Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Safari #7: Islands?

"Islands?  What islands?" is the response of many Bostonians when you tell them that you recently visited Boston's Harbor islands.  Yes, the harbor does have islands - 30 in fact - that are a combination of national parks, wildlife reserves, privately-owned areas, and publicly accessible recreation areas.  Opened to the public in 2006, the Harbor Islands boast a wide array of activities for the adventure seeking Bostonian.  And the best part?  They are only a short ferry ride away.

My latest safari took me to Spectacle Island, one of the harbor's largest,  for a Sunday afternoon beach outing.  The island has a pebbly beach, boat docks, a visitor center with restroom facilities, Jasper White's Summer Shack (limited menu available), and free jazz concerts on Sunday afternoons (making the timing of my visit perfect).  The Adirondack chairs along the visitor center's open deck are a nice place to take a break from the sun,  drink a cool beverage, and listen to jazz and seagulls.

It's hard to believe that this little oasis has a sordid history (which you can learn more about on one of the island's free guided tours).  Once a horse disposal facility and garbage dump (sailors used to navigate their way through harbor fog using the islands' stench as their guide), this island was converted into a national recreation area and green facility.*  The transformation is quite a sight to behold.     

Some key points to remember:
  • Sunblock - just in case you forget yours, the rangers will provide it to you at no cost.
  • Leave No Trace - while the island provides restrooms and other facilities to make your stay more enjoyable, it is your responsibility to remove whatever you have brought to the park including garbage.
  • Return Time - when you purchase your ferry ticket, you will need to indicate what time you would like to return.  While it's possible to return earlier or later than your scheduled time, you will be on standby.
The Harbor Islands are easily accessible via public transportation.  Take the blue line to the Aquarium stop.  On the Columbus Park side of the Marriot Long Wharf Hotel, you'll find informational kiosks, ticket booths, and the ferry docks.  For more information, visit

*Historical information obtained from

1 comment:

  1. I never knew about this! I'll definitely head out for jazz one Sunday soon.