It was low tide, but the harbor smelled nice and fresh. We joined runners, stroller pushers and dog walkers for the 20 minute horseshoe meander to the Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina. On this side of the harbor, it was like seeing Boston again. The city’s graceful ribbon of brick, steel and glass stretched along the water, punctuated by the Leader Bank pavilion to the left, the Custom House tower in the middle, and Battery Wharf to the right. In its own way, Boston’s face to the world rivals waterfronts as tall as spiky Manhattan or the glass blocks of Hong Kong. One could easily believe that this was a city that once ruled the seas. How incredible that we have covered everything!
Embodying the best of old and new Boston, the shipyard at 256 Marginal Street anchors the eastern end of the waterfront. pleasure. But some of its cavernous structures are home to post-industrial companies like ICA Watershed (icaboston.org, free), which occupies a former 15,000 square foot copper pipe factory. After serving as a food distribution site throughout the pandemic, the Contemporary Art Gallery reopened last month with Firelei Báez’s massive installation of an imaginary ancient underwater ruin, which can be seen up to to September 6.
Nantucket LV-112 flagship (617-797-0135, nantucketlightshiplv-112.org, $ 8), who has helped guide ships through the Nantucket Shoals for 39 years, floats at the end of the main marina pier. Still in catering, it is open for visits from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Downeast Cider House (857-301-8881, downeastcider.com) sells takeout cider for limited hours Thursday through Sunday. Check the website to see if visits and sampling have resumed. We were too early for service, but KO Pies (617-418-5234, kocateringandpies.com, open Thursday-Sunday) opened the patio for savory Australian-style pies or grilled seafood (think ‘shrimp on the barbie ″).
A short distance west of the shipyard guardhouse, a large sign announces Piers Park and credits a long list of Boston politicians. The harbor-side model park includes a well-equipped playground and the Piers Park Sailing Center (piersparksailing.org), a non-profit sailing school with programs for youth, adults and tailor-made programs. The park’s pier stretches far into the harbor. The beautiful pavilion at the end, where the central column resembles a lighthouse fresnel lens, is dedicated “to the memory of Donald McKay, master shipbuilder”. shipyard has built some of the fastest clippers in the world. We are eagerly awaiting the makeover of a jetty to the west. MassPort promises that the wasteland surrounded by chain link fence will be transformed into Piers Park II, with “over 4.5 acres of open space for the East Boston community.”
As we continued west on Marginal Street, the pace of new construction was surprising, but public access was planned in the plans. We walked the edge of the harbor on cobblestone walkways that led from one luxury residential complex to another. At Clippership Wharf, where large iron-hulled ships were once built, we stepped out onto Sumner Street and LoPresti Park. At the end of the park, ReelHouse (6 New St., 617-895-4075, reelhouseboston.com) marks the end of the continuous stretch of the East Boston Harborwalk. It’s a good place to have a drink and maybe a meal at the outdoor tables before calling a water taxi or walking to Maverick T station to call it a day.
We continued on foot to three offline Harborwalk sites. Took about half an hour on Border and Condor streets to reach Condor Street Urban Wild. Our last glimpse of the harbor was Boston East, yet another luxury residential community with a walkway to the shore, as well as a public kayak boat launch and restrooms. It was the site of the shipyard of Samuel Hall (and, later, Hall’s floating dry dock), a pioneer of shipbuilding in Boston.
North of Central Square and its small restaurants, the frantic renovation of Border Street looked like a tidal wave of gentrification sweeping through the largely immigrant neighborhood. The waterfront was once famous for its maritime industry. A granite monument in the courtyard of 400 Border Street commemorates the “famous clippers built on this site by Donald McKay, whose genius produced ships of previously unknown beauty and speed.” His most famous, Flying Cloud (launched in 1851), is depicted in stone above the inscriptions.
Border Street turns right to become Condor Street as it follows the south shore of Chelsea Creek, largely invisible through weed trees and a concrete wall. Towards the end of the street, the Condor Street Urban Wild suddenly appears as a large green mound on the riverbank. This finally gave us a good look at Chelsea Creek, PORT Park across the creek in Chelsea, and the huge piles of Eastern Minerals salt, covered in white plastic until next winter.
We continued to walk along dusty Bennington Avenue, but since the drive is long, boring, and far from shore, we recommend that you use the 120 bus on the same route to avoid boredom. It is a short drive to the pedestrian overpass to Constitution Beach, a family beach. With roast beef sandwiches and fries from Royal Roast Beef & Seafood (752 Bennington St., 617-567-7779, toasttab.com/royal-roast-beef-and-seafood) in hand, we sat down at a picnic table for a meal largely free of begging gulls and with the added bonus of a view of the large birds on the runways at Logan Airport.
It takes about 25 minutes to walk along Bennington Street to Belle Isle Marsh, or one stop in Orient Heights on the Blue Line. The spectacular marshes are practically opposite Suffolk Downs T station, with the entrance road just short of the Revere town line. It is a permanent marvel of the Harborwalk where dense city life rubs shoulders with sprawling natural areas.
At low tide, the swamp is a maze of muddy troughs, but as the water rises, shorebirds frequent the shores in search of small fry, frogs, and other tasty morsels. With the humidity increasing this time of year, the elegant shoreline of downtown Boston sparkles in the distance, appearing to be just a flickering mirage from the Belle Isle vantage point.
PORT OF BOSTON PART 4
Departure: Rowes Wharf Water Taxi (617-406-8584, $ 15) or blue line to the airport with shuttle to the ferry dock
End: Blue Line T Suffolk Downs
Distance: To Reelhouse approximately 3 miles, 1 hour 20 minutes; total length approximately 9 miles, 4 hours 40 minutes with lunch break
Harborwalk Interactive Map: bostonharborwalk.org