Boston’s Hidden Shore – The South Boston Harborwalk

One of Boston’s lesser-known public shorelines is also its longest uninterrupted stretch of accessible coast. From Castle Island to Savin Hill Cove, you can explore six continuous miles of harbor views that include the historic Fort Independence, multiple public beaches, Moakley Park (the second largest park in Boston), the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and the University of Massachusetts Boston Campus.  This inviting stretch is already part of the Emerald Network, but is in desperate need of better and safer connections. 

Pleasure Bay

On any given afternoon (weather permitting), you will find people eating at the picnic tables outside Sullivan’s Castle Island cafe or kayaking and kite surfing in Pleasure Bay. The sea wall that surrounds the bay allows you to walk out deep into Boston Harbor, giving you amazing views of downtown and the large shipping containers at Conley Terminal. 

View of the Harbor from Day Blvd.


Moving south along the shoreline, you pass the yacht clubs where you can watch people sail and, further along, people lying out in the sun on the M Street Beach. Wrapping around the Old Harbor is Carson Beach, Boston’s largest beach, where people swim, kayak, and host beach volleyball tournaments throughout the summer. If you continue on from Carson Beach, you’ll come to Moakley Park, which is undergoing a major redesign.  Emerald Network staff, along with community and advocacy representatives, are working with the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the City of Boston to include new sports fields, playgrounds, a community space, and a commitment to developing a climate resilient coast. And finally, past Moakley Park and across the Old Harbor looms the black monolith of the JFK Presidential Library where it sits next to the UMass Boston campus. 

View of K Circle from Day Blvd.

All of this beautiful, connected coast is right at the disposal of Boston residents. However, like many of Boston’s hidden gems, the biggest hurdle to enjoying this amazing asset is getting there. A recent community program operated by The American City Coalition found that people who live inland by as little as 1 mile didn’t know the shoreline existed or how to access it. When you consider the physical obstacles to get there, this is unsurprising. Most of the South Boston peninsula is cut off from the city by eight lanes of I-93, the train tracks of the Red Line and Fairmount Line, and the train layover yard at Widett Circle. Anyone attempting to access the South Boston Harborwalk has limited options, especially if they are walking, biking, or taking public transit. Even the closest MBTA train stations, JFK/UMass or Andrew on the Red Line, force pedestrians to cross dangerous roundabouts (K Circle) or massive arterials, such as Columbia Road.

And if you have ever made the journey to The Harborwalk, you know that it dies where it intersects with Morrissey Boulevard, a six-lane DCR roadway that operates more like a highway than a parkway. 

But this is changing. 

The City of Boston is moving forward with the redesign process for Moakley Park. As detailed in the Moakley Park Vision Plan, the City is intent on creating greater access to the park, and in turn the waterfront. 

City of Boston Map of South Bay Harbor Trail

Additionally, in its finished state, the South Bay Harbor Trail will connect Roxbury and the South End to South Boston and the Harborwalk in the Seaport area. The new section currently under construction will extend from Albany Street to the Harborwalk in the Seaport. This will eventually connect to the rest of the Harbor Trail along Melnea Cass.  Although this does not explicitly connect to the South Boston waterfront, it does create a safe passage for people across I-93. 

As the last month of summer gets into full swing we encourage you to get out to the ocean and enjoy the South Boston Harborwalk! The more people who enjoy this space, the more political will there is to create better access to it.