Thompson Island is one of the largest, most accessible and ecologically diverse islands in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The island is open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day; otherwise access is by arrangement only.
The only way to get to the island is to use the Charter Boats. Private boats are not allowed to dock on the island.
The Island is 157-acres on Boston Harbor.
History of the island
This is a good brief summary of the history of the island found on one of the trail signs on the island:
In 1626, David Thompson established a trading post to barter with the Neponset Indians. Over the next 200 years, farmers leased the island to graze sheep. In 1833, the educational mission began when a group of philanthropists purchased the island and open the Boston Farm school, a vocational school for Boston orphaned or otherwise at-risk boys.
Tragic History of the Island
There were two fatal boating accidents which resulted in the death of several students and faculty at the Boston Asylum and Farm School for Indigent Boys:
April 29, 1842 Boating incident. The student’s boat, called the Polka, capsized after a fishing trip to the outer harbor. 29 individuals died. (I wasn’t able to find any specific names.)
Sunday, April 10, 1892 - A similar type of boating accident, when a small gust of wind capsize the boat. According to stories at the time, everyone on the boat survived the capsized. They all held on to the boat waiting for a rescue. The wait was long and they kept talking to each other for encouragement. The rescue boat took too long and nine members died:
A. F. Norbert (40) Instructor, Frank F. Hitchcock (19), George F. Ellis (16), Thomas Phillips, (16), William W. Curran (17), Charles R. Graves (17), Harvey E. Loud, (16), Adelbert H. Packard (16)
In 1941, Skeleton remains were found, possibly belonging to Wampanoag Indiana which lived on the island.
Most of the victims of the two boat accidents, the Indian skeleton remains are buried at the graveyard on the south side of the Island.
Things I Learned on a recent trip
- David Thompson was only on the island for a couple of years - yet for 200 years the island has named after him!
- It takes about 30 minutes to get from EDIC to the island dock.
- In 1863, the Philanthropists paid $6,000 for the rights to the island. What cost $6,000 in 1833 would cost $148,541.13 in 2015.
- The boat travels about 10 knots, a bit slower than other motor boats in the harbor.
- The boat entry and exit is downstairs, upstairs has a great view of the Boston skyline. There was very little light on upstairs at night.
- If you go for a company event, there are two areas that you can use: Ocean Bluff Pavilion and Waterfront Landing . The Ocean Bluff Pavilion is better for bigger groups.
- Make sure to bring plenty of suntan lotion, bug spray and bottle water. There are plenty of places on the island to have a picnic.
- I had no problems accessing the Internet on the island.
- There are several large fields for kids to run around and to play various sports.
- The trails around the island gives you beautiful views of Boston Harbor.
- There are various history spots where you learn what the boys at the Boston Farm School used at that location.
- On the Northern side of the island, you can see Airplanes taking off at nearby Logan Airport and then taking a sharp left over the island.
How do you get on the Island?
You get to the island from a private boat shuttle at the EDIC Pier in South Boston. Boat service is only available on weekends from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, or via private events.
Ferry service is cash fare. Adult: $17.00 per person, round trip. Children 3-12: $10 per child, round trip / under 3 years ride free. There are no island fee charges.
Thompson Island is an excellent place for a summer outing. They offer excellent catering services and there is plenty of room on the island for any social gathering.
Be sure to check out Challenge Field as it’s a really cool team building exercise. If you don't do it, at least walk by the Challenge field to see what your missing!
Each Thompson Island venue comes equipped with the following:
- Volleyball, Horseshoes, Corn Hole, Ladder Ball, Can Jam,
- Bocce balls, frisbees, footballs, soccer balls, dodge balls,
- wiffle ball and softball (must provide own glove)
- Adirondack chairs and hammocks, trail maps for self-guided nature walks
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