston Harbor's vital ecological hotbed of rocky and sandy shores, salt marshes, sea grass beds, tidal mudflats, and more.
Last updated: November 18, 2021