Click for possible route/stop changes on the day of your tour.
Since its discovery in 1614, Boston Harbor has figured prominently in some of the most seismic historical events in the history of the United States. It was a major trade hub, primarily between the colonies and the British Crown, and it was the site of a violent riot. A disgruntled mob of colonists threw valuable chests of tea from England into the harbor as an act of rage and defiance for being deprived of the right of representation in the face of high taxation. As a result, Boston Harbor was at the center of America’s fight for independence. During the 20th century, Boston’s Harbor Islands fell into disrepair until a movement of advocates, civic leaders and public agencies lifted the area and transformed it into one of the most vibrant and visited areas of the great city of Boston and a must-see on a Boston Harbor tour.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Boston
The most enjoyable and efficient way to enjoy the following attractions is on an Old Town Trolley Tour. Serving the Boston area for almost 40 years, these “hop on, hop off” tours let you see the best first without feeling rushed. The state-of-the-art stadium trolleys are very comfortable, have unobstructed views and the narration is presented by some of the most knowledgeable guides in the industry.
Located in the Charlestown Navy Yard, the USS Constitution Museum is a family-friendly destination whose mission is to tell the stories associated with its namesake, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. “Old Ironsides” is considered “America’s Ship of State,” an enduring symbol of the Navy’s first hundred years. With many seafaring skirmishes under her belt, she has seen it all, making a name for herself during the War of 1812 by destroying three British ships in battle. The museum brings the ship’s history alive with hands-on, interactive exhibits and detailed dioramas. You’ll also be able to read actual letters from the crew to their families back home, and there’s even a painstakingly accurate model of the ship made entirely of Legos.
Located on S. Market Street, mere steps from the waterfront, this iconic landmark was once a meeting place where some of the most crucial topics of the day were hotly debated. Between 1764 and 1775, the most consequential issues were discussed here, such as the Stamp Act, the oppressive tariffs on tea from England, the Boston Massacre, and it was a staging area for patriots on the eve of the War of Independence. Since its heady Revolutionary days, the “Cradle of Liberty” remained a very active soundboard providing a voice for abolitionists, women suffragists and labor unionists. This building was a cornerstone of Boston civic life. Today, in addition to walking tours and exhibits, Faneuil Hall has been transformed and lovingly preserved as a sprawling marketplace with great shopping and year-round special events.
In a city so deeply entrenched in history, a walk down the Freedom Trail is must-do stuff. This 2.5-mile trail highlighting some 16 historically significant attractions was the brainchild of former Boston Herald travel writer, William Schofield, back in the early 1950s. He noticed that many visitors trying to visit these landmarks often found it problematic. Because of the city’s size and population density, travelers to the area would often get lost, ultimately missing out on the most popular sites in Boston. His solution to link the sites along a well-marked path is the Freedom Trail we have today. Some of the stops include Boston Common, the Massachusetts State House, Park Street Church and the site of the infamous Boston Massacre.
One of the world’s top 20 museums can be found here in Beantown. This massive, sprawling structure houses nearly half a million works of art that span every conceivable period, from Neoclassical to Modern. You’ll find decorative art and masks from Africa and traditional Indonesian and Maori sculptures. There is also indigenous Native American art and paintings from Colonial America, including John Singleton Copley’s iconic portrait of Paul Revere, Greek and Roman relics, photography and much more. The museum boasts incredible permanent exhibits, traveling exhibits and a dynamic program throughout the year involving film, studio art classes, lectures and music.
Looking more like a magnificent Venetian palazzo than any museum, this special place is a real jewel that houses one of the world’s most impressive collections of art. You’ll find all the heavy hitters here, from Van Gogh to Monet, Rembrandt, Munch, Degas, and even the works of modern-day rogue street artist, Banksy. The grounds of this picturesque estate are every bit as magical as the art itself. The orchids and nasturtiums explode in a symphony of color across the opulent grounds. You’ll see columns, balconies, carvings and dramatic arches all done in the Venetian Gothic Revival style, and not one detail is left to chance. A truly remarkable place to visit during your Boston vacation.
Boston Harbor and the surrounding Boston Harbor Islands figured prominently as an important trading hub between the 1600s and 1700s between the colonists and the British Crown that ultimately ushered in the War of Independence. After all the strife and turmoil surrounding the port during Revolutionary times, the harbor was a much sought-after destination for enslaved peoples from other coastal cities because it was possible to gain their freedom there with the assistance of the many abolitionists in the area willing to help.
While not necessarily ideal as far as swimming goes, you can take a dip in the harbor from the Boston Harbor Islands. Be aware, however, that instead of a sandy strip of beach, you’ll have to contend with rough gravel, so make sure you bring some boat or diving shoes. The one Boston Harbor Island that does offer beach conditions is Spectacle Island. While not very big, the beach here is patrolled by a lifeguard, and there’s a cafe nearby for a quick bite.
There is no one answer to this question since Boston Harbor measures many different depths in different places. The main channel extending from Massachusetts Bay is 40 feet deep. Depending on where you are, the depth of the water ranges from 12 feet at its shallowest out on Nantasket Beach to 30–40 feet deep in most other places.
Let this Boston city and Boston Harbor Islands Guide set you on a course of fun and adventure for an unforgettable stay in one of the most historic cities in the United States!