Established in 1996, there are 34 separate sites encompassed within Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. Not all of the areas are islands, some, like Worlds End, are the tips of peninsulas with roads accessing them from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. The park is a managed by a hodgepodge of agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boston Light on Little Brewster Island (open to ranger-led tours in the summer months).
Worlds End, Governors Island, Webb Memorial State Park, Spectacle Island
It is probably best to pick one island and thoroughly explore it by catching a ferry from Long Wharf North in downtown Boston, Hingham Shipyard, or Pemberton Point in Hull. We chose Georges Island which is mostly taken up by Fort Warren, which dates back to 1850. During the Civil War, the fort served as an artillery base and a prison. The National Park Service (NPS) operates an excellent museum on the island and shows a film on its history. Georges and Spectacle Islands are the only two islands that offer food for sale, plus they have water taxis leave from each dock to access many of the other islands.
Spectacle Island has five miles of hiking trails and also contains the highest point within Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area at 157 feet in elevation.
The site of the first lighthouse in America, Boston Light on Little Brewster Island can be seen from Georges Island and is open to guided tours in the summer.
Passengers ferries charge fares, but there is not an entrance fee to the islands or Webb Memorial State Park.
Most of the islands do not allow private vehicles, but you can bring your bicycle onto the ferries. Webb Memorial State Park, Deer Island, Worlds End, and Nut Island are accessible by paved roads in the Boston area.
There are yurts on Peddocks Island and tent camping is allowed on Bumpkin, Grape, Peddocks, and Lovells Islands from late June through Labor Day. Backcountry permits are required for stays on undeveloped islands.
Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts)
Gateway National Recreation Area (New York-New Jersey)
Explore More – During the Civil War, who wrote the lyrics to “John Brown’s Body” while serving at Fort Warren?