Boston Harbor Islands serve up a summer of family fun and adventure

Kids love adventure, and what better way to bring them a sense of adventure than to jump on a ferry and head out to Boston Harbor Islands!  And getting there is even a big part of the fun!  By car, by ferry (only a 15-30 minute ride), or by your own aquatic vehicle of choice (kayak, motor/sailboat), there is an island to match your preferred mode of transportation.  Note that only two of the islands, Georges and Peddocks Islands, have paved walkways suitable for strollers.

A bit of info on these gems just off the coast of our beloved city of Boston…

The mission of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area is to make the Boston Harbor Islands system—with opportunities for education, recreation, and restful solitude within an urban area—an integral part of the life of the region and the nation by protecting the islands and their associated resources while at the same time improving public knowledge and access.

The Boston Harbor Islands, 34 islands in total, is a unit of the National Park Service. The land mass of the Boston Harbor Islands totals approximately 1,600 acres at high tide and 3,100 acres at low tide. The area extends seaward 11 miles from downtown Boston.  Visitors can come to learn about the history – dating back to Native American populations – and understand the unique ecosystems representing the dichotomoy of such a nature-rich habitat in such close proximity to a major metropolitan area.

Visitors can enjoy everything from  great birdwatching of native and migratory bird species, to quiet contemplation and exploration, to “rustic” camping, to (and here’s where Ziptivity comes in) an amazing array of family activities.  From summer camp and Outward Bound Summer Expeditions to a weekly calendar full of events, families can enjoy this beautiful Massachusetts resource without hurting the wallet.

The calendar of events caters to the active family (Healthy Heart Trail Run/Jog/Walk), philanthropic family (Stewardship Saturdays), the artsy family (Make a Mosaic), and the family who love New England culinary faire (think Camp Stove Cooking and Full Moon Clambakes!).  Here are just a few upcoming events this week:

As previously mentioned, rustic camping is also an option on the islands.  Now, what do they mean by “rustic”?  Well, not for the newly manicured.  This is serious stuff, despite the gorgeous city skyline view.  Rustic camping means no flush toilets, showers, fresh water, electricity, telephones, or supplies. So you’ll have to carry it all in, and carry it out. But while you’re camping, you can see the sun rise over the harbor and experience the islands in a whole new light.

Treasure hunts are also an option! You and the kids can go IslandCaching.  Use your own Global Positioning System (GPS) unit and clues provided by the IslandCache Site Sheets for a fun day in the park. Park GPS units are available for one-day loan: ask a park ranger at the Spectacle Island visitor center to check out a GPS unit and Site Sheets for the day!

Swimming is allowed in Boston Harbor – beaches on the islands range from sandy to pebbly. Spectacle Island has a sandy, lifeguarded, swimming beach. Lovells Island has a popular cobble beach. Most shorelines have cobbled beaches. The lighthouses are magnificent and there are three to visit: Long Island Light, Boston Light on Little Brewster Island where tours are given, and Graves Light.

Other helpful tips to know before you go… if you pack your meals (or even a grill), you must remember their carry on/carry off policy: all items brought on the islands must be taken off; this includes any charcoal briquettes, whether new or used. Georges Island has several stationary grills as well.  Pets are only allowed on four islands:  Deer and Nut Islands, Webb Memorial Park, and Worlds End. In terms of bathrooms, all the boats have adequate bathroom facilities, indoor bathrooms with plumbing are located on Spectacle Island, while other islands have composting toilets.

So head out on an adventure this summer and enjoy every minute of your trip to Boston Harbor Islands!  Whether it’s a guided tour or self-exploration, the whole family will (reluctantly) return home energized.


From ZipNews this week, here are my “Top 5 Metro Boston ZipPicks” for this weekend: (Subscribe to ZipNews here!)



For more Boston area activities, search here!


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