Boat Tours, Things To Do, Sights to See in the Boston Harbor Islands

A Bridge Over A Body Of Water

Within Boston Harbor, there are nearly three dozen islands. Although some are rugged piles of rock serving as nesting spots for marine birds, there are quite a few that serve as recreational areas, event venues, and educational facilities. Take time to get to know these little bits of Boston’s big history!

Thirteen of the islands have been designated as Massachusetts State Parks and 34 are under the purview of the National Park Service. Over time, some of the islands have faded away, while others have become peninsulas as a result of both humans’ and Mother Nature’s rearrangement of the landscape. 

Before you get started on your great adventure, check in at the Boston Harbor Islands Welcome Pavilion.

Ferry Service
Perhaps the best time to experience the islands is Spring-Autumn. Ferry service is available out of Boston to Thompson, Spectacle and George Islands, with shuttles operating in between. In addition, private boats can be arranged to enjoy the many opportunities for a rustic get-away, including scenic Boston skyline weddings held on Thompson Island/Peddocks Island. Peddocks Island ferry service runs from Hingham, just south of the city.

Lighthouse Tour
Does maritime history excite you? Boston Harbor Islands park staff and volunteers from the US Coast Guard offer a two-hour (3 lighthouses) narrated tour Lighthouse tour cruise  Your voyage features close-up views of Long Island Light, Graves Light, and America’s first light station, Boston Light.

Overnight camping at Peddocks Island is the ultimate outdoor adventure just outside the hustle and bustle of the city.  Campers can reserve a tent site for a real “roughing it” adventure. If “glamping” is more your style, reserve one of the new yurts, complete with electricity and bunk beds. Peddocks is accessible by park ferry from Hingham or by private boat.  

The rangers at Peddocks Island offer day trips revolving around Forest Bathing. Please be sure to check their calendar and availability online. Forest Bathing is the practice of immersing yourself in nature in a mindful way, using your senses to derive a whole range of benefits for your physical, mental, emotional, and social health.  

Boston’s Friendly Skies
With a little advanced planning and a 45 minute drive to Norwood, you can experience an exhilarating aerial view of Boston with Boston Sunset Helicopter Tour .This experience is weather permitting.

Historic Island Uses
Castle Island: Location of Fort Independence, as well as surprising connections to both American writer Edgar Allen Poe and African-American Freemasonry.

Spectacle Island: From trash pile to natural treasure, Spectacle has undergone a dramatic transition to a verdant Harbor gem over the past few decades. 

Peddocks Island: The site of Fort Andrews, scenes from the 2010’s Shutter Island were filmed here.

Grape Island: Now crisscrossed by hiking trails, this is the site of a skirmish over hay, as recounted by First Lady Abigail Adams.

Bumpkin Island: Former site of a summer hospital for children with disabilities, a WW1 US Naval training camp, and a WW2 polio hospital.

Looking for a home base to launch your adventure from? Book a room at Battery Wharf Hotel Boston Waterfront. You will get a spectacular view of the Boston Harbor Islands and easy access to ferry services, water taxi's and more.