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Boston Harbor & Islands

Boston looks out onto Massachusetts Bay and numerous islands, some of which it's delightful to visit.


Boston's Harborwalk is a walking, jogging and cycling path winding from East Boston near Logan Airport, through Charlestown past the USS Constitution, through the historic North End and downtown Boston, to South Boston and Dorchester.

  HarborWalk sign, Boston MA
  Look for this sign...

The path is mostly continuous, though in some industrial areas, for safety reasons, it is a series of "observation points" from which travelers along it may observe maritime industrial activity.

The Harborwalk also connects to new and existing networks of inland trails, including the Emerald Necklace system, the Charles River Esplanade, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway (map).

Boston HarborWalk
Boston Harbor Now

15 State Street, Suite 1100
Boston, MA 02109
Tel: 617-223-8667
Fax: 617-223-8671
Email: info@bostonharbornow.org

New England Aquarium

It seems fitting that a sea-conscious city such as Boston should have a major aquarium, and it has exactly that in the New England Aquarium

Pride of the aquarium is the Giant Ocean Tank, the largest cylindrical, glass-enclosed saltwater tank in the world, and one of the most complex and sophisticated aquatic exhibits on earth.

The Giant Tank and other exhibit tanks, stocked with over 600 species of marine life, from electric eels to sharks, are open again after a $43 million renovation and expansion effort. The Aquarium's neighboring IMAX 3D Theatre is also open, as usual.

The Harbor View Café and Aquarium Gift Shop are open and bustling during the reconstruction as well.

In summer, you can take an Aquarium whale watch cruise, and find out about the Aquarium's programs for protecting and preserving whales.


The New England Aquarium is a member of CityPASS Boston. You can save up to 46% on Boston's 5 best attractions with CityPASS. More...


The New England Aquarium is located on Central Wharf off Atlantic Avenue, near Long Wharf, two blocks from Faneuil Hall Marketplace on Boston's Waterfront (map).

You can go there by MBTA subway: take a Blue Line train to the Aquarium station.

By the way, MBTA F-4 Inner Harbor Ferries depart Long Wharf near the Aquarium to go to the Charlestown Navy Yard, where you can see the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides").

New England Aquarium
1 Central Wharf
Boston MA 02110
Tel 617-973-5200

Boston Harbor Islands

The islands in Boston harbor have walking paths, picnic areas, swimming beaches, camping areas, and even a Civil War fortress.

If you have several summer days to spend in Boston and the weather is good, consider a half-day or day-long excursion to the islands.

From early May to mid October, Boston's Best Cruises ferries depart Long Wharf-North Pier and Quincy with service to the islands. In high summer, there's also service from Hingham and Hull on the South Shore. More...

Boston Harbor Cruises boat, Boston MA
A harbor cruise boat motors into Boston Harbor....

The Boston Harbor Islands make a great day-trip, especially for families: boat cruise, beach swim, walking, picnicking, even climbing on the walls of a great fortress.

Bonus: the special feeling of being on an island.

Boston Harbor Islands, Boston MA
Bird's eye view of Boston Harbor & its Islands.
Lower right: Logan Airport

Best destinations for an island cruise are two of the largest: George's Island and Spectacle Island, both part of Boston National Historical Park. You can visit them both in an easy day's cruising.

View of Boston from George's Island, Boston Harbor MA
View of Boston from Fort Warren, George's Island...

Ferryboats to the islands depart from Boston's Long Wharf, on the east side of the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel (map). To avoid disappointment, reserve your tickets online. You will have to decide on a departure time for your trip to the islands, and also the time of your return voyage.

Georges Island

Georges Island is among the largest and most-visited of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Georges Island, Boston Harbor, Boston MA
Look at that splendid pentagonal fortress!

The reason is plain: it holds the huge Fort Warren, a star-shaped stone fortress that once defended Boston Harbor with immense cannons.

Cannon in Fort Warren, Georges Island, Boston MA

You can climb all over the fortress, enjoy the views from its walls and lookout towers, learn about the Civil War, weapons, military architecture and engineering, and Boston history.

View from Fort Warren, Boston MA

Spectacle Island

Spectacle Island (above), one of the Boston Harbor Islands, is perfect for a half- or full-day getaway from the city, especially for families.

A 45-minute ferryboat cruise from Boston's Long Wharf brings you to this island of several low hills and six miles of walking trails.

A small pebbly swimming beach with lifeguards is right next to the ferry docks, with a view of the Boston skyline in the distance.

Swimming is only allowed at this beach, though you may stretch out in the sun on other small bits of beach around the island.

Services include a Summer Shack fast-food stand, picnic tables next to the stand and in other places around the island (open-air or under gazebos), toilets,and drinking water fountains.

Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor Islands
Enjoying the spectacle of the Boston skyline from Spectacle Island.

Rangers from the Boston National Historical Park lead special free programs in nature appreciation.

Spectacle Island Swimming Beach, Boston Harbor Islands
Relaxing on the beach on Spectacle Island...

Whale Watch Cruises

Several companies operate whale watching cruises from Boston, including the prominent Boston Harbor Cruises. More...

Boston Harbor Ferryboats

The MBTA's F4 Long Wharf—Charlestown Navy Yard ferry can take you in 10 minutes from Long Wharf, near the New England Aquarium in Boston, to Charlestown Navy Yard to visit the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides") and the Bunker Hill Monument. It saves you a 1-mile (1.6-km), 25-minute walk and gives you a mini-cruise of Boston Harbor as well. More...

Commuter ferries also operate between Boston and the South Shore cities of Hingham, Quincy and Hull. More...

Salem Ferry

The Salem Ferry runs between Boston and Salem on the Massachusetts North Shore during the warm months, offering an attractive 45-minute maritime alternative to visiting Salem by Commuter Rail.

Ferry to Provincetown, Cape Cod

In summer, both Bay State Cruises and Boston Harbor Cruises run fast ferries from Boston to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod.

Cruise Ships

Ocean-going cruise ships dock at Cruiseport Boston, also known as the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. More...