We just wrapped Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer, and that means it's time to plan some island hopping. No, not Hawaii or the Caribbean. No, not even Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket (although they are dandy places to visit). I'm thinking about the delightful spots right in our backyard, the Boston Harbor Islands, which are part of the National Park Service. A short, but pleasant ferry ride away, the islands offer a calming refuge from the bustle of the city. The Boston skyline may be plainly visible, but visitors feel a million miles away with a welcome island vibe of gentle ocean breezes, waves lapping against the shore, and birds chirping.

Visitors can go swimming, boating, camping, and hiking, among many activities available at the islands. And they can explore Fort Warren on Georges Island and learn about its history. A National Historic Landmark, it was built to defend Boston and played an important role during the Civil War as a training camp for Union troops and a jail for Confederate prisoners.

There are also special events planned at the islands. On Saturday, June 1, for example, you could cheer on teams playing 19th-century Vintage Baseball with original rules and uniforms on Georges Island from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (Just curious: How do organizers know the game will end by 2:30? Did the Civil War-era rules prohibit extra innings?) On Sunday, June 16, guitarist David Ehle will kick off the Jazz on the Porch series at Spectacle Island with a show from noon to 4 p.m. And on Saturday, June 22, visitors are invited to Go Fly a Kite from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Spectacle Island, one of the city's premier kite-flying spots. For a complete listing of events see the Harbor Islands calendar. Wear comfortable footwear, bring a bathing suit, pack a lunch, and spend a few hours on an island mini-getaway, Boston-style. Boston Harbor Islands Boston Harbor Islands Ferry Service- Runs through September 2, 2013.

Photo: Boston Harbor Islands