Boston Harbor Islands Trip Report
Sometimes you only have to look so far as your own back yard to find a good adventure. Such was the case this past Monday when I decided to make a day of it at the Boston Harbor Islands. I had heard good things about the islands before (“Minutes Away. Worlds Apart,” as the website claims) and concluded a day of hometown island hopping sounded like a damn good time.
I exited my apartment around 9:15 AM with a few self-imposed rules; Travel by foot or boat only, don’t stay on any one island too long, and cram as much into the day as possible. I don’t think this is exactly the recommended approach, but I was in a ground-covering ambitious kind of mood. I arrived at the Long Wharf North Ferry Center around 10:25, just as the second boat of the day was departing for Spectacle Island. I learned a little bit more about how it all works ($15 gets you a round trip and unlimited island-to-island ferry service) and what mistakes not to make (the last boat back was at 5:30). Minutes later I had set sail for Spectacle.
The ride out started as a pleasant one. It was a picture perfect late August day – mid 70s with a light breeze – and the ship crew provided passengers with all kinds of interesting tidbits (“See that building over there? I don’t know what it is, but it looks pretty cool.”) Despite the inviting atmosphere, there was a moment of personal trepidation that nearly proved tragic. Leaning out over the edge of the boat, I nearly lost “the hat” to an unforeseen gust of wind. For anyone that knows me, I have the type of relationship with my hat that may not exactly be considered a healthy one. Fortunately, some quick reflexes proved to be a lifesaver. Would I have made the highly questionable and admittedly bizarre leap otherwise? It’s tough to say…I was just happy to have “the hat” back.
Upon arriving at Spectacle Island, I was immediately impressed. Previously a Boston landfill, it has been cleaned up in the last 20 years starting with the Big Dig project. Open to the public only since 2006, it now attracts thousands of visitors each year. The tree coverage is rather sparse, yielding magnificent views of the Boston skyline. There’s park benches and gazebos intertwined throughout, offering the perfect picnic set-up. Its also home to the highpoint of the Boston Islands, which was naturally a must see for this hiker. After covering most of the terrain within a couple hours, I was on the 12:45 boat en route for Georges Island.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much Georges had going on. I was immediately greeted by Jasper White’s Summer Shack and also heard rumors of occasional weekend beer festivals. Additionally, there was a lively crowd partaking in all kinds of games that included volleyball and cornhole. But the real draw of Georges are the forts and surrounding history that goes with it. Once a Civil War Prison, it housed hundreds of Confederate Officers back in the day. Truly a historic setting with a picturesque backdrop, I still have plenty more to see and do at Georges.
Peddock Island was my next and final stop along the tour. Upon entering, I caught glimpse of an old Church hugging the shore, flanked by a lone oak tree. Like something right out of a Hollywood Set, it offered up the feeling of an earlier, simpler time…perhaps 1948, or maybe 1917, or even 1853 but certainly not 2012. Continuing on, the diversity of the island was truly remarkable: an unmarked trail quickly led me from the Church to a narrow strip of marshland, then through some locals’ backyard BBQ (who knew!) and finally an engulfing coastal forest. There’s also a few campsites set up on Peddock (Lovell, Grape, and Bumpkin also offer this feature), so a return trip seems imminent.
I caught the water taxi from Peddock to Georges and was on the last boat back to Boston at 5:30. Upon returning to my apartment around 7 PM I performed a little bit of number crunching and estimated I had covered about 15-16 miles of terrain. Yup, I was ready for some quality couch time.
The Boston Harbor Islands are a relatively unknown local attraction. I’ve since offered glowing reviews of the islands to friends – only to be stymied with a blank stare response. My reaction would have been the same not too long ago, but no, no, no…not anymore. Get out and explore this hometown treasure!