A view of the visitor's center and marina from atop one of the two hills on the island.
A Spectacular Island for Sea Glass Hunting
The beach to the right of the visitor's center has the most glass.
Spectacle Island offers hiking, swimming and lots of sea glass to look at!
Just a short ferry ride from Long Wharf in Boston, MA, Spectacle Island features a marina, visitors center with exhibits, sandy beaches, and walking trails that lead visitors to the crest of a 157 foot-high hill, offering magnificent panoramic views of the harbor and the city.
It also offers sea glass collectors an incredible experience as one of the beaches is loaded with sea glass and pottery from years long past. Some of these shards could be well over 100 years old as Spectacle Island has an old and varied history.
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Sea glass is found all along the beach.
A day's worth of sea glass collected on Spectacle Island.
Alas... you can't take the sea glass with you. While you can pick it up and photograph it you must leave the shards there for future sea glass hunters to enjoy.
Originally a Boston resort destination in the 1840s, Spectacle Island, so named for its similarity to a pair of spectacles, was once a quarantine hospital, the site of a horse rendering plant, and lastly, a city landfill. Boston's refuse was dumped on the island until 1959, when the practice was discontinued after a bulldozer on top of one of the trash mountains was suddenly swallowed up within the refuse.
After the closure the island remained a smelly, toxic blight in the middle of Boston Harbor until 1992, when it was eventually redeveloped as part of Boston's Big Dig. Tons of dirt from the city's massive highway relocation project were dumped on the island to cover the trash. The island was then resurfaced with clay and topsoil, had trees planted, trails and buildings built, and even had a beach installed. The island reopened to the public in 2006 and is now part of a 34-island Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR).
"Some of these shards could be well over 100 years old!"
While most of the refuse from Boston was covered in the redevelopment of Spectacle Island more than enough still finds its way on to the beach. One can imagine glass and pottery tumbling down the sides of the refuse heaps and spilling into the surrounding harbor to eventually be conditioned and smoothed by years of storm and surf.
Almost all the sea glass found during a recent visit was located on the beach to the right of the marina as you depart from the ferry. There is no need to worry about the time and tides as the shards can be found all the way up the beach and along the riprap abutting the sea wall.
Sea glass found on the island may not be as conditioned as shards found on an ocean coastline since the currents and surf within Boston Harbor may not be as active. But this offers an unusual opportunity for the sea glass collector. Lots of the glass, while having smooth edges, will have retained a lot of its original shape and surface texture which leads to easier identification of their origins. Decorative, depression-area sea glass can be found in abundance. Also found in copious amounts: pottery in a myriad of colors and design patterns.
An offer of advice though: bring a camera to take pics as park management forbids removing any of the sea glass and pottery. The idea is to preserve the sea glass hunting experience for future generations of collectors to come.
Sea glass from Spectacle Island with the City of Boston in the background.