City Style: The Other Islands

The Harbor Islands make for an easy day trip for sunbathers, history buffs—and especially the traffic-weary.

Beaches abound on four of the 11 Harbor Islands, but Spectacle’s amenities are the best of the lot. In addition to lifeguards and superfine sand, the 105 acres include a marina with 38 public boat slips, a café that serves hot dogs and chowder, and a visitor center that sells essentials like cameras and sunscreen.

Lovell’s Island boasts miles of grassy trails ideal for birding and walking. Nestled a few steps from the pebbly beach, spacious individual campsites come equipped with barbecue grills. Advance permits are required for all campsites; if Lovell’s is booked, Bumpkin, Grape, and Peddock’s islands make good second choices.

Only a 45-minute ferry ride from Long Wharf, the 11 Boston Harbor Islands provide just as many outdoor options as your usual getaway but with far less fuss; day-trippers can easily visit two in a single excursion. And, in contrast with what you’ll see as you and your fellow drivers inch over the Sagamore, here the birds have actual feathers. Our picks for the best itineraries for four different agendas:

On George’s Island, the center island and ferry hub, history aficionados can explore Civil War prison Fort Warren, a National Historic Landmark rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a Confederate prisoner’s wife. On nearby Little Brewster Island, the Boston Light—the oldest lighthouse in the country, built in 1716—offers killer views of the harbor and a lighthouse keeper dressed in Laura Ingalls Wilder garb.

While Spectacle and Lovell’s offer decent spots, the prime place for a picnic is Bumpkin Island. Just beyond the slate and shell beaches, 30 acres of open fields beg for spread blankets, and wildflowers and native berries are ripe for post-meal picking.

Harbor Islands, 617-223-8666,; for camping reservations, 877-422-6762,