Georges Island, a National Historic Landmark located just 7 miles from Boston, is part of the Boston Harbor Islands national park area, managed and maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). It’s most known for being home to the historic Fort Warren, which was built during the Civil War between 1833 and 1860. Before the U.S. government acquired it in 1825, Georges Island was primarily used for agriculture.
Fort Warren, made with stone and granite, was a prison for Confederate officers and government officials during the Civil War. It remained active throughout the Spanish-American War and World War I, and then it was a control center for Boston Harbor’s south mine field during World War II. No matter which battle was being fought, the goal of Fort Warren was always to protect the city of Boston. Fort Warren was used by the military for one hundred years and was eventually decommissioned in 1947. It was then bought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with the DCR ensuring its historic preservation and recreation uses in 1958.
What to See & Do
Today, Georges Island is very much a family destination, as there’s plenty to do as you take in views of other local islands and the Boston Light. Even the ferry ride in offers picturesque scenery as you head away from Boston's waterfront.
Once you arrive at Georges Island, check in at the Visitor Center and take a walk around. There are ranger-guided and self-guided tours of Fort Warren, so you can explore at your own pace. For even more history, there is a museum with various exhibits related to the fort.
You can climb along parts of the fort, check out the Lookout Tower and play in the open greenway of the Parade Ground. There are plenty of places to picnic throughout the island, either in the shade under a tree or at a designated picnic table.
Other things to do include playing at the fort-themed playground, grabbing a bite to eat at the snack shack and participating in lawn games.
Children ages 6 to 12 will love Storming the Fort, a 30-minute tour where they’ll not only learn about Fort Warren, but also imagine themselves as soldiers 150 years ago. The Boston Harbor Islands also has a Junior Ranger program where kids can download a booklet with activities specific to Georges Island.
On Saturdays in July and August, enjoy the Summer in the City series with music from local Berklee artists. There are a variety of other historical and educational activities and events throughout the season, so be sure to look into happenings before you go.
If you're traveling with a group, Georges Island is a great place to host outdoor events. You may see company summer outings while you're on the island, for example.
From Georges Island, you can also hop back on the ferry and explore other islands during the summer months, including Peddocks and Lovells Islands. If you find yourself as Spectacle Island, there is a public beach with a lifeguard. Lovells Island also has a beach, but there is no lifeguard on duty. Both Peddocks and Lovells Islands have campsites if you wish to stay overnight with the family.
How to Get to Georges Island
Georges Island is accessible by ferry via Boston Harbor Cruises from mid-May through early-October each year. Check out the ferry schedule before you visit, as it changes depending on the time of year you are visiting (also keep in mind that the ferry schedule is subject to change).
Tickets to the ferry from Boston to Georges Island can be purchased at Long Wharf North at 66 Long Wharf, next to Christopher Columbus Park. You can access Long Wharf via the MBTA Blue Line’s Aquarium stop (most convenient) or by a short walk from the Orange Line’s State stop or the Green Line’s Haymarket stop. The convenient location of Long Wharf makes it easy to explore the city on foot before or after visiting the islands.
Round-trip ferry fares are as follows: Adult - $19.95; Children - $12.95; Seniors - $14.95; Student/Military - $14.95; Children under age 3 - free. You can also purchase family 4-packs for $49, as well as 10-ride passes for $150 and a season pass for $225. Tickets are available at the Boston Harbor Cruises website, by calling 617-227-4321 or in-person at the ferry center.
If you’re on the South Shore, you can also get to Georges Island via the MBTA ferry from Hingham. These ferry tickets can be purchased at the ferry center at the Hingham Shipyard at 28 Shipyard Drive. The Hingham to Georges Island ferry takes about 30 minutes and is first come, first served – something to keep in mind during peak season.
While you will pay for the ferry ride if you don’t have your own boat to get you to Georges Island, there is no charge to visit the island or Fort Warren.
Free Ferry Days
Every summer, there are select Free Ferry Days that go to both Georges and Spectacle Islands from Boston’s Long Wharf North. In 2019, these are the Free Ferry Days:
- Saturday, May 18, 2019 (Opening Day)
- Sunday, October 13, 2019
- TBD additional day by the Highland Street Foundation
Visit bostonharborislands.org/freeaccess for more information on these days, as well as other free offerings from the Boston Harbor Islands. There are also Free Ferry Days for groups that are separate from individuals and families.
Tips for Visiting
- Check out the events calendar before you visit. This is where you’ll find the most up-to-date information on happenings on Georges Island.
- Bring the family. As mentioned earlier, there’s something for everyone on the island and it makes for a great family day.
- Pack a picnic. There are several tables and areas to enjoy a picnic while taking in the views and scenery the island has to offer.
- If you’re visiting in May or October, check the ferry schedule. Make sure you know when the ferries start and end for the season, as it can vary year-to-year.