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Boston's National Park Area- The Boston Harbor Islands
By Susan M. Keenan ©2007

Boston Harbor Islands, one of the most recent national parks in the nation, includes 34 islands and currently offers 13 islands for exploration and enjoyment. Visitors can access the islands on passenger ferries, tour boats, or shuttle boats. The ferry can be taken at Long Wharf in Boston from which it takes passengers to Georges Island. From Georges Island, additional ferries travel to the remaining islands.

Personal boats can also be used for transport to the Boston Harbor Islands. However, limited docking space exists at Georges Island. Passengers can be dropped off at the islands. All boats can be anchored securely offshore.

Some of the many exciting activities available on the islands include swimming, boating, camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, exploring, and bird watching. Sea kayaking is another popular pastime and is another fun way to explore the islands on your own. The harbor remains active with larger sea craft and great caution must be used when kayaking. Highlights of the actively visited islands are presented below.

Bumpkin Island features shell and slate beaches, walking paths, beautiful wildflowers, picnic areas, camping facilities, tours, and the historic remains of an old children's hospital.

Deer Island offers parks, walking paths, jogging trails, picnic areas, and fishing. The Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant is located here to maintain and protect against contamination in this area.

Gallops Island features picnic areas, sandy beach, hiking trails, remains of historic buildings, and walking tours.

Georges Island serves as the gateway to the rest of the islands and it offers free water taxi service. It features 30 acres of picnic areas, walking paths, parade grounds, dock, snack bar, and tours. Georges Island is home to historic Fort Warren, which dates back to the Civil War, and guided tours are available.

Grape Island offers 50 acres of camping, walking trails, hiking trails, picnic areas, tours, and bird watching. Wild berries are scattered all over the island.

Great Brewster Island is located in Boston's Outer Harbor. It features 23 acres of walking trails, remains of a military post, tidal pools, salt marsh, seagull breeding grounds, picnic sites, and private boating.

Little Brewster Island is the home of Boston Light, the country's oldest lighthouse. It is open for private boating and group tours.

Lovells Island includes beaches, a diversity of wildlife, rocky tide pools, picnic sites, camping, and trails. It features the remains of Fort Standish for exploration. A variety of special programs are offered throughout the summer. Some of the highlights of these include geology, folklore, history, and wildlife of the island.

Peddocks Island is one of the largest islands with more than 180 acres. It offers a new pier, pond, coastal forests, hiking trails, and camping. The remains of Fort Andrew, which acted as a defense station from 1904 through World War II, are on the island.

Spectacle Island includes 105 acres that offer two lifeguarded sandy beaches, marina, visitor center, café, and 5 miles of walking trails.

Thompson Island offers sailing, wildlife, salt marsh, clambakes, and wedding facilities.

Webb State Park offers natural land formations including drumlins, picnicking areas, fishing, walking trails, free parking, and a pavilion for rent. The park is open year round during daylight hours. No boat access is available. Visitors can enter the park via River Street in Weymouth.

World's End is a 244-acre peninsula offering beaches, rock formations, salt marsh, walking paths, cross country skiing, and horseback riding.

Practical Information

Visitors should be aware that food and beverages are not available on most of the islands. Any items that are brought to the island must also be carried away. Groups that include 25 or more guests must obtain a permit to tour or visit the islands. Overnight camping is only available on Grape, Lovells, Bumpkin, and Peddocks Islands.

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