8 Great Places for Recreational Boating on Boston Harbor

Sailboats on Boston Harbor

In Massachusetts, we have a legal right to access Boston Harbor. But not every property owner along the water lives up to their legal obligations. We looked at one amenity – recreational boating – and mapped the sites that are doing it right, and those that need to step up to comply with the law. Photo: Shutterstock

Like so many other people, the magic of summertime is inextricably linked to spending time on the waterfront: swimming, boating, fishing.

In Massachusetts, our right to the waterfront (and the land alongside it) is guaranteed by the Public Waterfront Act, so Boston Harbor has many places where people can go to enjoy waterfront activities – including getting out on the water in your own boat.

To protect the public’s right to the waterfront, anyone who wants to build along the waterfront needs to receive a “Chapter 91” license from the state. That license explains how a development must welcome the public – for example, by making it possible for the public to use the site for recreational boating.

We recently visited 27 sites along Boston Harbor that have recreational boating features required in their Chapter 91 licenses. But we found that not all of them are as accessible as they should be. Here are the 8 places where you can get out on the water right now. Then, keep reading for information about the 21 other sites that are failing to comply with the law.

8 Spots to Float Your Boat

  1. Lovejoy Wharf Redevelopment – North End
    Catch a breath of sea air at Lovejoy Wharf just beside North Station. While you visit, do some shoe shopping at Converse and then get a bite to eat and some 21+ drinks at either Nightshift Brewing or Alcove.
  2. Burrough’s Wharf – North End

    When you visit Burrough’s Wharf make sure to bring your camera. This charming residential dock offers a lovely view of East Boston, plus you can take a look at the Boston Fire Department’s marine unit before enjoying a cup of Massachusetts-roasted coffee at Café Amalfi.

  3. Independence Wharf – Downtown

    Don’t let this unassuming wharf tucked beneath Seaport Boulevard fool you, this location offers breathtaking views of  Boston. See the security guard in the lobby for access to the observation deck on the 14th floor, and, after viewing the Kennedy Greenway from above, enjoy a stroll at ground level.

  4. 5 & 6 Necco Court Landing – Fort Point

    Toward the back of the Fort Point Channel, this wooden landing for kayaks, paddleboards, and the like can make you forget you’re in the middle of Boston. Enjoy the start of Seaport’s Harborwalk or take the whole family to the Boston Tea Party Ship, the Children’s Museum, or Martin’s Park.

  5. Pier 4 Fishing Dock – Seaport

    Nestled in the heart of the Seaport, this site provides an array of fishing amenities such as a bait machine and cleaning station. If fishing isn’t your pleasure, the nearby Institute of Contemporary Art offers rotating art exhibits. And the current pop-up village on Northern Avenue provides a variety of shopping options.

  6. 126 Border Street – East Boston

    The backside of 126 Border Street provides a rocky beach where you can launch or land kayaks. This spot also provides some secluded green space with a view of Charlestown. It’s the perfect place for a quiet picnic on the harbor after a paddle.

  7. Eddy Street Apartments – East Boston

    Don’t forget a ball when you pull your boat up to the floating dock at Eddy Street Apartments. LoPresti Park is right next door and has a full soccer field, two full basketball courts, and a gorgeous view. Plus, if you work up an appetite you can stop at Reelhouse for some seafood.

  8. Clippership Wharf – East Boston
    Clippership Wharf has got to be one of the best places to view Boston’s skyline. The well-kept floating dock offers easy access to Maverick Square and a stunning view of Downtown Boston. It’s a great place to dock for a short visit.
  • Lovejoy Wharf
  • Burroughs Dock
  • Independence Wharf Dock
  • 5 & 6 Necco Court Landing
  • Pier 4 Fishing Dock
  • 126 Border Street
  • Eddy Street Apartments
  • Clippership Wharf

More than 20 Sites are Failing to Comply with the Law

These 8 spots are great for getting out on the Boston Harbor, but what about the 21 other sites that have recreational boating requirements in their Chapter 91 licenses? Some lacked adequate signage to let the public know they could freely use that site to tie up their boat and get out for a harborside stroll. Others had docks in need of repair, making them unsafe and inaccessible for the public to use.

These issues can build on themselves. As people are discouraged from using the waterfront, property owners feel less pressure to maintain their sites for public use, which further discourages all of us from getting out and enjoying one of Boston’s greatest assets.

Boston Harbor is the People’s Harbor

Boston Harbor was once one of the dirtiest harbors in the country. Now it’s one of the cleanest – thanks in large part to massive public investment by the residents of Boston and beyond.

But with such an extensive waterfront, it continues to take the work of many to protect our right to enjoy Boston Harbor’s pleasures. The best way you can help is by exercising that right. Check out our interactive map of the 27 sites we visited – including our top 8 places for recreational boating on the harbor. (You can also dive deeper in our full assessment of recreational boating access.)

If you visit one of the sites we mapped and can’t access the waterfront as guaranteed in the property’s Chapter 91 license, please reach out to us. Send an email to CLF to describe the challenges you faced! And, if you have ideas about where more recreational boating infrastructure is needed, we’d like to hear from you about that, too!

And, you can find more ways to help protect the public’s right to access Boston Harbor in our People’s Harbor toolkit. Don’t forget to sign our pledge to protect the harbor and our public rights.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.