Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston Light


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We were scheduled to be in Boston for a long weekend and so I checked the National Park Service website to see what park units we could visit while there. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that the NPS run tours out to some of the islands in Boston Harbor!

We chose the Boston Light tour out to Little Brewster island. The Boston Lighthouse was built in 1716, which makes it the oldest working light in the United States…over 300 years old. It was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War and subsequently destroyed by the Patriots.


Since the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1783, it is not the oldest US lighthouse…that honor goes to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey. In 1989, the Senate passed a law requiring that Boston Light always be manned. The NPS maintains the Light in cooperation with the Coast Guard, though the actual beacon is automated now.

We met the park rangers at the visitors center kiosk in town, near the carousel and Quincy Market. They led our group to a boat docked behind the aquarium.

The ride through the harbor to Little Brewster took about 45 minutes. One of the rangers talked about the history of the various islands during our journey. Along the way, we passed a fort from revolutionary war days, the Long Island Light and other sights. We had fantastic views of Boston as we pulled away.


When we arrived at Little Brewster Island, Sally, the light-keeper greeted us, dressed in colonial-era attire. Sally is the 70th keeper of Boston Light…and the first woman in the role in its long history. She and her coast guard husband live alone out on that isolated island!

Sally, her husband and the rangers each led the tour through the various stations on the island.


We climbed the steps inside the lighthouse for a close-up look at the inner workings and the view from the top.


We explored tide pools below the keeper’s house and  a cistern that provides the light keeper’s house with collected rain water.

Some tips…there is no shade on the island. Wear sunscreen, a hat, bring water. There is no public restroom on the island and the boat does not stay docked while you tour the island…use the boat’s facilities on the journey.


Location: Boston, MA

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 11/12/1996

Date of my visit: 7/17/2015

This abandoned lighthouse is visible from Little Brewster Island
Airplane landing at Logan as we cruise out of the harbor
Passing by the Long Island Light on our way to Little Brewster
Exploring Little Brewster Island
Sally’s garden


27 thoughts on “Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston Light

  1. Steve

    Wow. Another gem I never knew about. You need to write a book! (or…like…ok…maybe that’s what this is…hmmm)

  2. Did you see/read “The Light Between Oceans”? Any lighthouse story reminds me of that one, which was powerful in print (if not so much on screen).

    1. No, I haven’t. I just read the synopsis, looks like a good read. I’m sure the keepers of Boston Light in colonial days had a similarly tough existence. Sally (the keeper, who is an employee of the NPS) lives on the island with her husband who is in the Coast Guard…they are a radio call and 45 minute motorized boat ride away from help. They are certainly roughing it more than most of us, relying on rainwater from a cistern to run their plumbing, but the both of them seem to love the island, the light and the history they are bringing to life.

  3. Hello and thank you so much for reading and liking my last post. That is what brought me nosily over here and I am SO glad I did. Your blog is exactly what I need as I plan our travels around the USA from our base in Boston (husband since 1989, me since April this year!) …. I can’t think of a better blog to have found and I am pressing follow so I don’t miss anything and to remind me to read about all the other treasures you have shared. Bon continuations à vous

      1. Thank you so much …. It’s great to be here. And so you know …. I have only one rule and that is that I only ever say what I mean 😊 Thank you for following me too …. I shall have to write something now 😬

  4. Pingback: Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston Light | researchesofjoannemariesworld

      1. We’ve gone to two other islands and said we wanted to go visit Boston Light but so far, it hasn’t happened. Are you attempting any travels or parks this summer given the problems with COVID-19?

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