Waypoints: Bumpkin Island, Boston Harbor, MA

Farmhouse ruins on Bumpkin Island. Photo Tom Richardson

Like most of the islands comprising the Boston Harbor Islands National Park, Bumpkin Island (also shown as “Bumkin” on some charts) has a long and interesting history.

Waypoints: Bumpkin Island, Boston Harbor, MA
Chart, Bumpkin Island

Once a summering site for Native Americans, the 32-acre island in Hingham Bay was originally called “Round Island” by the first English settlers and granted to the town of Weymouth. In the mid-1600s, Samuel Ward was given property rights to the island, and upon his death bequeathed it to Harvard College, which leased the island to various tenant farmers for the nearly 150 years. Today, the remains of a stone farmhouse dating back to the early 1800s can be found on the island.

In the late 1800s, wealthy Bostonian and philanthropist Albert Burrage leased the island for 500 years and constructed a children’s hospital on the island in 1902. Bumpkin also became a place for underprivileged children from Boston to visit during the summer.

Waypoints: Bumpkin Island, Boston Harbor, MADuring World War I, Burrage transferred ownership of the island to the U.S. Navy, which built a training facility on Bumpkin. The hospital was used as an officer’s quarters and sick bay. German prisoners were also held on the island for a time. After the war, the Navy dismantled all of its structures and the Burrage Hospital reopened as a treatment facility for children suffering from polio. In 1945, the hospital burned to the ground, but the ruins of its foundation remain. In 1996, Bumpkin was made part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Today, boaters can visit and even camp on Bumpkin, where they’ll enjoy amazing views of Boston in a sylvan setting that feels a thousand miles from civilization. The Park Service maintains campsites ($35 per night) and restrooms, and visiting boaters can use one of the free moorings or anchor just offshore. You can reserve a site via the ReserveAmerica website. Gear and passengers can be dropped off at the island’s pier, and a dinghy is available for public use. Personal dinghies and kayaks can be left on the beach. A caretaker is present until Labor Day, but visitors are allowed to camp on the island after that date, providing they check in with the park service to secure a fire permit.

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