Located four miles east of Boston in Boston Harbor, this 114-acre island features recreational amenities including five miles of hiking trails, beaches, a marina, and a visitor center. Composed of two drumlins connected by a narrow point of land, Spectacle Island was given its name by colonial settlers who looked out across the harbor and saw what looked like a pair of eyeglasses. The island has served as the location for a variety of uses over time, including agriculture, a quarantine hospital, a glue factory, recreational resorts (until 1857), and a municipal landfill from 1935 until 1992. Starting in 1992 excavated dirt from Boston’s “Big Dig” (see Rose Kennedy Greenway, page 29) infrastructure project was relocated to Spectacle Island and was utilized to cap the landfill with two feet of clay and up to five feet of topsoil. The Boston-based landscape architecture firm Brown, Richardson + Rowe designed and re-graded the island, maintaining the original formation of two connected hills and incorporating a spiral circulation pattern leading up to each peak.
Spectacle Island is accessible by public ferry, private or charter boats. The marina and visitor center are located on the island’s western shore. Hiking trails offer views of neighboring Harbor Islands and Boston’s skyline. Spectacle Island is owned by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation and the City of Boston. The island is part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, which became a National Park unit in 1996.