by Stephen Jermanok
Living in Boston, I could never understand why there were so few hotels taking advantage of the waterfront setting. For years, The Marriott Long Wharf and the Boston Harbor Hotel were the only two hotels that rewarded guests with ocean views. Then the Seaport Hotel opened near the new convention center in the burgeoning Fan Pier neighborhood of South Boston, and the Intercontinental joined Boston Harbor Hotel along the new Rose Kennedy Greenway, the former large-scale construction site known as the Big Dig. But my favorite of all the new waterfront lodgings in the city is the Battery Wharf Hotel, Boston Waterfront, formerly the Fairmont Battery Wharf.
Once owned by Paul Revere’s son and only a short walk to Paul Revere’s house in the North End, the Battery Wharf is simply a long dock and the hotel juts out onto the wharf like a docked ship. In fact, your room could very well sit across from the U.S. Coast Guard ship on the next dock or allow you to see all those large freighters being escorted in and out of the harbor by tugboats.
Yet, it’s not merely the property’s ocean locale that makes this small gem stick out from the pack, but its proximity to some of Boston’s favorite family sites. Within a short walk, you can be at the New England Aquarium saying hi to Myrtle the Turtle, dining on clam chowder and shopping in Quincy Market, grabbing pizza, pasta, and cannolis in the Italian neighborhood of the North End, and walking on the Freedom Trail to all those historic Revolutionary War Sites like Old North Church and the Bunker Hill Monument. It’s the ideal locale for a family vacation in the city.
Our Editor Loves
- Water taxi from Logan Airport to the hotel
- Great location
- Lots of local attractions including the Quincy Market, the Aquarium and the Freedom Trail
- Connecting Rooms
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
The 150 rooms in the Battery Wharf Hotel are split into four low-lying buildings along the wharf. Choose one with a water view, like we did and you'll be peering at the Coast Guard boat. We have two growing teenagers, so we stayed in adjoining rooms on the first floor of the main building, which worked out well. Each of the rooms had large king-sized beds and soft pillows that suck you in, ample closet and drawer space, flat screen TVs with Sirius radio option, mini-bars, desks and Wi-Fi (which costs an additional $16 a day). The highlight, besides the view, is the heavenly shower that massages your body from above as well as three jets of water pulsing from the side.
If you really want to splurge, snag the T.S. Eliot suite at the tip of the wharf and you feel like you're on that Coast Guard ship. You can hear the whistling of the ocean breeze through the windows, walk out to a small patio with views of those large tankers coming in and out of the port, even see "all hands on deck" with the zoom lens of your in-suite telescope. The dark cherry wood floors and soft rugs add to the warm welcome.
A lovely hotel architecturally in a gorgeous location on the beautiful, newly invigorated Boston harbor, with water taxi access to multiple delightful destinations in all directions. It is also located at the bottom of Boston’s historic North End, with its rich culture and spectacular Italian food. The rooms are well appointed and the bar, restaurant, and conference spaces are spacious and attractive.
So what’s not to like? At these prices one expects the hotel to assure quality with a pointed focus on details of all varieties. Not so here. As the photos illustrate, the room carpet was aged and soiled, lampshades yellowed with age (so worn that holes had materialized) and wire structures broken. Surely there are room inspections by staff and management where such deterioration or damage would be spotted and replaced or repaired. This lack of focus on detail keeps the hotel from obtaining the high status it should have. Shame.
by Fergus C
Room 4222; shower didn't work nor coffee machine nor bedside light. Complained but no action taken until 4 days later. Moved to room 3230 door lock didn't work; and couldn't access room; lock had to be repaired. Safe in room wouldn't open ,; staff hammered; drilled;and sawed but after 4 hours could not get it open. Safe contained medication but had to wait till next morning when safe was ripped from wall, and finally opened. All the issues had apologies from front line staff but not a word from hotel management. We were told all of the above issues were logged on housekeeping, but I have my doubts. All in all in my opinion a poorly managed and "tired" hotel certainly having traveled worldwide, this has been the worst hotel yet.
The Battery Wharf Hotel is not a resort with pool, so you'll be heading back to the room to relax, watch movies, change and off you go again on your merry way.
New England Aquarium
After breakfast, walk along the water some 10 minutes to reach the New England Aquarium. A must-see, the aquarium never fails to enchant, no matter what age. Get here on the early side because it gets crowded quickly, especially on weekends. Before going straight into the main area, veer left to see the displays of jellyfish. You'll be mesmerized by the slow movements of these colorful creatures as they gracefully swim using their tentacles. Then head across the hallway to see the penguins as they stand on the rocks and jump in the water. The highlight of the aquarium is the six-story cylindrical tank that you view as you walk up the circular ramp to the top. Stop to see the large stingrays, sharks, fish, and my personal favorite, Myrtle the Turtle. No one's quite sure of her age, between 70 and 80 years old, she's been here since the aquarium opened in 1969 and weighs over 500 pounds. Also visit the side cases on each floor to find such exotic sealife as unicorn fish and the leafy sea dragon, which looks like a floating piece of seaweed until you spot its eyes. Adjacent to the aquarium is an Imax Theater with the largest screen in New England. So for an additional cost, you can see a flick.
After a five-minute stroll, you cross the Greenway and arrive at Quincy Market, a fun spot for lunch. The line-up of food stalls include chowder, lobster rolls, Greek salads, sushi, Chinese food, pizza, you name it. Then grab a seat in the center atrium and save room for dessert, homemade cookies just out of the oven at Boston Chipwich. In summer, you can dine outside and watch performers like jugglers, magicians and mimes showcase their talent. You can also grab half-price theater tickets at the nearby kiosk, preferably for a play that evening at the dazzling Boston Opera House, originally built in 1928 and now a favorite spot for traveling Broadway plays.
Constructed in 1742, Faneuil Hall was a market where country folk could bring their produce into town and is now part of the red-lined Freedom Trail. Take a 90-minute tour of the Freedom Trail with National Park Rangers at the Boston National Historical Park Visitor Center, 15 State Street. The red line painted on the pavement not only takes you to many monumental sites of the past like the USS Constitution and Granary Burying Ground, final resting spot of Samuel Adams and Mother Goose, but brings you into some of the city's most cherished neighborhoods, like the centuries-old brick brownstones and village squares of Beacon Hill.
Institute of Contemporary Art
Another day, head to the Seaport District and the glass-enclosed fourth-floor atrium of the new Institute of Contemporary Art building. The eye-pleasing view takes in the harbor as well as the downtown skyline, best seen from this vantage point. Inside, the permanent exhibition includes one of Cornelia Parker's signature suspended sculptures, Hanging Fire (1999), and a delicate round rug, Pom Pom City (2002), woven by Mona Hatou.
Harbor Walk & Children's Museum
Behind the ICA and hugging the shores is the start of South Boston's section of the HarborWalk, a pedestrian-only path that can lead all the way back to the Battery Wharf Hotel. Watch the planes fly into Logan and see the mega-yachts lining the docks.
Continue along the HarborWalk on the same side of Fort Point Channel to the newly refurbished Children's Museum. Inside, floating pieces of plywood, much like magic carpets, tower to the ceiling in a climbing structure. There's also KidPower, an exhibition devoted to encouraging good nutrition and an active healthy lifestyle through biking and basketball.
Museum of Science
For any child with a healthy dose of curiosity, it's hard to beat the Museum of Science. Kids can experience the lightning show in the Thomson Theater of Electricity, say hello to the three-story-high Tyrannosaurus Rex, and dismantle computers all day long. Investigate! helps children think like scientists, developing questions, finding evidence and drawing conclusions from such activities as exploring the human body. Or visit the solar system at the daily star shows offered at the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
The hotel's restaurant is not just any old dining establishment, but the second outpost of three-star Michelin chef, Guy Martin. Like the Parisian restaurant, it's called Sensing and already is popular with locals. Sit indoors behind translucent curtains and watch the open kitchen at work or grab one of the outdoor seats in summer. Then get ready to feast on a tantalizing combination of flavors. Kids will likely start with a bowl of clam chowder or the selection of three local cheeses, while mom and dad will want to dig into the fois gras, sweetened in a dish of creme brulee. Then move on to the lobster bolognese, doused in a Thai-inspired peanut sauce, or the delectable beef cottage pie, topped with a soft velvety layer of cheese and sweetened with vanilla puree. Save room for the lemon lover, a tangy dessert combining soft lemon meringue with lemon sorbet.
Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe
Open in 1927, Charlie's Sandwich Shoppe in the South End is Boston's breakfast choice. They're known for their gigantic three-egg omelettes, tasty hash and home fries and blueberry pancakes.
Union Oyster House
A good lunch choice near Quincy Market is Union Oyster House. Opened in 1826, John F. Kennedy has his own booth here (number 18) and rumor has it that Daniel Webster used to sit at the bar and order three dozen oysters and six tumblers of brandy for his dinner.
The North End
The North End is known for their great Italian cooking. For pasta, you can't go wrong with the reliable Trattoria Il Panino. Eggplant parmesan is thinly sliced and lightly breaded at Artu, the budget choice for families. Afterwards, everyone heads over to Mike's Pastry for chocolate-chip cannolis and sinfully rich pistachio macaroons.
The Barking Crab
Both out-of-towners and locals like having lunch at The Barking Crab, near the ICA and the Children's Museum. Sit family-style at picnic tables next to businessmen and women who think nothing of walking across Fort Point Channel for a lobster roll, chockfull of meat, steamers, grilled fish sandwiches, and crab cakes.
Boston's Chinatown might seem small compared to New York or San Francisco, but the food is just as genuine, especially if you sit down for dim sum at China Pearl or Chau Chow City. Women stroll around with carts filled with dishes of shrimp and lobster dumplings, bowls of sticky rice (a favorite of my kids), and salt and pepper calamari. Best time to go is Saturday or Sunday around noon.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
A fitness room with the latest cardio and weight machines is on the second floor of the adjacent building. On the first floor is a small display dedicated to the history of Battery Wharf, created in 1646. In Boston, we like to boast about our history, especially when something is that old.
The Art of Smart Timing
Come to Boston between November and March and the price of the room is reduced. Many of the sites like the Aquarium, Children's Museum, and Quincy Market are indoors, so it's not entirely unreasonable to face the cold New England winter during this time. But if it's your dream to see the Red Sox play at Fenway Park, you'll have to wait until early April.
Take the Mass Pike to the very end and continue on I-93 North. Take Exit 23, Government Center, and stay in the right lane. At the first light, turn left onto Cross Street, then take the first right onto Hanover Street. Follow Hanover Street to the end and turn right onto Commercial Street. Battery Wharf Hotel, Boston Waterfront is the next left at the traffic light, onto Battery Street.
Located just over the harbor from Boston's Logan Airport, if you're flying into the city, grab a water taxi to the hotel to get a close up view of that bustling harbor. It's a great way to savor the city skyline.
For Mom and Dad
You're in Boston, so if you can slip away for a couple hours, you have many options for a great dinner. My current favorites are Hamersley's Bistro in the South End, Oleana and Craigie on Main in Cambridge, and No. 9 Park in Beacon Hill.