Harbor Islands, Boston
A fine activity on a sunny day is to board a boat to one of the harbor islands. Among the most accessible islands is Spectacle Island, a former landfill that has been transformed into a tourist destination with miles of walking trails, a beach, an outdoor restaurant (open daily in the summer, weekends only in the fall). The landfill has made the island's drumlins more pronounced, allowing for a 117-foot high perch on the north side with fine views of the Boston skyline. Picnics are allowed, but you are required to take all trash with you when you leave, and alcohol is strictly prohibited.
The best way to get there (unless you own your own boat) is to take the ferry operated by Boston Harbor Cruises, departing approximately hourly from Long Wharf North, just on the north side of the Marriott Long Wharf. Ticket prices vary depending on season ($15 round trip per adult, $9 per child as of 2014). When you purchase your ticket, you are required to specify which returning boat you will take. If you miss your boat or want to take an earlier boat, you will be accommodated on a space-available basis. If all remaining ferries are full, the park rangers will call a water taxi for you (fare approximately $100).
We went out to one of the Boston Harbor Islands on Saturday (4 June 2005): Georges Island. To get out to the island, one catches a ferry from Long Wharf in downtown Boston, for about $10. We were hoping to get out to see more than Georges Island, but the other islands aren't accessible by park ferry until later this month. The ferry ride out to Georges Island is only about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the time...only so many ferries come to the island, and you'd hate to get trapped there overnight!
Georges Island features an old Civil War era fort, used to defend the harbor, and to house Confederate prisoners. The fort is walkable, and has many plaques describing the fort, its rooms, and some of the historical background. There's also a snack bar, and some port-a-potties.
We lucked out and had great weather for our visit. I took several photos, and hope to show them to y'all later. We forgot the sunscreen, of course, so today I look much like a lobster! I need to buy a good hat...I've got a slight burn on my scalp...
A 3 1/2 hour tour of Little Brewster Island and Boston Light leaves from Fan Pier in Boston. Once on the boat you are treated to a narrated harbor tour. You will be able to see Logan airport, harbor islands, and 3 other lighthouses.
Upon reaching Little Brewster Island, you will be greeted by Sally the lighthouse keeper, her husband Jay, and dog Sam. They will tell you about the history of the lighthouse and then you can explore the island. If you aren't afraid of heights (like I am), you can climb to the top of Boston light.
(story taken from Suite101.com)
During the Civil War Fort Warren held Conf. prisoners.
Samuel had been married only 48 hours before he had to go off to war. Shortly after he was captured by Union soldiers. He smuggled a letter asking his wife to come. After receiving the letter , Melanie went to Boston and staked out the fort. When she was familiar with the guard's routines, she put on a Union uniform and cut her hair.
Whistling a song they had sang during childhood, she waited. A rope was lowered, she got into the prison thru the musketry loophole.
She revealed that she had smuggled in a pick, shovel, pistol, and bullets intending to use them for the escape, but the prisoners came up with a plan: tunnel through the fort to the parade grounds. overpower the guards and take the fort for the Confederacy.
They dug, smuggling out the dirt. But they miscalculated their path. A guard heard scraping of a pickaxe and alerted commanding officer.
They were hauled out of the tunnel. Melanie pulled her pistol and fired at the colonel. The barrel of the old pistol exploded and shrapnel flew everywhere. One piece struck her husband. It drove in to his brain and killed him instantly.
February 7, 1862 Melanie was executed as a spy. Before she was hanged she requested that she be allowed to dress as a woman again.She was executed and buried in a black dress .
Shortly after her death a soldier named Richard Cassidy was stationed at his post. He felt a sharp pain as a pair of hands clutched his throat. Twisting around, he saw Melanie’s spirit. She was dressed in the black gown that she was wearing when she died. Terrified, he wrenched himself loose and ran off. He was sentenced to 30 days of solitary confinement for leaving his post.
Others at Fort Warren had similar occurances. Some claimed that the ghost chased them away. During World War II a soldier was frightened so badly that he spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum.
The Lady in Black is still around, despite the fact that her remains were moved home .
Begun in 1833 and taking nearly thirty years to complete, Fort Warren was intended to defend Boston Harbor from a sea attack. It held Confederate prisoners during the Civil War. The fort was garrisoned through the Spanish American War and World War I. Fort Warren was regarrisoned for World War II after over a decade on caretaker status. It was finally decommissioned in 1950.
Ferry to Georges Island leaves from Long Wharf in Boston.
To reach Long Wharf, take the MBTA blue line to the Aquarium stop and walk toward the waterfront. The Harbor Express Dock is located on the north side of the Long Wharf Marriot next to Christopher Columbus Park.
If you insist on driving: From the south, take I-93 to exit 23 (Atlantic Avenue & Northern Avenue). Follow signs to Atlantic Avenue and the New England Aquarium.
From the north, take I-93 to exit 23 Purchase Street/South Station. Take your first left on to Congress, then an immediate left on to Atlantic Avenue. Follow signs to the New England Aquarium.
Garage parking is available near Long Wharf for about $25 per day. (On-street parking is free on Sundays, though "big dig" construction makes finding a space difficult)
What to Pack
*Wear sneakers or other comfortable walking shoes.
*Water breezes make for cooler ferry rides, requiring jackets or windbreakers (no matter how hot it is on land). Dress in layers.
* Water & food. There is a snack bar on George's Island but I've been there when it was closed. Also, if you visit surrounding islands there isn't any food or water available.
*Camera, of course!
There are a few Light Houses in Boston Harbor such as The Graves Light.
This 113 foot granite block tower in the picture guides ships through the north channel into Boston's inner harbor. Built on a rock ledge in 1905, the station is named for Vice Admiral Thomas Graves. Its beacon flashes twice every 12 seconds.
Check out the Northern Lights Tour.
"The Northern Lights tours are narrated by a member of the American Lighthouse Foundation. It begins in Boston with passes by Long Island Head Light and Deer Island Light, and then passes near Boston Light, the oldest lighthouse station in America. Heading north, the tour will pass by several sites including Graves Light, Hospital Point Light, Marblehead Light, Fort Pickering Light, Bakers Island Light, Eastern Point Light, Ten Pound Island Light, Straitsmouth Island Light and more. The Northern Lights tour culminates with a view of Thacher Island, site of the only still operating twin lighthouses left in the entire country."
A picture of the Deer Island Light follows. You get a great view of Boston going by Deer Island Light!
If you go down to visit the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library at Columbia Point in South Boston, continue down the road a ways to Castle Island for a stroll and view Boston from the hillside. You'll be glad that you did! It's a different perspective on the viewing of Boston.
Only locals know about Castle Island (pictured), in South Boston (see http://www.state.ma.us/film/feefree/castleisland.htm). It's a great place to walk or roller blade, along Boston Harbor. It's the site of an old armory. You'll pass through one of Boston's great historic neighborhoods to get there. Take Broadway east until it ends at the water. You can stop at your choice of Irish pubs along the way.
Also, George's Island ('http://www.state.ma.us/film/feefree/geoisland.htm) is another gem and less crowded than Castle Island. George's Island is accessible only by boat. Served in season by Bay State Cruise Line from Long Wharf, Boston and Hewitt's Cove, Hingham or by private boat. Long Wharf is convenient to Aquarium Station on the Blue Line.
Castle Island, also known as Fort Independence, is one of those treasures often missed by most tourists visiting Boston. It's tranquil surroundings have been host to and served as the turnaround point for the Tall Ships sailing into Boston Harbor, and is an architectural wonder from a Revolutionary age not often seen by the average tourist. Surrounding it is a picturesque 5-6 mile causeway/walk the locals refer to as 'the loop'. (the enclosed tide pool waterway is called Pleasure Bay). I often venture off by foot around the imposing fortified walls at dusk, though have never been inside for the guided tour. Ideal for casual bicycling, rollerblading or an evening stroll. The site is located on William J. Day Boulevard and is maintained by the Metropolitan District Commission. Their website is http://www.state.ma.us/mdc/activ.htm
Also in the area: Carson Beach, Harry McDonough Sailing Program-617-268-8556, Ice-skating rinks open November-Mid March-617-727-4708 for ice rentals. Other Info: Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau 888-SEE-BOSTON