Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
There is one place in the national park system that we visit over and over again. In fact, we’ve been going there since before it was part of the national park system. The Boston Harbor Islands became a national recreation area in 1996. There are 34 different islands in the park, and they each have their own character. There are water taxis which will take you from island to island.
One of our favorites is Georges island. Georges is the site of Fort Warren. When the kids were young, we would always take a flashlight with us when we spent the day there. That way we could explore all of the secret passageways in the fort. There is lots of open room on Georges, and the wind is usually blowing pretty well out in the harbor, so we usually brought a kite too.
The boys’ favorite Fort Warren story is of the attempted murder of one of the officers by a soldier. He tried to drop a cannon ball on the officers head when he returned from Boston one night. A ranger giving us the tour showed us the cracked flagstone where the cannon ball landed (he missed). We always recommend you go on any ranger tours you can when you visit a park. Even when you think you know a place the rangers have something interesting you haven’t heard.
Of course, there’s a great view of Boston …
… but the view out towards the ocean is even nicer. That’s Boston Light behind the kids. It’s the oldest continually used lighthouse in the US.
The newest addition is Spectacle island. It used to be the dump. They used a lot of the dirt from the big dig to cap the dump, and now it’s a really nice place to visit with two hills and some nice walking trails.
The islands have a long history. Several of them were important to the local Native Americans. They still use the islands for ceremonies quite regularly. On the day that we visited folks from one of the local Wampanoag tribes were showing everyone how to perform some of their traditional dances.
It’s a delight to have these islands in the middle of the city and accessible to all. We really have one person to thank for it. Edward Rowe Snow was the tireless champion of the islands for years and years. He was known for his great stories about the various islands. For example, there’s Nix’s Mate, a tiny rock, where they used to hang pirates – aargh!