Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Overview

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).

Highlights

Worlds End, Governors Island, Webb Memorial State Park, Spectacle Island

Must-Do Activity

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.

Best Trail

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.

Instagram-worthy Photo

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.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/boha/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

Passengers ferries charge fares, but there is not an entrance fee to the islands or Webb Memorial State Park.

Road Conditions

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.

Camping

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.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

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?

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site

Overview

Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. (1822-1903) is considered the founder of American landscape architecture.  His most famous designs include New York City’s Central Park and the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, but he also created the protective ramada for Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in Arizona.  This seven-acre site outside Boston, Massachusetts was authorized in 1979 to preserve his house and the Olmsted Archives for future researchers.

Highlights

Museum, film, office tour, Olmsted Archives

Must-Do Activity

In 1883, Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. moved to Brookline, Massachusetts to establish the world’s first landscape design office.  Self-guided exhibits and a short film inside his home (called Fairsted) are a good place to start before a ranger-guided tour of his office space full of historical artifacts and documents.  Occasionally, rangers lead tours of some of Olmsted’s parks in “The Emerald Necklace” of Boston.

Best Trail

There is a short path on the property and you can also walk to nearby Brookline Reservoir.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Relax on the veranda of Fairsted before or after your tour, which is especially nice when it is raining like during our visit.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/frla/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but the parking lot is small and street parking in the surrounding neighborhood may be necessary.  It is a bit of a walk from the Brookline Hills Subway Station.

Camping

Wompatuck State Park south of Boston has the nearest large campground, but camping is also allowed in parts of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Adams National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Longfellow House – Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More –Frederick Law Olmsted’s 1865 report was influential in the protection of which “crown jewel” of the National Park Service System?

Adams National Historical Park

Overview

The Adams Family (doo doo doo doo snap snap) was very influential in American history, with members serving as foreign ministers, two presidents, and literary historians.  They resided in Quincy, Massachusetts for five generations from 1720 to 1927.  The two presidents and their first ladies are buried in the crypt beneath United First Parish Church (admission fee charged), which is located a short walk from the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center.

Highlights

Film, trolley ride, Birthplaces of John and John Quincy Adams, Old House at Peace Field, United First Parish Church

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the NPS visitor center by watching a short film and purchasing tour tickets, which do not take reservations (so arrive early).  When your tour starts, board a trolley to travel to the two small houses (75 feet apart) where presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were born.  Next the trolley will take you to the Old House at Peace Field where your tour group splits in two to go inside the mansion and the Stone Library.

Best Trail

The two-hour tour is well orchestrated so no time is wasted, but you can enjoy a glimpse of the formal gardens as your tour group walks to the Stone Library, which houses more than 12,000 books.  If you drive there yourself, you can walk around outside the buildings.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Carriage House at Peace Field is not part of the guided tour, but you can get a good photograph of it from where the trolley picks you up and drops you off.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/adam/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$15 per person for tour or free with the America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

There is a parking garage near the NPS visitor center that allows free parking when you get your ticket validated by an NPS employee.

Camping

About 400 developed campsites are available at Wompatuck State Park, located 11 miles southeast of Quincy, Massachusetts.

Related Sites

Boston National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Salem Maritime National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Explore More – John and Abigail Adams moved into the Old House in 1788, but when was it originally built?

Cape Cod National Seashore

Overview

Northernmost of the ten National Seashores in the National Park Service (NPS) system, Cape Cod National Seashore includes 40 miles of shoreline on the narrow glacial deposit that sticks out of Massachusetts like a fishhook.  Its 44,000 acres are interspersed with towns that manage (and charge for) many of the beaches along the coastline.  Watch for gray seals playing in the surf, which attract predators like great white sharks to the shallows.  Even if you want to swim in the chilly ocean water, if you see gray seals it is best to go somewhere else so you are not confused with food.

Highlights

Nauset Light, Three Sisters Lighthouses, Old Harbor Life-Saving Station Museum

Must-Do Activity

The best place to start your visit is Salt Pond Visitor Center, which has a museum run by the NPS.  Located right off Highway 6, it is also a great place to stretch your legs on the Buttonbush or Nauset Marsh Trails.  From there, it is a short drive to Coast Guard or Nauset Light Beaches that offer tram service when parking lots are full.  Lifeguards are on duty at specific beaches from late June through Labor Day, which should give an indication of the short season when it is actually warm enough to enjoy the water.

Best Trail

There are 12 self-guided trails within Cape Cod National Seashore, plus three bicycle trails up to 7.3 miles long.  Our favorite was the one-mile Beech Forest Trail near Race Point Beach at the tip of Cape Cod.

Instagram-worthy Photo

If the red-striped Nauset Light looks familiar that is because you might have seen it on a bag of potato chips at the grocery store.  While there, take a walk over to the Three Sisters Lighthouses that have also been moved inland from their original eroding clifftop locations.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$25 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and a permit from the Oversand Station at Race Point is required for those wishing to drive on designated sand routes.

Camping

No camping is offered through the NPS, but there are several private and state-run campgrounds, plus countless motels and vacation rentals.

Related Sites

Salem Maritime National Historic Site (Massachusetts)

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (Massachusetts)

Fire Island National Seashore (New York)

Explore More –Who was the famous Italian inventor that transmitted transatlantic radio signals from massive antennas on Cape Cod in the early 1900s?

Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park

Overview

Roger Williams National Memorial used to be the only National Park Service (NPS) site in Rhode Island, but in 2014 Blackstone River Valley was upgraded from an affiliated National Heritage Corridor to a National Historical Park.  It commemorates the industrial revolution that changed the landscape of America during the 1800s, as well as the immigration of factory workers that changed its face.  Another NPS-affiliated point of interest in the tiny state is Touro Synagogue National Historic Site (admission charged) in Newport.

Highlights

Slater Mill Historic Site, Blackstone River State Park, Statue of Hope Fountain

Must-Do Activity

Formerly known as the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, this NPS unit remains a partnership between government agencies, non-profits, and businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Its centerpiece is the nation’s first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory: Slater Mill Historic Site in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  By 1880, this “hardest working river” was one of the most polluted in the country, but has recovered so that canoeists can float portions of its 46-mile length.

Best Trail

Blackstone River State Park has a free museum (inside the Kelly House) and a section of the canal that followed the river.  There are 3.5 miles of the 14-mile (of a planned 48) paved bikeway along the canal towpath within this Rhode Island park.  Another section of trail lies within Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park near River Bend Farm in Massachusetts.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Statue of Hope Fountain was dedicated on November 12, 1904 in the town of Hopedale, Massachusetts.  It was carved from Carrara marble by Waldo Story and was once considered the “finest drinking fountain in the United States.” We found it a little creepy looking.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/blrv/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None for Blackstone River State Park, but Slater Mill Museum charges $12 per person.

Road Conditions

All major roads paved

Camping

Rhode Island State Parks manages several campgrounds, including George Washington State Campground in Chepachet.

Related Sites

Roger Williams National Memorial (Rhode Island)

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Explore More – When did English immigrant Samuel Slater take over a failed mill to start the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in America?