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Frequently Asked Questions

Accessibility

Are the islands accessible to people with physical disabilities?

The main ferries serving the islands are accessible to people with disabilities; however, none of the islands currently meet those requirements.  The park is working to rectify this situation.  A few islands can be available to people with disabilities:  Georges Island offers paved and fairly level paths and Spectacle Island has one accessible crushed stone trail.  Although Peddocks Island has accessible paths along Fort Andrews, the smaller interisland connectors do not have adequate access.  Grape, Bumpkin, and Lovells Islands have trails of dirt or grass that are not suitable for people with disabilities.  Please call with specific questions.

How do I get to the Boston Harbor Islands?

Park passenger ferries and shuttle boats bring visitors to the islands from May to October.  Go to By Passenger Ferry for more information.

Boating

Can I take my own boat out to the islands?

Yes.  For access to Lovells, Peddocks, Grape, and Bumpkin Islands, you may drop off your guests and gear at the island docks and anchor offshore.  Dinghies are usually available when anchoring.  Docking is also possible at the Spectacle Island Marina for a fee.  Recreational boats may not dock at Georges Island while the pier is under repair during the 2013 season.

Are there moorings at the Boston Harbor Islands?

There are currently twenty-five moorings adjacent to the Boston Harbor Islands. Twelve are near Spectacle Island, two near Gallops I., two near Georges I., and nine near Peddocks Island.  These moorings are currently available at your own risk, and on a first come first serve.    

Camping

Is it a long walk to the island campsites?

No tent campsite is more than a few hundred yards.  The longest walk are to the yurt sights on Peddocks Island, located up a small hill about 1/3 mile from the dock.  Not to worry:  all camping islands are equipped with hand-pulled wagons to aid campers in hauling equipment to their campsite.

How many campers can fit in one campsite?

Each campsite will fit two 3 person tents.  Since three person tents are best with two people, One site will comfortably fit four campers.  We don't recommend more, unless children are among the campers.

How can I reserve the specific site I want?

Both tent and yurt sites on Peddocks Island are site-specific.  

Individual campsites on Grape, Bumpkin, and Lovells Island are not site-specific.  They are available first come first serve only to those campers with reservations for that night.  Once you arrive, the island staff will check you in at the dock, explain the camping regulations, and point out the campsite area(s).  Therefore, the earlier you arrive on the island, the more campsite choices you will have.    

Events

Can I hold a group outing on the islands?

Yes, groups are welcomed in the Harbor Islands.  Georges and Spectacle Islands are the most common for group outings.  If you will be bringing more than 25 people to the islands, you may be eligible for group ferry rates if you reserve ticket in advance.  You must then fill out the DCR’s Recreational Use Permit

Can I hold a catered event on the islands for my group?

Vendors currently offer full-service catered events on three islands, including clambakes and picnics.  For events on Spectacle or Georges Islands contact Rita's Catering at 617-389-1601. For events on Thompson Island contact the Thompson Island Conference Center at 617-328-3900, ext. 107 or 110.

Facilities & Services

Is there lodging in the park?

Campsites are the only overnight accommodations within the park. Visitor accommodations are abundant in the Greater Boston area.  Contact the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau (www.bostonusa.com) for information about the 250 hotels, B&Bs, and guest houses in the region.  Call 888-SEE-BOSTON (888-733-2678).  Groups interested in having a conference or retreat at Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center can stay in a newly renovated hotel-style dormitory or in tents.

Where are the bathrooms?

Passenger ferries running from Boston to Georges and Spectacle and from Quincy to Georges are equipped with bathrooms.  There are toilet facilities at each of the islands served by ferry or shuttle service (Georges, Spectacle, Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, Lovells, and Thompson Islands).  Bathrooms are not available on Little Brewster Island or on the Inter-Island Shuttles.

Are there rain shelters on the islands?

Georges Island offers covered picnic areas and covered areas within Fort Warren.  There are also a few shelters and a tent on Spectacle Island.  Peddocks island has inside space at the visitor center.  Other islands have minimal, or in some cases no, structures with adequate rain protection, so be sure to check the weather.

Are there telephones on the islands?

There are no public phones, but in general there is cell phone reception in most areas within the harbor.  All island rangers are equipped with radios in case of emergencies.

Fishing

Can I fish at the Boston Harbor Islands?

Yes, as long as it is away from boaters and swimmers.  If you are age 16 or over, you must have a MA, NH, RI, or CT fishing permit.      

What type of fish could I catch at the Boston Harbor Islands?

Striped bass, bluefish, flounder, skate, haddock, and cod are among the many varieties of fish you may catch at the Boston Harbor Islands. 

Food & Grilling

How do I reserve a bunch of picnic tables for my group?

At Georges and Spectacle Island:  You may only reserve tables by hiring Island Caterers for your group.  However, there are over 200 picnic tables total on both islands, room enough for most groups even on the busiest days.  It is likely you will also be able to shift them around as needed, but make sure to ask an island ranger first!

At Webb Memorial Park:  contac the DCR for use of the gazebo area.

Which islands have grills? May I bring my own grill?

There are small stationary grills on Georges, Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, and Lovells Island, as well as Webb Memorial Park.  Visitors may bring their own quality grill, and their own charcoal and cooking utensils.  Please remember to let charcoals burn to ash and take all trash home with you after use.  Grills and open flames of any kind are prohibited on Spectacle, Nut, and Deer Island.    

Are there any snack bars?

Georges and Spectacle Island have snack bars with excellent food. Both are open seven days a week during the summer season - typically from the third Saturday in June to Labor Day. Before and after these dates (fall and spring "shoulder" seasons), the snack bars are open Saturdays, and Sundays.  Ferries from Boston and Hingham are stocked with snack items and refreshments.  

Hiking & Walking

Which island has the most hiking trails?

Spectacle Island is over 100 acres, with spectacular views of Boston Harbor and its surroundings.  Worlds End in Hingham, at 250 acres, is the largest of the peninsula area.  Both have about five miles of hiking trails.  All hiking at the Boston Harbor Islands is light to moderate.

Do the Islands have any historic trails?

Yes-many islands were the former sites of forts, hotels, hospitals, and homes.  Many of these historic paths are best taken with a park ranger during an island tour.  Please refer to each island for specific tour times.

Kayaking

What about sea kayaking?

Boston Harbor and the islands offer spectacular opportunities for the experienced sea kayaker.  Exploring the islands by sea kayak offers more flexibility than using the park ferry and shuttle system—kayakers can have an adventure not yet available to most visitors who are limited to islands that have piers and ferry service.  Remember: The harbor is an active port used by HUGE cargo ships and tankers.  They cannot stop to avoid a kayak!  We suggest paddling in Quincy or Hingham Bay.

Prohibited Items & Activities

Is alcohol allowed?

Use of alcohol by individuals and groups is prohibited at the Boston Harbor Islands, unless part of a park event that holds a liquor permit.  In general, visitors may not bring alcohol to the islands.

May I bring my radio to the park?

Amplified music is not permitted on any island in the park.  However, feel free to enjoy any music utilizing your headphones or earbuds.  

Swimming

Can I swim on the Boston Harbor Islands?

Yes, the only lifeguarded swimming beach within the Boston Harbor Islands national park area is at Spectacle Island. There is unsupervised swimming at Lovells Island (swim at your own risk). Swimming is prohibited near all island docks.

How is the water quality?

The Boston Harbor cleanup and creation of the Deer Island Sewage Treatmeny Plant have resulted in Boston Harbor going from one of the dirtiest urban harbors in the country to one of the cleanest.  There is still the occasional summer day when the bacteria count may be too high.  This is usually due to excessive rainfall, and the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation will close harbor beaches, including Spectacle Island.  Water temperaure in mid summer is in the high 60s, a little warmer than Nantasket Beach and equal to or slightly warmer than other ocean beaches of New England.      

How is the water temperature for swimming?

Water temperaure in mid summer is in the high 60s, a little warmer than Nantasket Beach and equal to or slightly warmer than other ocean beaches of New England.      

Things to See

What wildlife will I see on the Boston Harbor Islands?

The boat ride is not quite far out enough to see whales or dolphins, but expect plenty of sea birds and an occasional harbor seal.  The islands themselves will have deer, fox, raccoons, rabbits, turkeys, coyotes, muskrats, voles, and squirrels.  There is also the wonderful biodiversity of the tidepool and insects. Please remember NOT to attract, feed, or disturb any species of wildlife.  

Where do I go for the most scenic views?

Each island and peninsula has at least one viewing area, where one can sit and enjoy a breathtaking ocean view.  The best views of Boston are from Spectacle Island's north or south drumlin.  The best outer island viewing areas are the observation tower at Georges Island or anywhere on Little Brewster Island.  But remember-you can't go wrong with scenic views from any island!

Traveling to the Islands

How long is the ferry ride?

During the summer season, it takes approximately 20 minutes to travel from Long Wharf North in Boston to Spectacle Island and 30 minutes from Long Wharf North to Georges Island.  During our spring and fall season, it takes either 20 or 45 minutes to arrive at Spectacle depending upon the order of stops at the two islands; check the schedule carefully.  Please consult the schedule for specific times between islands and mainland piers on the Island Connectors serving Hingham, Grape, Bumpkin, Peddocks, Hull, Georges, and Lovells.

Can we bring our car to the islands?

There are four peninsulas, which are part of the national park area accessible by car and with onsite parking (a parking fee may apply): Deer Island, Nut Island, Worlds End, and Webb Memorial.

Where do I park near Long Wharf North in Boston?

There are many private lots available, with separate weekend and weekday rates.  

For Weekends:  International Place Parking (1 International Place) has discount parking:  $9.00, then pick up a $2.00 discount voucher at the Pavilion or Ferry Center.  From this location, take a left onto the Greenway and walk 3-4 minutes to the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion.  International Place is a secure facility, so expect to show your ID.  Other private lots offer weekend discounted rates of $10 to $15.

For Weekdays:  We recommend public transit.  Most private lots are over $25.  Lewis Wharf at 28 Atlantic Ave. in the North End is a 5 minute walk.  It has limited space, but at $15 is very inexpensive.

How can I take public transit to the Boston Harbor Islands?

Long Wharf North in Boston is close to many subway stops on the "T".  The Aquarium stop on the Blue Line is a one minute walk to the Ferry Center.  For those not wishing for subway transfers to go one stop, State on the Orange Line and Haymarket on the Green and Orange Line are a 5-7 minute walk away as well.

The othher Gateways can all be accessed via MBTA Bus routes:  Quincy (#220, 221, or 222); Hingham (#220); Hull (#714), and South Boston EDIC Pier (#SL2)..  Three of the four peninsula areas are near MBTA bus route stops:  Webb Memorial Park (#221); Nut Island (#216); and Deer Island (#712).  Please refer to the MBTA for more details.