where wonder happens
Misery Islands
northeast Salem, MA
87 acres

Take your boat to Great Misery and hike past the remains of a former resort on the way to a mixed habitat of forest, small meadows, and rocky shore. Enjoy memorable views of Salem Sound and the North Shore.

What makes Misery Islands a special place?
We think it’s the stunning views you enjoy of the North Shore and Salem Sound from 83-acre Great Misery and 4-acre Little Misery. The ruins of an early-20th-century resort reveal that this offshore retreat was a haven for leisure and recreation a century ago. And the diversity of habitats – groves of aspen, open meadows, rugged and rocky shorelines – adds to the wild beauty of the islands.

More than two miles of trails at Great Misery Island lead you to spectacular overlooks, stony beaches, and grassy fields. You can also reach Little Misery Island from Great Misery Island by wading across a narrow, shallow channel at very low tide. On the beach of Little Misery you can see the remains of the steamship, The City of Rockland, wrecked off the coast of Maine and scuttled here many years ago.

Human history here goes back to the Mosconomet Indians. In the 1620s, shipbuilder Captain Robert Moulton became stranded for three miserable days during a winter storm, and it was from his ordeal that the Islands’ names supposedly arose.

In 1900, a business group set its sights on Great Misery Island, developing the Misery Island Club. It boasted a pier, a club house, a saltwater swimming pool, guest cottages, a tennis court, and a nine-hole golf course. Tournaments and regattas attracted Boston and North Shore socialites, but the club fell on hard times only a year after opening. Eventually individual lots sold and a summer colony of more than 25 cottages took hold. In 1926, however, a devastating brush fire destroyed many homes, and summer families eventually lost interest in the islands.

Before its last three acres were acquired in 1997, several threats to Misery Islands had been fended off, including a 1935 plan for a twelve-million-gallon oil storage facility and a 1988 plan for a secondary sewage treatment plant.

Trails
2.5 miles of trails. Moderate hiking.

When to Visit
Year-round, daily, sunrise to sunset. Allow a minimum of 1½ hours upon arrival.

Facilities
Public restrooms (composting toilets; open seasonally).

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  • Regulations & Advisories
  • History
  • Conservation & Stewardship
Announcements & Alerts

Please note: Camping is not allowed on the islands for public health reasons. The island is accessible by personal craft only.

The Hike Trustees Challenge
Take our Hike Trustees challenge and see just how far you can go. Get outside, win prizes.
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