Fort Independence’s Free Tour Season Has Begun

Learn about the place that's protected Boston Harbor since 1634.

What’s summer in Boston without a few history lessons?

Fort Independence on Castle Island kicked off its season of tours a few weeks back and it’s calling all history buffs to check them out. Self-guided sunset tours are offered every Thursday on the top of the fort from 7 p.m. to dusk, and guided full fort tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays between noon and 3:30 p.m.

Oh, and the tours are free.

“You can’t get any better than that,” says Bill Spain, president of the Castle Island Association. “You can’t beat that price.”

He says the tours usually run about an hour long, boasting panoramic views of Boston, Quincy, Dorchester, the Harbor Islands, and the airport.

Castle Island is the oldest continuously fortified site of all of the formerly British parts of the United States. The island (which is technically no longer an island) has been home to several different forts since 1634.

An early fort at the site, dubbed Castle William, served as a headquarters for the British military. British troops abandoned the fort after the Revolutionary War, and in the 1790s, it was renamed to Fort Independence. The present pentagonal structure was completed in 1851 and was in operation through World War II. According to the Massachusetts Historical Society, it’s the eighth generation of forts or “castles” to occupy Castle Island.

Boston’s own Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Independence in the summer of 1827. His short story “The Cask of Amontillado” is said to be based on a legend Poe heard about the fort, in which a popular lieutenant is killed, so his crew attacks the lieutenant’s killer and seals him up in a vault within the fort.

After Castle Island was no longer necessary in defending the harbor, the federal government handed over the site to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation in 1962. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and today, Castle Island is open as a historic site and park year-round.

More information about tours is available at