SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

By Kimberly Ripley

SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

Boston Harbor Islands is comprised of 13 islands, of which six are accessible to the public via ferry. The ferries may be accessed at Long Wharf North in Boston, Pemberton Point in Hull and Hingham Shipyard in Hingham. Visitors find they need to return to the state park time and time again, because one or two visits don’t cover everything there is to do and see. From nearby sculpture parks to local restaurants, enjoy every moment of your time in and around Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park. 

1. Boston Harbor Islands National & State Park, Boston, MA

Four of the islands afford their visitors the option to camp overnight. Numpkin, Peddocks, Lovells, and Grape Island feature a total of 33 sites that require campers to bring their tents. Six yurts that sleep six each are available as well. Camping is allowed on the islands from June to September. Hiking on the islands puts visitors in line for some stellar views. The Boston Harbor is stunning in itself, and clear views of the Boston skyline are a favorite of photographers from near and far. Spectacle Island features a five-mile trail and is the favorite among hikers.

2. Big Bear Café & Espresso Bar, Dedham, MA

Before leaving civilization for your overnight or weekend of camping at Boston Harbor Islands, fuel up on caffeine in nearby Dedham at Big Bear Café & Espresso Bar. If you remember those delicious Scooter Pies of old, you’ll love knowing there’s a coffee in exactly that flavor.

3. Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA

Maybe you’re not staying overnight at the state park, but venturing back into civilization to sleep instead. If so, check out the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. Enjoy a massage in the spa and dine in one of their on-site restaurants. Wake up refreshed and ready to enjoy the abundance of the region.

4. Blue Man Group, Boston, MA

Whether you’re camping at Boston Harbor Islands State Park or staying in Cambridge, you can take the ferry or the T into Boston for a Blue Man Group production. What many don’t realize is that Blue Man Group isn’t just there for a few shows—they are at home at the Charles Playhouse, providing countless productions. That means you can likely find tickets for the times that you will be nearby. And those tickets open up a few hours of fun and entertainment like you’ve never experienced before!

5. Esposito Bakery, Revere and Saugus, MA

If the need for something sweet is driving you a bit crazy, both Revere and Saugus aren’t far from where you’re staying. In both locations, you’ll find an Esposito Bakery—both owned and operated by the same Massachusetts family since 1963. Italian bakeries are something very special, but Italian bakeries in the Boston region are beyond your wildest pastry dreams. Italians have made Boston home for more than a century, and they brought with them some crazy talent for making delicious baked goods. A cannoli, rum ball or piece of mocha cake will take the edge of traveling with the family!

6. North Shore Numismatics, Wakefield, MA

The coin collector in your family will love a short trip to North Shore Numismatics. Not far from the Boston area, you can peruse rare coins, bills and more. If you don’t see what you’re seeking, they claim they can find any coin you want. 

8. Beverly Farms, Beverly, MA

A very short drive away is the town of Beverly, and within it is the neighborhood known as Beverly Farms. Reminiscent of a small village, it is replete with stunning mansions and eclectic shops. Whether you drive through and admire the scene from your car or stop and peruse the shops and snap a few photos, you’ll be glad you made the effort to do so. If you continue north on 127, you’ll soon find yourself in the heart of downtown Manchester-By-The-Sea, the town upon which the film of the same name was based.

9. Singing Beach, Manchester-By-The-Sea, MA

Ask anyone in Manchester-By-The-Sea to direct you to Singing Beach and you’ll soon be viewing a scenic vista typical of the New England coastline. In addition, if you get out of the car—which you’ll surely want to do by now—you can feel the sand and understand why the beach got its name. The granules of sand have a unique shape and contain silica. This makes some squeaky sounds as the surf rolls over the shore. They were dubbed “songs” a long time ago, although no one is really sure why!

Thinking warm thoughts 🌊

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10. Sugar Magnolias, Gloucester, MA

It doesn’t matter if you stop in for breakfast, lunch or brunch, just make sure to stop in at Sugar Magnolias for a meal. One of the best restaurants on the North Shore, indulge in their Crazy Monkey French Toast for a tasty treat you won’t soon forget.

11. Brodie’s Pub, Peabody, MA

Celebrate the end of your adventure with a stop at Brodie’s Pub. The bar eats are as good as the drinks, and who wants to think about preparing a meal when you arrive home? Visit early and bring the whole family. The kids can sleep in the car all the way home.

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