Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
Address: Boston Harbor Islands NRA, Boston MA 02109
Time from Boston: 20-90 minutes, depending on commute and ferry times
Camping at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
When it comes to awesome camping and nature opportunities, Boston has something that most major metropolitan areas don’t: The Boston Harbor Islands.
An official National Recreation Area, the Harbor Islands park consists of 34 accessible islands off the coast. Deer Island is accessible by bridge, but most of the islands can only be reached by ferry or boat. While many of the islands have hiking and picnicking opportunities, camping is only available on Lovells, Peddocks, Bumpkin, and Grape Islands, as noted on this NPS park map (PDF).
Lovells, Grape, and Bumpkin Islands take reservations, but not for individual sites. You make a reservation to claim a spot, but which spot you get is determined on a first-come, first-serve basis among reservation-holders. Peddocks Island offers both tent and yurt reservations, and these are site-specific, so you can nail down your exact location when you book.
The tricky part is that camping sites are very limited on the islands, so make your reservations as far in advance as possible! Grape and Bumpkin each have 10 camping spots, while Lovells has 7 and Peddocks 6. It’s all primitive camping, with no fresh water, shower, or electricity, except for Peddocks, which has water and toilets in its visitor center.
Camping doesn’t begin on the islands until late June and ends on Labor Day weekend. You can secure a spot up to six months in advance. Reservations for the Boston Harbor Islands are handled by Reserve America.
Look here for info on how to reach these islands via ferry. In the summer, most of the camping islands can be reached from the ferry that boards at Hingham Shipyard Pier (Hingham) and Pemberton Point Pier (Hull).
Camping in the Boston Harbor Islands is cool because it’s about as remote as you can get while still being so close to the city. In some places you can see the city, and in other places you can explore the ruins of abandoned forts and buildings, as shown in the first photo above.