Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

#13 in Best Things To Do in Boston
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Key Info

Details

Beaches, Natural Wonders, Neighborhood/Area, Hiking, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 1.0Food Scene
  • 5.0Atmosphere

If you’re wanting to get outdoors in the greater Boston area, consider hopping a ferry to the Boston Harbor Islands. This collection of 34 islands located in the Massachusetts Bay boasts plenty of things to do and see including historic sites, hiking trails, beaches, wildlife and much more. Popular islands include Spectacle, Georges and Peddocks, though ferries also go to Lovells, Grape, Bumpkin and Thompson.

The 114-acre Spectacle Island is a great option for those looking to hike. Here, you’ll find 5 miles of trails, including one which leads to the harbor’s highest hill, offering incredible views of Boston’s skyline. If you’re looking for a place where you can sink your toes into the sand, head to Lovells Island. Here, you’ll find secluded shorelines as well as tidepools (when it's low tide, a whopping 71 acres are added to the island’s land mass). Meanwhile, history lovers will enjoy a trip to Georges Island. Georges Island is home to Fort Warren, which the U.S. government used for patrolling and training troops as well as housing Confederate prisoners during Civil War times. Peddocks Island, one of the largest of the Boston Harbor Islands, offers a little bit of everything. This island is considered a prime camping spot and features scenic hiking trails that pass through coastal forests, headlands connected by tombolos and the biggest beach of any island. You’ll also find a little bit of history thanks to Fort Andrews and a restored chapel from World War II. 

The Boston Harbor Islands are easily accessible from downtown Boston. Recent travelers are often surprised that this attraction isn’t one of the more popular things to do in Boston, calling the islands both underrated and affordable. The islands are all free to visit and the only way to reach the islands is by ferry. Roundtrip tickets are $19.45 for adults and $12.95 for kids. Departure times vary depending on time of year, day of the week and destination. Direct ferries are available to Georges Island and Spectacle Island. There are also interisland ferries that go to multiple destinations, including a line for Georges, Spectacle, Peddocks and Lovells. For more information, visit the Boston Harbor Islands' website.

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#1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Four buildings – Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market, North Market and South Market – constitute Faneuil Hall Marketplace, with the oldest being Faneuil Hall. Built in 1742 and now located on the Freedom Trail, Faneuil Hall has had a long and important history in Massachusetts politics. Samuel Adams once stood here to push for resistance against the British, and abolitionists and suffragists have stood on their soapboxes here. In fact, this is where Jonathan Mayhew famously challenged the Sugar Act of 1764 by proclaiming, "no taxation without representation." Since Mayhew's declaration, the marketplace has expanded to include more than 100 shops and restaurants. 

Some former visitors caution that the items sold at Faneuil Hall Marketplace are a bit overpriced. However, if you're looking to kill some time or snap some great photos, consider strolling through the market's halls. You'll also find various cuisines served in Quincy Market if you're in need of a quick bite. Keep in mind that this market gets crowded quickly (especially on weekends and in the summer), so it's best to visit during a weekday if you don't want to encounter hordes of people. 

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