The Five Best State Parks Near Boston

Escape to these natural and historic attractions both in and near Boston for a fun day in the great outdoors with the family.

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

Boston is perhaps best known for its swanky educational institutions, totemic history and grandiose municipal buildings; a city whose reputation for civility and refinement has come to dominate its image right across the planet.

But, the city of Boston also has a wilder side. A side untouched by the crafting hand of big business and political mechanization. A side at once relaxing, recreational, picturesque, and pristine. A side of sprawling wetlands and nature reserves, deep ponds, colorful beech forests and rugged maritime islands.

If that takes your fancy, then be sure to check out this list of Hopper’s top five state parks near to town. There’s spots for strolling, hiking, camping, sunbathing, swimming and biking just a short journey from the centre, not to mention some of the more intriguing and off-the-beaten-track historical sites around.

Just a stone's throw from the city at the Stony Brook Reservation

Nestled between the West Roxbury and Hyde Park areas of Boston, this 475-acre patchwork of ponds, picnic areas and picturesque forestry remains one of the most accessible state parks for visitors in the city. Today, the whole reservation is crisscrossed with a web of National Historic Parkways, which wind and meander their way past the sports fields and wetlands of Stony Brook, offering up hiking and biking trails to boot. During the winter, be sure to check out the on-site ice skating rink that sits on the park’s southern side.

Exploring the Massachusetts Bay Shoreline at the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation

Home to the last salt marshes in all of Boston, this protected preservation area is a pristine image of what the vast majority of Massachusetts coastland once looked like. Marine flora and patchy sea lagoons pepper the landscape, while a number of winding walking trails and managed paths help guests to navigate the marshlands. What’s more, an on-site observation tower provides bird watchers and nature lovers with that much-coveted panorama, while regular guided tours offer up deeper introductions to the natural history of the reservation.

Calling all history buffs and relaxation seekers to Castle Island

Jutting out into the waters of Boston harbor, this supremely intriguing state park has something for every type of visitor. Today it forms a section of the famous city Harbor walk, while also providing easy access to Pleasure Bay – one of the city’s most famous summertime recreation spots of golden sand and calm waters. However, the pièce de résistance of Castle Island is unquestionably the formidable Fort Independence complex that crowns its top. Here, the 17th-century bulwarks are loaded with local folklore and rich with Boston history.

People watching and urban strolling in the Southwest Corridor Park

Running parallel and above the railway lines from Southend to Jamaica Plain, the Southwest Corridor Park is a hive of activity nestled in the heart of modern Boston. All through the year locals can be seen commuting, strolling, chilling and playing on this narrow oasis of urban greenery, making it one of the best people watching spots in the city. What’s more, the park also boasts two summertime spray pools, a handful of tennis courts, and a whopping seven basketball courts. Never a dull moment!

In the company of waves and warbling birds at the Boston Harbor Island State Park

For visitors looking to get the full experience of Boston’s maritime character, there can be no substitute for the Harbor Island State Park. Strewn over 34 individual headlands and islands, it is home to some of the most fascinating historical architecture off the coast of the city; from 19th century fortifications, to whitewashed lighthouses. What’s more, coming here offers real relief from the fray of urban life, and guests are invited to hike, bike and even camp within its borders.

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