Belle Isle – Michigan State Park on Detroit River

Belle Isle became Michigan’s 102nd State Park in 2014. The 982-acre park is located on the island south of Detroit, on Detroit River between the United States and Canada. It’s a place with long history, being a destination for recreation for Detroiters since early 1800’s.

Belle Isle offers a number of attractions including an aquarium, conservatory and the James Scott Memorial Fountain, maritime museum, giant slide, golf driving range, picnic areas and more. Additionally, there are three lakes on the island, 150 acres of wooded area. Belle Isle offers spectacular views of the Detroit and Windsor skyline. Rentals are available for: watercraft, bike and snow sports equipment. Food and ice sales are also available.

Belle Isle
James Scott Memorial Fountain

Brief History

The island history dates back to 1700’s, when French colonists used to call it Ile aux Cochons (Hog Island). Back then, the island was owned by Ottawa and Ojibwa Indians. However, the Indians allowed settlers to use it for raising hogs and chickens. Keeping the livestock on the island protected it from coyotes. When Barnabus Campeau purchased the island in 1817, it became a popular picnic destination. Then in 1879, when the city of Detroit purchased the island, it became a public park. In the early 1880’s, Frederic Law Olmstead, design the island infrastructure to provide a place of relaxation. (Olmstead, among other projects, also designed the famous Central Park in New York.)

Today, Belle Isle, is the America’s largest city-owned park.

Belle Isle
Fountain detail.

Hours of Operation

Belle Isle Park is open year-round Sunday-Saturday from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. *For special events ending after 10 p.m., patrons are asked to leave the island at the conclusion of the event.

Belle Isle
Enjoying biking on the island.

Entry Pass

Michigan Recreation Passport is required to enter the island. A daily-use window sticker can be purchased at the visitor contact station or Milliken State Park, 1900 Atwater St. in Detroit. (Nonresidents pay $31 for an annual pass or $9 for a day pass.) More details can be found at:

Belle Isle
View of Detroit from the island.

DDOT Bus Service to Belle Isle

The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) offers bus service via the #12 Conant route. The bus service provides access for to get on and off the island for $1.50 bus fare with no additional park entry fees (a Recreation Passport is not needed). The bus stop is located in close proximity to major attractions such as the conservatory, the aquarium and the giant slide. The route operates Monday through Friday between 5:50 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Service to Belle Isle will run roughly every 50 minutes.

Belle Isle
View of the lighthouse.
Belle Isle
Park map.

List of Attractions:

Dossin Great Lakes Museum

Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (year-round)
Managed by Detroit Historical Society. No admission fee. 313-833-5538

Belle Isle Nature Zoo

April-October: daily, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
November-March: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Managed by Detroit Zoological Society. No admission fee. 313-852-4056

Belle Isle Aquarium

Friday, Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. (year-round)
The oldest aquarium in the United States. View 118 species, more than 1,000 fish and an extensive collection of Belle Isle memorabilia. Designed by famous architect Albert Kahn. Managed by Belle Isle Conservancy. No admission fee. 313-402-0466

Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory

Wednesday-Sunday: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. (year-round)
Tour the oldest continually running conservatory in the U.S. It boasts 13 acres, a formal perennial garden, seasonal floral beds, a lily pond garden and five sections of flora: Palm House, Tropical House, Show House, Cactus House and Fernery. No admission fee. 313-821-5428 (facility info) and 313-331-7760 (tours)

Golf Range

March-October, 9 a.m. to dusk (year-round)
This nine-acre, 30-bay full-length driving range includes three putting greens, two chipping greens and four sand traps. 313-821-5218

Athletic Fields

Surrounding the refractory are fields for softball, baseball, football, soccer, rugby, track and handball/racquetball. 248-845-8273

Giant slide

Wednesday-Sunday (June 8-Labor Day 2017): noon – 8 p.m.
Ride for just $1. Must be 48 inches tall to ride.


Open 5 a.m. – 9 p.m. (second week in June through Labor Day)

James Scott Memorial Fountain

10 a.m. – 9 p.m. (June 11-Sept. 20)

Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse

Located at the north end of Belle Isle, this is the only lighthouse in the nation constructed of marble. It was built in 1929 with private donations as a memorial to William Livingstone, the president of the Lakes Carriers Association from 1902 to 1925. The lighthouse is not open for touring.

Vendors and concessions

Bike/watercraft/snow sport rentals – Flynn Pavilion
Beach chair/umbrella rentals – Beach
Carriage rides – bus stop/shelter 7
Pedi-cab rides -bus stop/shelter 7
Food – beach, playground, Sunset Point
Toys – Sunset Point
Ice cream/frozen novelties – beach, Sunset Point

More information about Bell Isle is available at official Michgan DNR Belle Isle site.

Belle Isle
Kayaking on Detroit River around the island.
Rich S.
Rich S.
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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