I’ve lived in Boston more than 2 decades, and almost every summer I’ve had the same plan: explore the harbor islands. With some 34 islands, there are a lot of opportunities for adventure. Yet it was only about two years ago that Devin and I finally got around to paying a visit (and it was in winter—but that’s a different post for another time!).
Only two of the islands—Spectacle Island and Georges Island—are accessible by ferry; the rest are either largely closed to the public or reached by private watercraft. So you can imagine our excitement at learning that the nonprofit Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands runs tours throughout the summer to some of these “off the radar” spots. First up? A sunset trip to Boston’s Long Island last August.
What’s cool about this “other” Long Island?
Well, the island—the harbor’s largest—may hold prehistoric inhabitation sites, and documented inhabitants date back to the early 1600s. It’s also the location of Fort Strong (originally called Fort Wightman). The fort was used in the Civil War (the remains of 79 soldiers are buried nearby) and again during World War II. It also housed a Nike missile base in the 1950s and, later, stored books from the Boston Public Library.
The island was also once home to a resort, an almshouse, and a hospital. Some of these buildings are still standing but abandoned. (And you know how I love my modern ruins!) We were restricted from visiting that end of the island, however, which now provides services to Boston’s homeless, as well as a children’s summer camp.
I was content, though, to climb around the remains of the fort, which provide a great view of the harbor and city, as well as the lighthouse. And you can’t beat a literary connection: Long Island is rumored to have been the inspiration for Dennis Lehane’s novel (and the subsequent Leonardo DiCaprio film), Shutter Island.
Long Island requires advance permission to enter, so visiting truly is a rare experience. For information about the summer tour, check out the FBHI website.