Boston, MA

Harbor Islands National Park: Spectacle Island and Deer Island

Courtesy: Mark Micheli

The Boston Harbor Islands National Park, established in 1996, features 34 islands, and over 35 miles of undeveloped shoreline, all within ten miles of downtown Boston. Spectacle Island, which was ‘reborn’ as a park out of the clay and sediment from the Big Dig project, is the best of the Harbor Islands for running. The island features about 5 miles of dirt trails, over rolling hills, with great views of the water and the Boston skyline. There are interpretive signs, shade pavillions, and picnic tables. The highest point is 176 feet. A Visitor Center at the ferry landing features a cafe and restrooms.

Spectacle Island is 12 minutes by ferry from Long Wharf. Ferries run about every hour from May to October.

Deer Island has quite a history. Irish immigrants were quarantined there. Then it was a prison until 1991. Now, it is a $4 billion space-age wastewater treatment plant…featuring an incongruous but spectacular 2.6 mile loop around its circumference with¬† great views of the harbor and Boston skyline. There are interpretive trails and a fascinating Visitor Center.

Harbor Islands National & State Park  Ferry Schedule


  • Spectacle Island: 5 miles of paths; Deer Island: 2.6 mile path around circumference
  • Specacle Island: Ferry terminal
  • Spectacle Island is reachable by ferry from Long Wharf. Deer Island is about 10 miles from downtown or the airport