Boston HarborWalk: A Waterfront Destination of Beaches, Museums and More

With plenty of things to do for kids and grownups alike, HarborWalk makes for a fun family day.

When a city ranks as one of the country’s most walkable, it had better put its money where its feet are. With HarborWalk, that’s exactly what Boston has done.

Originally conceived more than 20 years ago during Boston’s harbor revitalization, today’s wharfs are reborn into seaside destinations.

Hugging the water’s edge, HarborWalk is a nearly unbroken, 43-mile waterfront pedestrian and bike path. Big blue signs mark the way from cobblestones to bricks, sidewalks to boardwalks, as it winds through neighborhoods spanning Boston's rich demographic and cultural diversity. There are parks, fishing piers, water taxi stops and other amenities (yes, bathrooms), making this a great way to explore the waterfront. 

What’s your pleasure—neighborhood bodegas or clam shacks, high-tech enclaves or bustling ports?

Taking up most of the city’s 47 miles of coastline, a start-to-finish walk is nearly impossible. Instead, choose a section and dig in. Running from Constitution Beach on Winthrop’s border in East Boston to the Baker Chocolate Factory on the Neponset River in lower Dorchester, HarborWalk changes character along the way.

A more detailed map brings you up close with the length of the city’s rich historical seaside life. Beginning north, stroll along East Boston and into Charlestown, then, to Battery Wharf along the perimeter of the beloved Italian North End. From there trek through quaint Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park, a perfect place to stop for sunbathing with to-go snacks from Quincy Market. The HarborWalk then leads to Fan Pier at the far edge of the South Boston waterfront. Complete the journey into the Seaport area, on to the grand fortification of Castle Island, and continue to the walk’s end at the Dorchester Shores Reservation. 

Beach-lovers find plenty of stops along the way for digging their toes in the sand. On the south side, Carson Beach boasts three miles of white sands with changing rooms and sparkling clean water. Or try the calmer waters of nearby Pleasure Bay, an enclosed swimming area next to Castle Island State Park. Kids love Constitution Beach on the northern edge of the HarborWalk for splashing in the ocean while watching planes take off from nearby Logan Airport.

Boston's waterfront also boasts a heavy concentration of museums, all accessible via the HarborWalk. From north to south, you’ll stroll right by the Charlestown Navy Yard National Historic Park, USS Constitution Museum, New England Aquarium, Boston Children's Museum, Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

An estimated 40 out of the HarborWalk’s 43 miles have been at least partially completed (read: you can walk along the waterfront but final paving and other amenities might not be in place yet). With the development boom underway, most will be completed by 2020.

Whether you choose a neighborhood focus, or if you attempt to do it all, there’s something special about feeling the ocean breeze while keeping the city in your sights.

HarborWalk

HarborWalk Bests

  • Best places to watch the sunset: Piers Park, East Boston and Castle Island, South Boston
  • Best place to go swimming: Carson Beach, South Boston
  • Best place for biking: Neponset River Greenway, Dorchester
  • Best place to people-watch: Christopher Columbus Park, North End
  • Best place to hear live music: Boston Harbor Hotel Summer on the Wharf, Financial District

For more information on Boston’s HarborWalk, visit summeronthewaterfront.org