Deer Island is one of 34 unique islands that make up the Boston Islands. Accessible from the mainland by car, the “island” (a once accurate description now turned misnomer since the Shirley Gut channel was filled in by a hurricane in 1938) is perfect for all of the family with plenty of sightseeing opportunities as well as great walking and bicycle paths. I love to get out here to enjoy the stunning views of the city and to breath in beautiful Boston Harbor air.
Open year-round from sunrise to sunset, I’d highly recommend coming during golden hour to see a spectacular sunset over the city skyline. Once a concentration camp for Native Americans during King Philip’s War, Deer Island does have a dark, disturbing, and complicated past – but it is now home to an innovative natural resource in its role as the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. Originally occupied by the Nipmuc Tribe, natives were forcibly removed from their land in order to turn this island into the concentration camp. It’s also served as a hospital, prison, and holding area for Irish who were fleeing the Great Potato Famine of the 1800s. To honor its past, you will find both Native American and Irish memorials throughout the paved walkways overlooking the Boston Harbor.
Steeped in history and blessed with nature, Deer Island is a great escape from busy city life. The renovated pump station – which is now used as a visitor center for the treatment plant – allows you to take a closer look at some of the current workings of this little island. You can see the original pump system, and learn all about how it works to create a better environment today. They also have a lot of other resources about the history, information about the trails you can use to explore the island, and group tours available.
If you plan on heading to the island for a nature fix outside of the crowded streets of Boston, then you will be spoiled by the 60 acres of land to explore. You can find native plants, mounted viewing points for photography fans, and accessible pathways for walking and cycling. The smooth, paved paths make this an easy walk for everyone – dogs are allowed, just be sure they’re kept on a lead. You can easily spend a whole morning exploring Deer Island – so be sure to pack a picnic so that you can take your time and enjoy as much of this idyllic attraction right outside of Boston. The island is a popular fishing spot, and there is a public docking area for boats. As the island is near Logan airport, it is a pretty cool spot for watching planes coming in and out of the city.