There’s no better way to explore the sights of the Boston Harbor than via the Boston Harborwalk, a near-continuous 43-mile public walkway that makes its way through eight distinct Boston neighborhoods – Dorchester, Charlestown, Deer Island, Downtown, the North End, South Boston, East Boston and Fort Point. Along the way, visitors will experience various aspects of Boston’s culture and history, and will get to experience the many restaurants, beaches, and other attractions along the way.
The Boston Harborwalk was the brainchild of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, along with the Harborpark Advisory Committee and The Boston Harbor Association. Back in 1984, then-Mayor Raymond Flynn started the project as a way to protect public access to the Boston Harbor waterfront as the city underwent a redevelopment.
This redevelopment took place over three decades, and with that came pieces of the Harborwalk, which is now almost complete. The way the Harborwalk was designed, each pier and wharf has its own look, feel and personality, yet a sense of togetherness as each neighborhood is connected via the walkway. The Harborwalk is a combination of the pathway and the amenities along the way that the public can enjoy, such as parks, restaurants at the ground level, restrooms and more.
As you stroll along the Harborwalk, you’ll experience each of the eight different neighborhoods:
Dorchester: In the Harborwalk’s first neighborhood, discover the rolling walkways at Pope John II Park, a nice way to start out a morning. You’ll also find the rich history at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, as well as local beaches Malibu, Savin Hill and Teanean. The UMass Boston/Arts on the Point stretch is one of the longest of the Harborwalk, offering spectacular views of the surrounding waters.
South Boston: Carson Beach is one of the better beaches in the neighborhood, a status given to it in no small part due to what is often ample parking. M Street Beach has also become a popular beach with the younger crowd in this part of the city, located just up the road from Carson Beach. Further along the street, find Castle Island, a historic location that features Fort Independence, a national landmark that was built in 1634 to help protect the Boston coast.
Fort Point: Just on the outskirts of downtown, Fort Point is an emerging Boston neighborhood thanks to a lengthy revitalization. Here, pedestrians will find classic Boston attractions including the Children’s Museum, the Hood Milk Bottle and the dazzling InterContinental Hotel. Over the past few years, several new restaurants have popped up in this neighborhood as it continues to be developed.
Downtown: In the downtown stretch, pedestrians will walk past Rowes Wharf, the Boston Harbor Hotel, India Wharf, Long Wharf, and the New England Aquarium. This is one of the more visually-stunning stretches along the Harborwalk.
North End: Harborwalk continues into the North End and through the bustling of Christopher Columbus Park, as well as Commercial and Lewis Wharf. Take a break at any of the wharfs here, and watch the boating activity, no matter what time of year.
Charlestown: Another one of the more interesting stretches along the way, the Charlestown portion winds its way past the USS Constitution, Paul Revere Park, and the Charlestown Navy Yard. Pedestrians can hop a ferry here to East Boston or the downtown area if they so choose.
East Boston: The East Boston stretch is also quite visually stunning and worth the time if only for a different view of the downtown area. Stop by LoPresti Park for a picnic, and make your way to the Hyatt Harborside Hotel, where you can catch a water taxi back to the downtown area.
Deer Island: Deer Island is a wonderful way to take a stroll, or simply have a picnic. The views of the city are outstanding here, and there is a nearly three-mile walking trail. The island is dominated by the state of the art wastewater treatment facility that was the biggest component in the cleanup of Boston Harbor.
What to See & Do on the Walk
There are nine public beaches along the Harborwalk, including several located in South Boston (Carson Beach, M Street Beach, Castle Island and Marine Park at Pleasure Bay Beach) and Dorchester (Savin Hill & Malibu Beach and Tenean Beach Park). During the summer months, you’ll find people flocking here from not only their neighborhoods, but also other parts of the city and beyond.
Museums are another great activity, as there are several options including the ICA Watershed art gallery in East Boston, the Boston National Historic Park in Charlestown, the New England Aquarium on the Downtown Waterfront, Boston Tea Party Museum, and the Children’s Museum in Fort Point.
If you’re looking for great views of the city, head to the Envoy Hotel and up to their rooftop bar for a drink. From there, you’ll see the entire skyline. It’s even a popular spot in the winter, as they bring in “igloos” to cozy up in with blankets while you sip on a cocktail. Clippership Wharf in East Boston is another good spot for views of the city.
On that note, there are a few places to launch kayaks along the Harborwalk: Clippership Wharf, the Fort Point Pier and Independence Wharf.
Stopping for a bite to eat or a refreshing beverage is always a good idea, and there are plenty of spots to do just that, especially in the Fort Point and Waterfront areas. Here are a few to check out: Strega Waterfront for Italian, Lolita Tequila Bar for Mexican and the Boston Sail Loft for waterfront drinks, seafood and more.
Facilities Along the Walk
Check out a complete map of the Boston Harborwalk, and complete details on all the attractions along the way. The map is so comprehensive that you can filter it to locate every public restroom along the route – and there are many. In addition to that, there are plenty of ferry and water taxi locations throughout the Harborwalk.