Misery Islands in Salem, Massachusetts

The Misery Islands are a pair of small islands located off the coast of Salem, in the waters of Salem Sound.

They are part of the Misery Islands Reservation, which is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Have you been to Misery Islands? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of them!

Here’s some information about the Misery Islands:


The Misery Islands consist of two main islands: Great Misery Island and Little Misery Island.

Great Misery Island is the larger of the two islands and features a more varied topography. It has an area of about 51 acres. Little Misery Island is the smaller island has an area of approximately 17 acres.

These islands are situated about 1.5 miles off the coast of Salem. These islands are known for their rugged terrain, rocky shores, and natural beauty.

Natural Reserves:

The Misery Islands are designated as a natural reserve and are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. They offer opportunities for nature lovers, hikers, birdwatchers and swimmers to explore and enjoy the great outdoors.

Recreational Activities:

Visitors to the Misery Islands can engage in activities such as hiking, picnicking, birdwatching, and enjoying the islands’ numerous sandy beaches and stunning coastal views. There are hiking trails that lead to various points on both islands, providing a chance to experience the unique flora and fauna of the region.


The islands are home to a variety of birds, including nesting seabirds like gulls and cormorants. Additionally, the waters around the islands are popular for kayaking and boating, allowing visitors to explore the coastline from a different perspective.

Historical Significance:

The islands also have historical significance. Before European settlement, the islands were likely used by Native American tribes for fishing, hunting, and other activities.

The islands’ name “Misery” is thought to have originated from the time a shipbuilder named Captain Robert Moulton was shipwrecked on the islands for what he described as “three miserable days” in the 1620s.

During the colonial era, the islands gained attention due to their strategic location in Salem Sound. The islands were used as a site for quarantining individuals during disease outbreaks. These quarantine measures were imposed to prevent the spread of illnesses among colonists.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Misery Islands were also used for cattle grazing. Livestock was brought to the islands to graze on the vegetation, allowing pastures on the mainland to recover from overuse.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, concerns about preserving natural areas began to grow. This led to efforts to protect the Misery Islands from development and ensure their conservation for future generations.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) now manages the islands as part of the Misery Islands Reservation.

How to Get to Misery Islands:

To reach the Misery Islands, you typically need to take a boat or kayak from Salem or nearby Marblehead. The islands are relatively close to the mainland and are easily accessible to visitors.

Visitors can also take a boat tour on the Essex National Heritage Area’s landing craft, Naumkeag. Upon arrival, visitors will have two hours to explore the trails, meadows, beaches and hidden coves on Great Misery Island.

“Tours to Misery Islands.” Essex Heritage, essexheritage.org/event/2023-boat-tour-to-misery-island-11/
“Misery Islands History.” Trustees.org, thetrustees.org/content/misery-islands-history/
“Misery Islands.” Trustees.org, thetrustees.org/place/misery-islands/

About William Briscoe

William Briscoe is a seasoned travel blogger and adventurer based in Massachusetts. With a passion for exploring hidden gems and sharing his travel experiences, Briscoe's website, "Mass Attractions," has become a go-to resource for those seeking seasonal attractions in Massachusetts. In addition to his website, William has contributed travel stories and articles to various travel publications, and his work has been featured in several magazines and online platforms. He also collaborates with tourism boards and travel companies to promote sustainable and responsible travel practices. William enjoys exploring the scenic beauty of New England, spending time with his family and two rescue dogs, and experimenting with classical New England recipes in his kitchen. He holds a degree in English Literature from Boston University, which he believes laid the foundation for his writing skills.

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