Escape the City: Boston Harbor Islands

Spectacle Island and Ferry in the Distance

View from Spectacle Island

Just minutes from one of the busiest sections of Boston you can hop on a ferry and spend the day surrounded by nature on one of the Boston Harbor Islands.  If it weren’t for the beautiful skyline in the distance, you’d forget how close you were to a major city.

Ferries to Spectacle and Georges Islands depart twice hourly in the summer months and hourly during the fall and spring from Long Wharf-North conveniently located near the New England Aquarium or a short walk from Faneuil Hall. Want to visit one of the 30 other islands? Visit for more information. The ferry ride itself is worth the $15 adult or $9 youth round-trip ticket with discounted family and senior rates available. You’ll have the option to sit down below and watch the waters through the large clear windows or climb up top to feel the breeze as you watch the Boston skyline recede in the distance. On board guides offer information along the way, but if you’re hard of hearing as I am you’ll find it impossible to make out the voices over the roar of the engine.


On a recent adventure with my four year old niece, I visited Spectacle Island, the closest island to Boston at just a 20 minute ride. If you’re visiting in the warm weather you’ll want to be sure to pack swimwear. You can wade out into the harbor from one of the sandy edges or stay along the lifeguard protected beach area.


Sea glass Shards and Shells

If you prefer to stay on dry land you’ll have plenty to see along the shore. Every inch of the beach is covered in beautiful sea glass, shells, and rocks. One could spend hours sifting through the colorful shards of glass. With some inspection, you might even find an old ceramic tea cup worn smooth by the ocean, bearing the date 1925. I’ve never seen so much sea glass on a beach and did wonder whether it had been deposited once and periodically replenished. I’m sure an internet search would produce an answer, but who would want to ruin the wild wonder of thinking that it had all washed up by chance?


Bored of the beach? You can venture around the island on a hiking trail that follows the perimeter and branches across the center. Bring a picnic (and trash bag to carry out your discards) and find a shady spot beneath a tree or on one of the many picnic benches. You can also purchase sandwiches, salads, drinks, and snacks at the shop in the visitor’s center.


If you start the day early enough you can plan to island hop and make your way from Spectacle to Georges Island before returning back through the harbor. The perfect opportunity for learning, exploring, hiking, camping, relaxing, or just a day away from the city, Boston Harbor Islands are a must see for tourists and locals alike.


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