A Castle Island Guide

Castle Island is not only a historic site but there are plenty of activities to do whether you’re traveling solo, with a few friends, or with the kids.

The island offers history, views of the city, and it is open year-round. This Castle Island guide will help you choose the things to do in the area.

If you’re looking for something to do when it’s nice out and you’re in Boston, this is the place to go. They are open from sunrise to sunset and you can walk around the island and see a few different views of Boston. You can even watch the planes land and take off from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS).

castle island boston massachusetts

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What You Need For Your Day Trip

It depends on when you head to this part of the US but if you go to Castle Island during the warmer months, you’ll want to bring a bathing suit and some sunblock. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!!

  • Bathing suit
  • Change of clothes
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Comfy sandals/sneakers
  • Snack
  • Sunblock
  • Towel

Other notes:

  • There are public bathrooms and showers to rinse off after your swim in the deep blue sea.
  • Always keep track of your belongings and call places before you head out just in case their website is not up to date. I know that Sullivan’s might close early if the parking lot is empty.

Check out Breakheart Reservation and Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts.

About Castle Island Massachusetts

This peninsula of Boston dates back to 1634. It is an 8.9 hectare (22 acre) site that was used as a sea defense for the city for many years. The site’s elevation stands at 10 meters (33 feet).

Back in 1703, the fifth fort built in the area was called “Castle William” and the island was called Castle William Island. Then, in 1785, the fort was a prison.

Fort Independence was built between 1833 and 1851. It is the eighth fortification on the island because the previous forts were destroyed. It is one of the oldest fortified sites of English origin in the country.

Castle Island was initially far from the shore but land reclamation in 1928 made it extend to the mainland. Now, you can get to the island by walking or by driving.

Today, it is a state park in Massachusetts and a national historic site that is visited by many tourists and locals around the year.

On the island, you will see Fort Independence and a memorial for the people of South Boston who were either killed or missing from the Korean War. There’s also a monument for East Boston’s famous shipbuilder: Donald McKay, who built a few clipper ships.

Where is Castle Island in Boston?

Castle Island is in South Boston, or like us Bostonians say “Southie.” The island is located southeast of the capital and is just a short ride away.

Google Maps works great in Mass. So if you get lost, it will help you find the way. Just put in Castle Island Boston and it will pop up.

How to Get There

Unfortunately, there is no ferry service to Castle Island. However, you can take the bus/subway, drive, or take a taxi/Uber.

By Bus/Subway

If you are coming from downtown Boston and don’t have a car, you can take the MBTA to Castle Island and it should take about 40 minutes.

You can either take the subway and then hop on a bus or just take a bus right from downtown Boston.

Head to Andrew or Broadway Station on the Red Line. If you stop at Broadway, take City Point buses #9, #10, or #11.

There is a bus that stops near Castle Island from Copley Square or South Station. Bus #9 leaves from Copley and bus #7 leaves from Boston’s South Station. Taking buses #5 is another possibility.

If you get lost, just ask the bus driver if you don’t have cell service. From City Point to Sullivan’s and Fort Independence is about a 15 minute walk on William J. Day Boulevard.

By Car

If you rented a car while you’re exploring Boston, which I would strongly recommend not doing, you will be happy to know that parking is somewhat free. You can find beach parking on the street, which you do have to pay for. Bring a bunch of quarters! However, the Castle Island parking lot is free and it is at the end of the road.

castle island boston ma
Donald McKay Monument

What Can You Do And See?

On your walk you’ll see beaches, the Boston Harbor, the Donald McKay Monument, Fort Independence, Sullivan’s, airplanes, the airport, downtown Boston, and more. You can even bring your rollerblades and take a few laps around the island or bring your skateboard and head to the skating rink after your visit to the island.

Castle Island Guide

On a warm spring day or hot summer evening, head to the island to see some great views of Boston and the harbor. Hang out at the beaches, go for a walk, take a guided tour, eat at Sullivan’s and grab an ice cream. You can easily spend a day on Castle Island, or just a few hours.

There are two beaches on the island. One is a bit smaller than the other.

Pleasure Bay Beach is a protected area that will usually have lifeguards. You will come across this beach on your walk. The other beach is closer to Fort Independence. Pleasure Bay Beach will be the one that’s more crowded of the two.

If you get to the island early enough, walk along the Heart Healthy Trail to get some exercise in.

After that, take one of the free tours offered by the Castle Island Association. You can take a free tour from noon until 3 pm. You can see inside Fort Independence and learn the history of the area in just 30 minutes, depending on your guide.

Find more information on the tours and events here.

After you take the tour, walk around some more, or if it’s a sizzling day, head to the beach to cool off. And you will cool off because the water in Boston is FREEZING.

If you have kids there are a few playgrounds for them to play in and plenty of grass fields to run through. Castle Island Playground is right near one of the bathrooms and Lago Playground is near Farragut Road.

When you get hungry, order your lunch at Sullivan’s, or as some people call it, Sully’s. They have burgers, fried chicken, hotdogs, and other stuff like that. The prices are reasonable and the food comes out quickly.

And if you don’t want to spend money, you are more than welcome to use the countless benches or picnic tables. There is also plenty of grass so you can bring your own blanket and relax.

If you spend an hour walking, a half-hour tour, two hours at the beach, and a half-hour eating, plus let’s say two hours driving (in case you take the T), you only need about five or six hours which is a pretty decent day trip if you ask me. You even have time to plan another activity!

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