Seven Things to Do on the Boston Harbor Islands This Summer

One of the picnic areas, looking out onto the Boston Skyline from George's Island, was photographed on SEPT 2, 2009.
Georges Island, one of Boston’s harbor islands. –The Boston Globe

If you’re living in Boston this summer and need a little escape, why not check out one of the nearby Boston Harbor Islands? It’s relatively cheap, it can be done in just one day, and it’s close enough to the city. And, best of all, there are tons of things to do out there. From clam bakes to photo tours, here are seven ways to have fun on the islands.

Fried clams. —Dan Cutrona

Sunset Clambake

Rita’s Catering hosts special sunset cruises and clambakes every Thursday through Labor Day from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the beautiful Spectacle Island. The ferries take off from Long Wharf and head to the island, where guests can sit back, breathe in the ocean air, and enjoy fresh lobsters, steamers, mussels, salad, and s’mores, to name a few. There are fire pits and organized lawn games, perfect for families. Once the sun sets and the air starts to get a little chilly, the ferry heads back at 9 p.m. Tickets are $85, $65 for vegetarians. Beer and wine tickets are available for an additional $10 charge (for two people).


After-Hours Barbecue

Spectacle Beach bonfire. —Boston Harbor Island Alliance

If you missed the Thursday night clambake, Rita’s has your back. They host a similar dining experience on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The deal is pretty much the same: hop on the ferry at 6 p.m., arrive on the island, and enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued chicken, and baked beans. Tickets are $65 (same for vegetarians) and include the ferry ride, lawn games, fire pits, dinner, and soft drinks. Beer and wine tickets are available for $10 per couple.

Part of the Boston Light Cruise. —Tom Herde/The Boston Globe

Lighthouse Tours

A little bit of history with breathtaking views thrown in for good measure? Yes, please! The Friends of Boston Harbor Islands and the UMass Boston Marine Operations host several lighthouse tours throughout the summer. Check their website for a complete list of dates. Tours are from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and include visits to the islands’ many lighthouses, including the Boston Light and the Long Island Light. The tours ends on the MV Columbia Point. Make sure to book tickets ($30 for adults, $15 for children) in advance.


The islands are full of good tunes in the summer months. Berklee College of Music puts on a weekly outdoor jazz show on Spectacle Island every other Sunday through August 31. Best of all, the concerts are free (aside from the ferry cost). Berklee also hosts a concert series on Georges Island. The beautiful outdoor performances feature a variety of artists in a three-hour show. The festivities will return every other Saturday throughout August and artists will vary. Again, these concerts are free to attend.


Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking near Spectacle Island —Kari Bodnarchuk for The Boston Globe

Nothing beats the salty air blowing in the wind as you paddle through the calm ocean waters surrounding the islands in a kayak. Tours are available for beginners and experienced kayakers on Mondays and Wednesdays. You’ll make your way around Spectacle Island as you take in the scenery, park history, and learn about kayaking safety and skills. The tours are small—limited to 10 people—and are guided by a certified leader. Learn more on their website.

Guests explore Thompson Island —The Boston Globe

Visit Thompson Island

Sure, Spectacle Island is wonderful and Georges Island has a lot to offer. But few people know about Thompson Island. Explore the less occupied point with a guided ranger tour of the southern half of the island. Tours take place every Sunday through Labor Day and are 45 minutes long. They are also free.

Digital Photo Walk

For the photography-obsessed island wanderers, consider this picture-perfect guided tour. Hosted on Spectacle Island, the tours will take place every other Sunday at 1 p.m. The best part is they are totally free and include photography instruction and information on the island’s landscape. Must bring your own camera.

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