The Real Boston: Castle Island’s History & Charm

on June 24, 2013

Fort Independence - Castle Island, Boston

Visiting Boston on a Budget? Already seen the main attractions and looking for a real Boston experience? Live in/near Boston but hardly ever visit the south side?

Located just 15 minutes from downtown (William J Day Blvd., Boston MA), Castle Island’s urban park is one of area’s most popular daytime attractions. Once a half mile offshore, the island is now connected to the mainland through William J Day Boulevard.

Castle Island attracts lots of local visitors. Many Boston locals grew up going there – and now bring their own families for a visit. Regular visitors will most likely be walking or jogging on the Harbourwalk and Heart Hearty Trail (see the trail map here), or flying a kite with the kids on a grassy slope near the fort.

It’s free to visit the island, including the beaches. It’s also a great spot for a picnic by the waterfront.

Castle Island includes about 22 acres, right next to Pleasure Bay. It offers some of the best views of the city from the area, and is a great place to watch ships going in and out of the harbor – or planes landing at Logan International Airport.

Bonus Boston “insider” tips:

  • Watch for the USS Constitution pass on July 4 –  the ship approaches the island from Charlestown Navy Yard in the north, then upon reaching the fortified island, the ship turns and fires a 21-gun salute commemorating the fight for independence.
  • The island is a great place to watch the First Night/New Year’s Eve fireworks – away from the main crowds.

Castle Island can be accessed by foot or vehicle. To get to Castle Island using public transit, take the number 7, 9 or 10 bus to City Point and then walk out to Castle Island (however, may be important to note the walk to the island from City Point will take about 15-20 minutes).

Fort Independence

At the heart of the island sits the historic Fort Independence. The current 5-point granite structure was built between 1834 and 1851, but it’s actually the 8th fort to be built on the site. The first one was built in 1634.

Both the fort and the island are considered National Historic Places. Fort Independence is open seasonally from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and tour hours vary (the Castle Island Association’s 2013 schedule shows it’s open for tours on most Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3pm). Entrance and tour spaces are limited, so it’s best to plan ahead.

Boston-born fiction writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe served at Fort Independence in 1827, and rumor has it that the old fort played a part in inspiring his famous 1846 story of The Cask of Amontillado.

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