A Vacation in the Islands
Majestic ocean views, hiking trails, historic sites, rocky beaches, nature walks, campsites, and picnic areas abound in New England. To find them all together, take a 45-minute trip east (yes, east) of Boston to the Boston Harbor Islands (tel. 617/223-8666; www.bostonislands.com). Their unspoiled beauty is a welcome break from the urban landscape, and the islands are not well known, even to many longtime Bostonians. Thirty islands dot the Outer Harbor, and at least a half dozen are open for exploring, camping, or swimming. Bring a sweater or jacket. Plan a day trip or even an overnight trip, but note that only Georges Island has fresh water, and management strongly suggests bringing your own.
Ferries run to Georges Island, home of Fort Warren (1834), which held Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. You can investigate on your own or take a ranger-led tour. The island has a visitor center, refreshment area, fishing pier, picnic area, and wonderful view of Boston's skyline. Allow at least half a day, longer if you plan to take the free water taxi to Lovell, Gallops, Peddocks, Bumpkin, or Grape Island, all of which have picnic areas and campsites. Lovell Island also has the remains of a fort (Fort Standish).
Boston Harbor Cruises (tel. 877/SEE-WHALE or 617/227-4321; www.bostonharborcruises.com) serves Georges Island from Long Wharf; the trip takes 45 minutes, and tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $7 for children 4 to 12. Cruises depart daily at 10am, noon, 2pm, and 4pm in the spring and fall, and daily on the hour from 10am to 5pm in the summer. In the off season, check ahead for winter wildlife excursions (scheduled occasionally). Water taxis and admission to the islands are free.
Administered as a National Park Partnership, the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area (www.nps.gov/boha) is the focus of a public-private project designed to make the islands more interesting and accessible. Visit the website, consult the staff at the kiosk on Long Wharf, or contact the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands (tel. 617/740-4290; www.fbhi.org). The Friends coordinate a variety of cruises on and around the harbor throughout the summer and fall; check ahead for details.