Boston Harbor Islands

If you’re not ready to say goodbye to summer or are just looking for a fun trip before we all get snowed in again, think about taking trip to the Boston Harbor Islands!  Not all of the islands are open to the public year-round.  At this time of the year, you can still get to Georges Island and Spectacle Island via ferry until Columbus Day (just a few weeks away).  You can get to them by taking the Boston Harbor Island Ferry from Boston’s Long Wharf (the Aquarium stop on the Blue Line).

Georges Island (Wikimedia Commons Image by Doc Searls)

Georges Island is home to Fort Warren, a fort that defended Boston Harbor from 1861 to the end of World War II. It was decommissioned in 1947, and during the American Civil War, it served as a prison for Confederate officers and government officials. It was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in 1970. There is a visitor’s center and a snack bar on this island where people can buy prepared foods such as hot dogs, French fries, burgers, and ice cream. Grills are available so that people can grill food that they’ve brought to the island from home.You can also do what my husband and I did when we visited this summer, which is carry prepared food from home onto the island, and eat lunch on one of the many picnic tables that are available near the ferry terminal and visitor center. It was lovely being able to sit outside on a nice day, chowing down on grapes, cheese and crackers, and salami, people watching and chuckling over the antics of a fearless seagull who was determined to snag a bite of someone’s lunch. Walking trails encircle Fort Warren, and benches dot the landscape.

Spectacle Island (image from

There is an inter-island ferry to Spectacle Island, which my husband and I took during our visit. Spectacle Island is also home to a visitor’s center and a snack bar, as well as a lifeguard-manned beach, and walking trails.  We walked to one of the highest points on Spectacle, and took some photos. There is a gazebo that was dedicated to Krystle Campbell, one of the Boston Marathon bombing victims, and spent a few minutes there, enjoying the peaceful scenery. It was nice to see people enjoying the beauty of the island, especially parents exploring the islands with their children. These scenes put a smile on my face.


The Krystle M. Campbell Gazebo

The Krystle M. Campbell Gazebo (Image from, courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation)

Some of the organizations that help manage the Boston Harbor Islands are the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the National Park Service, the United States Coast Guard, the City of Boston, and the Thompson Island Outward Bound Center.

One fun fact that I learned during our initial trip out to Georges Island was that in 2008, Peddocks Island (another Boston Harbor Island that people can camp on) was used for filming scenes from the movie Shutter Island.

It’s too late now to visit Lovells Island, Peddocks Island, Grape Island, and Bumpkin Island, but if you’re already planning activities for next summer, these islands offer camping.  Lovells Island is home to picnic areas, walking trails, and a non-supervised swimming beach. This island was named after Captain William Lovell, a resident of Dorchester. Peddocks Island is home to the defunct Fort Andrews, another fort that was active in harbor defense from 1904 to the end of World War II.  Peddocks Island is also the only one of the camping islands that has access to drinkable drinking water, which might be a factor in your decision of where to camp.


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