Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston Light


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


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


Boston National Historical Park: Freedom Trail


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Freedom Trail runs through Boston and Charlestown in the Boston National Historical Park. It is a 2.5 mile red brick path running past a collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers, most from the American Revolutionary period. There are 16 official stops on the trail with plenty to see in between.

We were in Boston for a long weekend for a U2 concert and found ourselves following the freedom trail over the course of a few days in our travels. The red brick path made it pretty hard to get lost in town.


While waiting for a table in Boston’s North End, we followed the path up the block and used the half-hour wait time to explore the Old North Church. This was the launch point for Paul Revere’s ride. Because its steeple is the tallest in Boston, patriots in Charlestown were warned that the British were advancing across the Charles River by the appearance of two lanterns shining from the highest point.


We followed the Freedom Trail behind the church, through Paul Revere mall, to his statue in front of St. Stephen’s. Then it was time to hurry back to the restaurant for some good Italian food.


We had lunch at Quincy Market one day and afterwards walked over to Faneuil Hall.  Faneuil Hall is an official stop on the Freedom Trail because it is considered the birthplace of free speech. It is the site of America’s first Town Hall meeting and continued in this capacity for over two centuries. Did you know that new American citizens are still sworn in here? I didn’t, not even after going inside, because what greeted us on the ground floor was the cacophony of dozens of food and other merchant stalls surrounded by throngs of tourists. We went downstairs to where the visitor center was supposed to be, but all we saw were a few placards and public restrooms. I see now on the website that it is undergoing renovation, so maybe it will be worth the stop when it’s done.


We also picked up parts of the trail by riding a hop on, hop off sightseeing bus. Our bus pass included admittance to the Boston Tea Party Museum. This is not part of the National Park, nor is it on the Freedom Trail, but it is an excellent re-enactment of the catalyst for the American Revolution.


When you enter the museum, you are assigned the role of a person who lived in Boston in the 1700s and attend a meeting where you are incited to rebel against ‘Taxation Without Representation’ by an actor in costume. You are then led through various aspects of the conflict, moving through the building and out onto the docks, culminating with boarding the reconstructed ships and throwing fake tea over the side like the angry revolutionary you are. Sounds hokey, but really it was fun…grade-A edutainment!


After the Tea Party, we walked back to the Freedom Trail and over to Kings Chapel, an Anglican Church ordered by the king in the late 1600s. No one would sell land to build a non-Puritan church, so the King ordered it built on the city’s burial grounds.


There’s a statue of Benjamin Franklin next door. Though we usually associate him with Philadelphia and his role in the birth of democracy there, he was actually born and raised in Boston.


Finally, we headed towards the Boston Common. On the way we passed the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. The distinctive dome has been many things: originally wood, then plated in copper by Paul Revere, covered in gold leaf in the 1800s, painted grey during WWII and then gilded again. It is the oldest building on Beacon Hill and the State government still conducts its business there.


Boston Common is America’s oldest public park, dating back to the 1600s.



We loved the “Make Way For Ducklings’ sculpture. I read that story many times to my daughter when she was little.


You can see my other posts on Freedom Trail sites by clicking Charlestown Naval Yard or Bunker Hill Monument.

We passed through Winthrop Square while walking the trail between the Navy Yard and Bunker Hill. Winthrop Square is a small park and was the site of colonial militia training grounds.


Location: Boston & Charlestown, MA

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 1975

Date of my visit: 7/15/2015


Boston NHP: Bunker Hill


IMG_0288Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Bunker Hill Monument is a 221 foot tall granite obelisk built to commemorate the bloody “Battle of Bunker Hill” that took place in 1775, the first major battle of the American Revolutionary War. The monument actually sits on top of Breed’s Hill, which is where most of the fighting really took place…history just got the name wrong somewhere along the line.  This is where the American commanders urged the troops, ‘Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” I can remember my high school history teacher attempting to dramatically re-enact that moment during the unit on the revolutionary war in the hopes of capturing our imaginations (or interest.) Mr. Haugeto, I may have passing notes and chatting incessantly during your AHAP class, but see…I did hear you!

Although the British claimed victory here, it came at a great cost to them. Of the 2400 British soldiers fighting in the Battle of Bunker Hill, 1000 were killed or wounded. Eventually the British commander was replaced by another who retreated from the area once GW came to town, rather than risk another bloodbath.

The obelisk was built in the early 1800s over a period of 17 years. The adjoining Bunker Hill Lodge was built in 1901. If you wish to climb the steps to the top of the obelisk, you must enter through the lodge. My husband and daughter made the climb. I started out with them, but felt a little claustrophobic so waited for them on the lawn, taking pictures of the grounds.IMG_0289

We walked to the monument from the Charlestown Naval Yard (see that post here) by following the Freedom Trail. The Freedom trail is a 2.5 mile path of bricks inset into the pavement that passes by 16 historical sites in Boston that are a part of Boston National Historical Park.IMG_0315

After visiting the monument, we picked the trail back up at the bottom of the hill and went to the Bunker Hill Museum across the street. This museum is housed in an old building that used to be the Charlestown branch of the Boston Public Library. We perused the exhibits there, learned a thing or two, and cooled off in the blessed air conditioning.

Location: Monument Sq, Charlestown, MA 02129

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 1/20/1961

Date of my visit: 7/15/2015



Boston National Historical Park: Charlestown Navy Yard


Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Charlestown Navy Yard opened in 1800 and supported the US Navy for 174 years.

USS Constitution Museum: We figured we’d skip the museum and just go on the ships…I am glad we didn’t skip it and visited the museum first. The exhibits on the ground floor did a great job of explaining the dry dock and some of the history. The second floor was interactive and brought to life for kids what it was like to be a sailor on the Constitution during the war of 1812 and why this ship is so important to America. Admission is by donation. Admission to the actual ship is free… just go wait on the security line. Admission to the WWII era USS Cassin Young is also free…it’s tucked further back next dock over.

IMG_0270USS Constitution: We waited on line for about 15 minutes to get through security screening. Old Ironsides was undergoing restoration during our visit, but stepping aboard this 200-year-old symbol of American independence was a humbling experience. There are Naval officers on board to answer visitors questions. This ship is still commissioned in the Navy and is the oldest commissioned vessel still afloat.

IMG_0248USS Cassin Young: WWII Destroyer. There was less security to get through for this ship and there were more areas inside to explore

Location: 114 16th St, Charlestown, MA 02129

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 1975

Date of my visit: 7/15/2015