The Best of Belle Isle: Things to do when Visiting the Island

May 25, 2023 | Story by Maggie Jackson

Belle Isle has a host of great things to do year-round, but there is something special about the island when the weather starts to turn. Whether you have the kids in tow or just want a day alone, Belle Isle has been a staple location for metro Detroiters and travelers alike.

Located along the Detroit River, Belle Isle is a 2.5-mile-long park that was created to provide an urban oasis in Detroit. Having a unique history of its own, Belle Isle has its own unique ecology with 230 acres of forested wetlands, several trails, and being located along international waters.

One thing to keep in mind is that all vehicles entering Belle Isle will need a recreation passport, which allows entry year-round to Belle Isle as well as all Michigan state parks.

Check out some of the sites you should hit the next time you visit Belle Isle:

Nature Zoo

At the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, visitors will get the opportunity to get up close and personal with different distinct species native to Michigan. There are many kinds of wildlife that may be observed there, such as snapping turtles, black rat snakes and fallow deer.

Courtesy of Belle Isle Nature Center Facebook

Belle Isle Conservatory

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is the oldest continually running conservatory in the United States. Designed by Albert Kahn, it is divided into various distinct sections and provides visitors with a unique, up-close look at different types of flora and fauna.

Belle Isle Conservatory, Drawn To Detroit

Belle Isle Aquarium

Also designed by Albert Kahn, the Belle Isle Aquarium is a must-stop location for those who love architecture, history and design. After years of being closed, the aquarium was recently restored and is now home to a collection of rare animals.

Belle Isle Aquarium interior

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Located on Strand Drive on Belle Isle, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum is dedicated to showcasing the story of the Great Lakes, with a special emphasis on Detroit’s role in regional and national maritime history. The 16,000-square-foot museum has several fascinating exhibits, including the bow anchor of the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald.

Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle

Belle Isle Golf Course

The nine-acre driving range has 4 sand traps, 3 putting greens, and 2 chipping greens for golfers to practice their skills. Overlooking Canada and the Detroit River, this picturesque location on the island is also perfect for picnics.

Belle Isle Beach

Overlooking the Detroit skyline, this urban beach is a nice respite on a hot day. While the Detroit River’s waters might be chilly, there are often food trucks nearby in case you want to grab a bite to eat and lay out on the sand.

Kayaking at Belle Isle

Kayaking at Belle Isle | Photo by Bill Bowen

Belle Isle Athletic Complex

Managed by HYPE Athletics, the athletics complex features facilities for soccer, baseball, softball, football, basketball, etc. There is also a free outdoor Fitness Court® across from the complex sponsored by Priority Health.

James Scott Memorial Fountain

When you first drive over the bridge to Belle Isle, you will notice a stunning fountain overlooking the Detroit skyline. This go-to photography spot on the island, especially at sunset, contains over 100 water outlets and can shoot water 125 feet into the air.

James Scott Memorial Fountain

For more information on what to do on Belle Isle and what you should know, visit the Belle Isle Conservancy’s website.

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