Nature Lovers Will Thrive At This Diverse And Educational Massachusetts Island

A trip to Massachusetts is a journey through the history of the United States. For example, you can easily immerse yourself in history at one of the oldest inns in the country at the Colonial Inn in Concord, or hit Boston with its Freedom Trail that guides you through an array of historical landmarks, the Boston Public Garden, and the artistically-rich Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston delivers on dynamic landscapes, too, with a collection of offshore land masses at Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park — which leads us to the natural and educational gem of Thompson Island.


When you think of beachy areas around Massachusetts, you probably think of quintessential Cape Cod resorts or you might even shiver at the area's moniker as the world's "Great White Capital". But Boston has its own version of island time with 34 islands that sit within Massachusetts Bay. They each have their own characteristics and offerings, but if you're especially interested in learning about nature, Thompson Island might be your top choice. 

Thompson Island and its education connection

The island has a rich and thorough history, as it was named after David Thompson, who set up a trading post here in the early 1600s. During the American Revolution, both Colonial and British forces staged on the island, and settlers eventually used it for farmland. In the 1800s, a school for troubled boys was constructed along with a few associated buildings, and it became an immersive agricultural and recreational learning experience for the youths. In the 1930s, it evolved into a secondary education program, and, in 1988, it changed hands to The Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center — the organization that still owns it today.


This history set the groundwork for Outward Bound's partnership with local schools and groups. Each summer it provides education through research and hands-on experiences for both youths and adults. Camps allow participants to learn about and build confidence in their ability to camp, sail, kayak, climb, and explore the natural environment. This makes it a popular place for youth camps as well as corporate and team-building events.

The ins and outs of Thompson Island

Although there are paved areas and some structures, the focus is on nature. Thompson Island features 204 acres of underdeveloped land, so visitors can learn about the mature trees and wildflowers in the meadows. Surrounded by water, it's also the perfect place to study freshwater and marine wetlands and salt marshes. Enjoy the hiking trails, pack a picnic, and enjoy the solitude.


Thanks to its natural beauty, complemented by the Boston skyline in the near distance, it's a nature preserve that's also an event destination. At the Thompson Island Signature Events and Conference Center, a rustic pavilion can cater to up to 225 guests, while a larger outdoor space can accommodate 2,500 people. Day trippers, vacationers, and tourists can also pop onto the island for a visit. It's easy to get to with a quick trip on a ferry from Boston. However, the ferry schedule changes frequently and the public has limited access. 

During the summer, visitors can reach the island by making a reservation with the Thompson Island Outward Bound Education Center. Note there may only be one ferry early in the morning and a single return ferry a few hours later.