In the 18th century French colonists established what is known as Belle Isle (translates to beautiful island in French) today. By the early 20th century, the isle was a popular hot spot and booming with activity from recreational baseball games, to families enjoying picnics, to canoe rentals and even horse back riding. Unfortunately, the isle started to expierence a lot of neglect and destruction of its beauty during the early 2000s, and was rarely visited by Detroiters, as much of it’s attractions had shut down. Fast forward to 2016, and Belle Isle is on it’s way to becoming the “beautiful island” it set out to be. After being renamed a Michigan State Park in 2014, once beloved attractions and points of interest such as the nature center, the aquarium, the conservatory, and much more have been restored. Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a day and discover the natural beauty that occupies a 982 acre park located a few miles from the city’s shore. It’s the perfect place for the whole family to enjoy, to have a day date with your significant other, or to spend time hanging out with friends. Check out all that this “Jewel of Detroit” has to offer to it’s welcomed visitors.
1. Nature Zoo
Get up close and personal with 19 species of Michigan wildlife from a wide range of amphibians, fish, insects, and deer. Get an inside view on honey bees building a hive and hand feed deer while learning about their history on Belle Isle. Admission is free. https://belleislenaturecenter.org/
2. Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
Explore the oldest-running conservatory in the United States that's filled with a variety of exotic and local plants and flowers. Browse through five different rooms including the Palm House, the Tropical House, the Cactus House, a sunken Fernery, and the Show House. After taking a look inside, take a walk around the conservatory grounds filled with flowers, a fountain, and plenty of beautiful picture opts. Admission is free. https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/anna-scripps-whitcomb-conservatory
3. Giant Slide
Whether you're an adult, a child, or somewhere in-between, guests of all ages can’t wait to take a ride down this giant, 6 lane slide. Open Wednesday – Sunday from noon – 8 PM. The cost is $1 per slide or $5 for six slides.
4. Belle Isle Aquarium
The Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest aquarium in the country and one of Belle Isle’s most popular attractions. With salt water shipped directly from the ocean, you can view a variety of unique fish that span from the Great Lakes to oceans from around the world. The aquarium is continuing to make improvements and additions to its attraction. Admission is free. https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/belle-isle-aquarium
5. Belle Isle Golf Range
Enjoy an array of golf activities including a 30 station grass driving range, a 9 acre golf practice facility that includes three putting greens, two chipping greens, and four sand traps. Sign up for beginner or intermediate lessons to sharpen up your golf skills or have some fun playing a light game of mini golf on their 6-hole course. http://www.thebelleislegolfcenter.com/
6. Belle Isle Beach
During the warmer months, Detroiter’s of all ages flock to Belle Isle Beach for a day of fun in the sun. With a beautiful view of downtown Detroit, stick your feet in the sand and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Detroit River to cool off. Outside food and drinks are welcomed.
7. Sunset Point
Located right next to Belle Isle Beach (marked by a sign), enjoy picturesque views of the downtown Detroit cityscape along the Detroit River. Enjoy a picnic in the grass during the day and stick around to catch the sunset in the evening. The photo opts at sunset point are endless! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sunset-Pointe-Belle-Isle/745755138808278
8. Belle Isle Disc Golf Course
A unique spin on golfing, enjoy a game of disc golf on Belle Isle’s 19 basket course. Instead of hitting balls, with clubs, into holes, throw discs (Frisbees), into baskets from established distances. The game follows traditional golfing guidelines by achieving the fewest throws into each basket. https://www.discgolfscene.com/courses/Belle_Isle_DGC
9. The Dossin Great Lakes Museum
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is dedicated to showcasing the story of the Great Lakes with exhibits that depict more than 300 years of the regions maritime history. Discover how the Great Lakes and the Detroit River have played a huge role in our region’s industrial and social history. Admission is free. http://detroithistorical.org/dossin-great-lakes-museum/plan-your-visit/general-information
10. Athletic Fields
Belle Isle contains a variety of sporting fields for softball, baseball, football, soccer, rugby and more. Sign up for a recreational league and join in on the action with Come Play Detroit. For more information and to sign up check out http://www.comeplaydetroit.com/belleisle/
11. James Scott Memorial Fountain
The perfect spot for a photo opt! Check out the elaborate and beautiful James Scott Memorial Fountain from 1923. A beautiful spot to take family photos or to just sit and relax on a sunny day. https://www.belleisleconservancy.org/james-scott-memorial-fountain
Since becoming a Michigan State Park, Belle Isle requires a recreation passport ($11 for Michigan vehicles, $5 for Michigan motorcycles). If you do not obtain a recreation passport (purchased at the time of vehicle registration), a window sticker can be purchased for admission. Nonresidents pay $9 for a day pass or $31 for an annual pass. For more information visit http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=736&type=SPRK