Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area | PARK AT A GLANCE

Shoreline of Little Brewster Island, part of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Shoreline of Little Brewster Island, part of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area


Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area encompasses thirty islands and four peninsula parks in Boston Harbor. Eight of the islands have visitor amenities such as hiking trails, campgrounds, visitor centers, historical military forts and batteries, and lighthouses. Ferries provide regular service during the summer to Spectacle, Georges, and Peddocks islands, while Thompson Island has service on the weekends. Five islands are closed to the public, but the rest, most of which are barren, can be visited by those with their own boat.

After closing a number of military facilities in Boston Harbor at the end of World War II, the Federal Government put Georges and Lovells islands, along with the East Head area of Peddocks Island and a portion of Spectacle Island, up for auction in 1957. Massachusetts purchased Georges, Lovells, and Spectacle, while East Head was sold to Isadore Bromfield (the rest of the island remained privately owned).

In 1970 the entire Peddocks Island was purchased by the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission (now the Department of Conservation and Recreation) by evoking eminent domain, and it and the other islands owned by the state became part of the new Boston Harbor Islands State Park. In 1996, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area was created, encompassing the state park lands, plus adding federal and private park land. The park officially goes by the name Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park, though the National Park Service refers to it as Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Today the park is managed by a partnership of many organizations. The following is a list of partners and the properties owned or managed:

  • City of Boston: Spectacle, Long, Moon, and Rainsford islands
  • Massachusetts DCR: Spectacle, Georges, Lovells, Peddocks, Bumpkin, Grape, Gallops, Great Brewster, Middle Brewster, Outer Brewster, Calf, Little Calf, Green, Hangman, Raccoon, Slate, and Sheep islands, plus Web Memorial State Park
  • Massachusetts Water Resources Authority: Deer and Nut islands
  • National Park Service: Long Island Head Lighthouse, Thompson Island
  • The Trustees of Reservations: World’s End
  • Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center: Thompson Island
  • U. S. Coast Guard: Little Brewster Island, Nixes Mate

Other partners are Massport (transportation connections), Boston Redevelopment Authority (Long Wharf North), Boston Harbor Now (provides fund raising), and the Advisory Council (public relations).


The island parks of Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area are open year-round from sunrise to sunset for those with their own boat. For those relying on public ferries to get to the islands, service to Georges Island typically runs from mid-May to Columbus Day, while service to Spectacle and Peddocks is from mid-June through Labor Day Weekend. There is also weekend service to Thompson Island from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Keep in mind that times can change, so be sure to get the latest ferry schedule on the official Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park web page.

Operating hours of the four peninsula parks—Nut Island, Deer Island, William Web Memorial Park, and World’s End—tend to be year-round from sunrise to sunset.

Visitor centers on Spectacle and Georges islands are open whenever the ferry operates.


The only property in Boston Harbor Island National Recreation Area that has a fee to visit is World’s End, a privately owned peninsula park. The only other fees involved are for camping and riding the ferry.


By ferry, visitors can usually get to Spectacle and Georges islands on the same day, but Peddocks and Thompson islands each require a separate day to visit. Not counting camping, swimming, or all-day picnicking, each island has 2 to 3 hours worth of activities.

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Last updated on January 16, 2024
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