Lovells Island

wooden dock leads to a sandy path with tall grass on either side and shrubs in the background.
Lovells Island provides sandy beaches and windswept dunes, perfect for a hiking or camping adventure.

NPS Photo/J.M. Lampley

A rocky swimming beach, pine woods, and the remains of a fort characterize Lovells Island.

A favorite camping island, 48-acre Lovells Island has trails that pass by dunes and woods, picnic areas, an unsupervised swimming beach, and the remains of Fort Standish. Low tide exposes an additional 71 acres, for a total size of almost 120 acres.


General Information

This island of Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park is managed by Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).


Visitor Facilities & Services

9:00am to sunset
Visitor season:
Boat slips:
Visitor staff:
Guided tours:
Park boats:
Park shuttle boat
Car access:
Flush toilets:
6 (capacity ea: 6)
Composting toilets:
Group campsites:
2 (capacity ea: 50)
Picnic areas:
Camping capacity:
Cooking grills:
Drinking water:
Walking trails:

On-island Circulation: Approximately one mile of broken asphalt roads traverse the island. Mowed grass paths and shoreline walking are necessary to tour all of the gun batteries.

Visitor Cautions: The gun batteries contain steep drops, open holes in parapets rusty rebar, railings and pipes, and crumbling concrete surfaces.


Short History

For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples accessed the island seasonally. Following European colonization, the Massachusetts Bay Colony granted the island to Charlestown for timber harvesting and fishing, with half of the timber reserved for the fort on Castle Island. With its location along the first shipping channel into Boston, it briefly served as a quarantine station in the 1600s and was the nearest island to many shipwrecks. The country's first "hut of refuge" was constructed on the island by the Massachusetts Humane Society. In 1902 it was decided to construct two navigational range lights to assist mariners using the South Channel. In 1919, Charles Jennings, previously at Boston Light, became keeper at Lovells' range lights. The range light towers were torn down in the late 1930s when Army Fort Standish was expanded. Today all that remains is the oil house. The topography of the island was altered first by the construction of a granite seawall in the mid 1880s and second by military installations in the late 1800s. The island was acquired for military use in 1825 and garrisoned during the Civil War, WWI and WWII then declared surplus property. The state acquired the island in 1958.


Natural History Overview


The oldest tree on the island may be the stump of a horsechestnut with a cluster of viable stems. Most of the planted species date to the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps attempted to reestablish a natural forest on the island, planting poplar, pine, spruce, oak, and rose. Much of this was cleared when the fort was reactivated in the 1940s. Left to recover after the war, the island is now characterized by over fifty years of natural succession of vegetation on a disturbed site with remnant patches of stands of poplar, pine and spruce. Successional species include staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), black cherry, choke cherry, apple (Malus sp.), and gray birch (Betula populifolia). Common shrubs include bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), beach plum, raspberry (Rubus sp.), Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) and saltspray rose (Rosa rugosa). The wet meadow area was altered by fill during military construction. Phragmites covers most of the area while a small area contains native marsh species (Spartina patens, Juncus gerardii, Salicornia and Limonium). Dunes on the north and south shores are vegetated with beachgrass. There is minimal poison ivy on the island, located in Battery Terrill.


Please see Animals page for more information.


Lovells is composed of a wet meadow and three low connected drumlins: the southeast head, Ram's Head at the northwest end, and the central drumlin, which rises to an elevation of 79 feet. The island is surrounded by a rockstrewn shoreline with the exception of the northeast side where there is a long section of gravel, sand and shell beach. A half mile-long dune extends along the southern shore and a short dune is located on the northern shore. A constructed seawall and fortifications have altered the shape and topography of portions of the island.

Water Features

The remains of a well over a small seep, constructed during the period of military use, are located in an poplar grove on the central drumlin. The primary source of fresh water for the military was water pumped from an off-island source. Further study required.

Views and Vistas

From the central drumlin there are views to Boston and the islands in the middle harbor including Deer, Long, Gallops, Rainsford, and Georges. From the swimming beach, gun batteries and southeast head there are views to the outer islands and Boston Light.



Last updated: November 30, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park
21 Second Ave

Charlestown, MA 02129


617 223-8666

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