• Great Misery Island Reservation Great Misery Island Reservation
    The Trustees Of Reservations
    87 acres

    New in 2013: Shuttle service from Marblehead. Details at http://sea-shuttle.com/ Additional access by private boat

    Directions to Parking Area


    The_New_England_Magazine (Misery Island)

    Country Club at Misery Island circa 1905. New England Magazine Vol. 32


    Great Misery Island and Little Misery Island are located in Salem Sound approximately one-half mile from West Beach in Beverly. The islands are part of the City of Salem and are owned by the Trustees of Reservations.
    The Misery Islands were at one time named ‘Moulton’s Misery’ after Robert Moulton of Salem who became stranded on the island during a winter storm while harvesting timber in the early 17th century.
    At the beginning of the 20th century a country club and golf course operated on the island. Originally named the ‘Misery Island Club’ it changed hands and names many times until closing in 1918. A number of summer cottages remained until burning in a fire in 1926.
    On September 2, 1923 a steamship named the ‘City of Rockland’ ran aground on a reef at Dix’s Island in the Kennebec River. The ship was later taken to Salem for salvage and burned in between Little Misery and Great Misery Island in October of 1924. The ribs of the ship are still visible at low tide.
    Between 1935 and 1997 the Trustees of Reservations acquired the entire island through a combination of donations and outright purchase and manages the island today.


    View of Little Misery Island from Great Misery Island

    The name ‘Misery Island’ and Robert Moulton
    From ‘A History of the Moulton Family: Published by W. P. Moulton and Children Stuart, Iowa, 1905’

    “Robert Moulton was sent over in the fleet with Higginson to Salem in 1629, by the Home Company, with orders to commence ship building.There were seven other ship building carpenters in the fleet and during the first season they built three shallops on Salem Neck. (Found in History of Salem.)
    Moulton had charge of the work. He soon removed to Charlestown where he was made freeman in 1631. He was one of the first selectmen of that town and was representative to the first General Court in 1634. He came back to Salem in 1637 and in that vear was disarmed because he was a friend of Wheelwright, who was a father-in-law to Anne Hutchinson.
    Moulton did a large business, not only in ship carpentering, but also in exporting ship timber, for which purpose he cut off all the timber on Salem Neck pasture (Upham) and Goat Hill in Beverly, of which he had a deed. ” (John I. Baker.)
    He was at one time in partnership with Robert Baker, one of the ships’ carpenters that came in the fleet with him. Baker owned Baker’s Island and Moulton the Misery Island in Salem Harbor, (Tradition in Baker’s family) formerly called Moulton’s Misery because at an early date the ship and crew of the R. S Rantoul were lost on it. Moulton’s house in Salem, stood on the northern side of Essex St. where it joins Boston St., i. e. Buffum corner, and the site of the cellar can be seen in the garden of his descendant, Robert Buffum of Upham.” Note: The site of Moulton’s house has long since been built over.

    Misery Island Club


    Pump House Ruins


    Stairs to the Casino


    Bleak House ruins from the water.


    Water tower ruins

    From New England Magazine Vol. 32 (1905)’
    “Just off the shore at Beverly Farms are the eighty-six acres which make up picturesque Misery Island, flecked with charming summer cottages and bungalows. It was purchased for the use of the Misery Island Club, which began at once to improve the spot with such energy that in less than fifteen years a clubhouse, an ice-house, a caddy-house, and fine golf links have sprung up on the island. A prominent feature of the clubhouse is a large new dining-hall, as well as a cafe; there is also a smaller room used for private parties, and on the second floor are a dozen chambers and baths; in the spacious living-room are several pool tables.”

    The Trustees of Reservations
    From The Trustees of Reservations Management Plan’

    History :
    “The Misery Island Club was built in the early 1900’s and featured a pier, a clubhouse, a salt water swimming pool, guest cottages, a tennis court, and a nine hole golf course. It later failed and then a brush fire in 1926 destroyed many homes. Today, a system of trails provides access to most parts of Great Misery Island, including spectacular overlooks, stony beaches, and grassy fields. Little Misery Island is accessible from Great Misery Island by wading across a narrow, shallow channel at very low tide. Off the beach of Little Misery are the remains of the steamship, The City of Rockland, which was decommissioned and was accidentally grounded on its way to be sunk in the surrounding waters. It seems evident that tidal action and waves will eventually destroy what is left of the vessel
    Misery Islands were closed during World War II, and then became overgrown during late 50’s early 60’s, which made travel on the property difficult. During this period, trash from visitors began to accumulate. In 1969, David A. Ryan, a local school teacher at Manchester High School was hired as the island’s summer Superintendent, and he worked with a few students to remove trash, open vistas, and cut trails, essentially resurrecting the island back into an attractive destination location. Ryan’s actions changed visitors’ image of Misery Islands, as they gained a greater respect for and became stewards of the property. There is a sense of pride and responsibility that “regular” visitors exude and distill on others who disrespect or misuse Misery Islands. The property now boasts a carry in, carry out trash policy which is proving to be effective.”
    “A historic feature unrelated to the Misery Island Club, is the City of Rockport shipwreck, which is between Great Misery and Little Misery Island. This decommissioned ship was being transported to a location where it was to be sunk. The journey end prematurely when the ship was accidentally grounded in the shallow waters. The remnants are visible during low tide.”

    Natural Resources :
    “The ecology and natural resources of Great (83 acres) and Little Misery (4 acres) Islands are heavily influenced by their geology, landscape setting, and recent land use history. These granite islands are topped by glacial till and the soils are thin, well drained, and droughty. Set in the heart of Salem Sound, Misery is subject to the effects of salt spray—which can stunt plant growth and exclude many species. Over three hundred years of agriculture—primarily livestock grazing—left the island with sparse tree cover. After the 1926 wildfire, summer families stopped coming and the islands were left to revert back to “nature.”
    Today, Great and Little Misery Island are dominated by a dense maritime shrubland of bayberry, huckleberry, red cedar, black cherry, poison ivy and several non-native shrubs. Tree cover is increasing and includes a mix of native species—white pine, big toothed and quacking aspen, red and white oak, and red maple. Non-native species such as Norway maple, Scotch and Austrian pine, and black locust also exist. The islands are ringed by a rocky shore punctuated by a few cobble and sandy beaches. Two small wetlands (1.5 acres and 0.75 acres) support a mix of shrub swamp and emergent marsh, and add to the island’s diversity.
    The maritime shrubland, while impacted by non-native plants, provides habitat for a number of declining species associated with early successional habitats including brown thrasher, grey catbird, Eastern towhee, and American woodcock. While over time small portions of the interior will succeed towards forest, the maritime shrubland will persist throughout much of its extent due to the influence of frequent salt spray. Both islands are identified by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage BioMap as core habitat for herring and black-backed gulls which once nested on the island. In addition, prominently located within the Atlantic Flyway, Misery Islands likely provide important habitat for migrating birds, especially tree swallows which fuel their migration with the abundant bayberries that grow there.”


    View of Bakers Island from Great Misery


    Driftwood at Wild Cove


    Wild Cove


    Fractured Basalt dike at North Cove


    Felsite dikes near Bleak House