- Visit Belle Isle Park Detroit
- How to get to Belle Isle Park in Detroit
- About Belle Isle State Park
- Exploring Belle Isle
- Things to Do on Belle Isle
- Belle Isle F.A.Q.
- Belle Isle Winter and Fall
- Things To See Near Belle Isle
Visit Belle Isle Park Detroit
Michigan is a state where you don’t have to travel far for a good time. Belle Isle Park in Detroit is a perfect example.
It’s a short drive from downtown Detroit for Metro Detroiters to visit Belle Isle, the city’s jewel. It’s an ideal destination for day trips or quick getaways.
The stunning Belle Isle State Park is a 982-acre, natural beauty oasis in the middle Detroit River. It is a perfect example of history and beauty in the midst a metropolitan area.
This Detroit gem, located in the heart of Detroit MI, is a living reminder that Detroit’s great past has come back. It boasts three lakes and 150 acres of wooded land, making it New York City’s answer to Central Park.
Belle Isle is unique in Detroit, with its beautiful perennial garden and outdoor recreation areas as well as its museums and architectural gems such the Anna Whitcomb Scripps Conservatory.
This “Jewel of Detroit”, rich in Detroit’s history, is one of the most culturally important places in southeast Michigan.
Continue reading to learn how to plan your visit to Belle Isle Park, a natural wonder of beauty.
How to get to Belle Isle Park in Detroit
The island is open to bikers and walkers.
If you plan to travel by car, however, you will need a Recreation Passport. One can be purchased through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, or at entry to the park.
The Belle Isle Conservancy offers guided tours to schools, scouts and other organizations of the Belle Isle Aquarium.
Both a docent-led and self-guided program are available.
About Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle is small but full of history, culture, fun and nature.
French settlers first used the island to raise their cattle in the 1700s. This gave the island its original name, “Hog Island.”
It was eventually renamed Belle Isle and Frederick Law Olmsted designed the park. Olmsted is also known for his urban landscape architecture in New York City’s Central Park.
Olmsted designed Belle Isle as an urban oasis, surrounded by industry and production. This made it a true natural treasure in the city.
Belle Isle was a hub for the Detroit Boat Club and Belle Isle Casino, as well as general recreation.
In the first half century, you could see fallow deer roaming free on the island park.
Becoming Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle was officially declared a Michigan State Park in 2014. This provided additional funding for the restoration of this park.
Today, millions of people know Belle Isle is a popular destination for family reunions and educational trips. They also love the amazing views of Detroit and the border with Canada.
Belle Isle is also a very popular venue for weddings .
Douglas MacArthur Bridge
It’s evident that Belle Isle is special from the moment you make the crossing over via the Douglas MacArthur Bridge (also called the Belle Isle Bridge), until the moment you see the foundation and the stunning views of the city skyline.
There are museums, nature conservatories, ponds and hiking trails.
There are plenty of picnic shelters, beaches, and places to rent canoes or kayaks. Belle Isle is a great place to start your next adventure.
Belle Isle is dog-friendly
Belle Isle Park has a section for pets to enjoy and is pet-friendly.
Exploring Belle Isle
This is our quick guide to all you need to do on a Belle Isle trip.
It’s worth a quick visit to Belle Isle if you haven’t been before to see the sights.
It is possible to be awestruck by the stunning views of Windsor, Canada’s neighbor, and Detroit’s riverfront. These must-see spots are worth a visit after you have surveyed the island.
Belle Isle: Things to See
Belle Isle Aquarium
The Belle Isle Aquarium was opened in 1904. It is the oldest American aquarium. Albert Kahn designed the aquarium building, which is also known for his designs on other Detroit buildings such as the Fisher Building.
It is now managed by the Belle Isle Conservancy, making it more beloved than ever among Detroiters and those from out-of-town.
Despite their historical importance, the true stars of the show are still the fish.
The aquarium contains species from around the globe, including starfish, clownfish, and emperor Red Snapper. The aquarium also displays bluegill and perch, which are the same species that you will find in Detroit’s rivers.
Belle Isle Nature Center
Belle Isle Nature Center is just one of the many reasons why it’s such a popular spot for nature lovers. The original Detroit Zoo home was located on Belle Isle. It has since moved to Royal Oak.
The Detroit Zoological Society operates the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, which is the last of the Nature Center’s amphibians and reptiles. It also houses a variety of turtles.
You can also see nature in action through many other exhibits.
Belle Isle Nature Center visitors can get an insider’s look at a beehive, get a close-up view of Michigan wildlife and view migratory and native birds while they feed.
You can visit the nature center for a wide range of programs. You do not need to pre-register, but there is no charge.
PRO-TIP : Take a nature walk around Michigan to see the amazing terrain.
Belle Isle Giant Slide
Belle Isle is fun for all ages. The six-lane slide has been a hit with visitors for years.
Visitors can enjoy a real thrill at the MDNR-operated Giant Slide on the island’s middle from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Six lanes of bumpy slides can be ridden at a cost of $1 or $5, for six or more rides. You must be at least 48 inches tall to ride.
Belle Isle Conservatory
The Belle Isle Conservatory (or Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory) is one of the most iconic spots on the island. It’s a stunning centerpiece that boasts incredible outdoor scenery.
Albert Kahn, a noted architect, designed the glass conservatory. It is named after Anna Scripps Whitcomb. In 1955, 600 orchids from her extensive collection were donated by Detroit philanthropist Albert Kahn to the conservatory.
It was at the time the biggest municipally-owned orchid collection anywhere in the country.
This conservatory is the oldest and longest continuously operating conservatory in America. It covers more than an acre. It is made up of five areas that each have a different climate.
The 85-foot tall central dome, which is the centerpiece of the horticultural structure, is believed to be inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
The Conservatory houses unique tropical and exotic plants from all over the world. It has five sections: the Palm House and Tropical Houses, the Cactus Houses, the Cactus Houses, the Show House and a sunken Fernery.
The gardens surrounding the building are also striking with their trimmed hedges and colorful flowers as well as a lily-pond.
The best thing? The best part?
James Scott Memorial Fountain
The James Scott Memorial Fountain, another popular photo spot, is an impressive feat in sculpture and architecture.
It was named after James Scott, a Detroit socialite of questionable reputation. You can read more about him HERE.
The fountain was built in 1923. It features 109 water outlets made of white marble, including lions, turtles, lions and other artistic figures that spit water up to 40 feet high.
The Belle Isle Conservancy is fundraising to restore the original Pewabic tile bowl.
Detroiters love this fountain and it is often featured in senior photos and wedding photos.
Dossin Great Lakes Museum
The Detroit River’s middle is a great place to acknowledge the importance of the Detroit River in Great Lakes History.
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum has more than 300 years worth of maritime history.
Explore interactive exhibits such as Built By the River and The Gothic Room. Also, the Miss Pepsi Hydroplane and the S.S William Clay Ford Pilot House.
The museum has even the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald’s bow anchor, which is one of the most famous Great Lake shipwrecks. The museum is part of the Detroit Historical Society and brings to life the rich history of Great Lakes.
Nancy Brown Peace Carillon
The Nancy Brown Peace Carillon fills the Isle with music since 1940. It also commemorates Nancy Brown, Detroit News Columnist Nancy Brown (pseudonym Mrs. J.E. Leslie). A moat surrounds the tower in neo-gothic design, which faces the border with Canada.
William Livingstone Memorial Lamphouse
The William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse, which faces Lake St. Clair at the northeastern tip, is located on the Isle. It honors William Livingstone, owner of Detroit Evening Journal.
Livingstone was also a key figure in Great Lakes shipping. This makes it a fitting maritime tribute. Albert Kahn designed the art deco-style lighthouse.
Belle Isle Beach
On a hot summer’s day, one of the coolest activities is to visit Belle Isle beach. The beach can be found on the north side the MacArthur bridge. It is a great spot to relax and enjoy the stunning views of the Detroit skyline.
The Oudolf Gardens are located adjacent to the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon.
Piet Oudolf, a Dutch garden designer, designed this beautiful, naturalistic garden.
Oudolf is responsible for the design of the Lurie Garden in Chicago, and the High Line in New York City. His design for Belle Isle garden includes perennials, shrubs and trees.
The Detroit Grand Prix
Belle Isle plays an important part in Detroit’s automotive legacy. The Detroit Grand Prix is a race that drives Detroiters crazy every summer.
This race is an annual spectacle on the Isle. Indy car drivers circle the island in record speed. The race is scheduled for June 5, 2021.
Canoe Kayak Walk Ride Belle Isle
You have many options for exploring Belle Isle State Park. Each one offers a unique view of the island park. You can rent a kayak or canoe to explore the ponds and get up-close and personal views of Belle Isle’s natural beauty.
Belle Isle F.A.Q.
Is BeIle Isle Open?
Belle Isle is open daily from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.
What is the cost to visit Belle Isle?
According to the Belle Isle Conservancy, there is no charge to enter the park. However, a Recreation Passport must be obtained in order to DRIVE onto an island. It costs $12/car for Michigan residents, $6/motorcycle for non-Michigan residents, and $34 per vehicle for all other users. The recreation passport allows you to travel the island without restrictions until your car registration expires.
Belle Isle is open in Winter and Fall
Belle Isle Park is my favourite time of year to visit in the fall and winter. The tiny island is quieter and offers a sense of tranquility and serenity.
It’s the perfect place to take a autumn color tour. It’s breathtaking to see the reds, yellows, and golds of the leaves set against the backdrop of the sparkling Detroit River.
It’s great to see the large chunks of blue-colored ice floating on top of the swiftly moving rivers in winter, as well as the people playing ice hocks in the frozen ponds.
Things to Do Near Belle Isle
It is impossible to visit Belle Isle without visiting Detroit’s other famous destinations. Wayne County is a state with incredible cultural, artistic and historical significance.
Over 270 historic sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Detroit).
Guardian Building, Eastern Market and More
These sites include The Guardian Building, Eastern Market and, of course, Belle Isle Park.
To experience Detroit’s warmth and delicious cuisine, make sure you stop by Eastern Market.
Take a look at Detroit’s perfect art deco examples, including the Guardian Building, Fox Theatre and Fisher Building.
The Old Christ Church on Jefferson is just up the street from the strikingly modern Renaissance Center. General Motors now has its headquarters in this historic building.
You must not miss the Ford Piquette Avenue plant. This was once the Ford Motor Company’s production facility.
Also, be sure to stop by the Michigan Central Station which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
More to See in Detroit
The Detroit Institute of Arts, a museum of extraordinary artistic works that is unrivalled in the world, offers a close-up view. It also features the huge Detroit Industry Murals by Diego Rivera.
If you are only visiting Belle Isle or other city parks, then check out the other famous parks in Detroit: Beacon Park and Campus Martius.
- The Detroit River Walk – What to Visit?
- The Best Aquariums and Zoos in Michigan
- Michigan Beach Towns Map
- Michigan’s Favorite Ice Cream Flavor – Superman Ice Cream
- Celebrate the New Year in Michigan
- Things to do on Mackinaw Island Michigan
- Things to do on Valentines Day in Michigan
- Memorial Day Weekend Activities in Michigan
- The Best Places to Visit in Michigan
- The Best Haunted Places in Michigan