Activities & Attractions
Sunset Point is located on the western-most tip of Belle Isle. In 2006 the Belle Isle Women’s Committee held a groundbreaking to celebrate Phase 1 of the renovation. The project was completed in 2009 and incorporated a new comfort station, additional sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and off-street parking at the site.
James Scott Memorial Fountain
The James Scott Memorial Fountain is located on the western end of the island. Herbert Adams was the sculptor and Cass Gilbert the architect. It was completed in 1923 and dedicated on May 31, 1925. The fountain’s circumference is 510 ft., and a series of impressive Vermont White Marble bowls are topped with a receptacle from which water is projected 40 feet into the air. At dusk, the fountain puts on a water and light show from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
James Scott Statue
The James Scott Statue is a large bronze statue on a marble pedestal. His image is seated in a chair looking over the Scott Fountain and towards the downtown Detroit skyline. James Scott was a Detroit real estate speculator and developer. He was said to have been lazy, eccentric, a prankster with few friends or colleagues. Scott’s last Will and Testament devoted his fortune to the erection of a fountain on Belle Isle, but demanded that a life-size statue of himself be included.
Belle Isle Casino
The Belle Isle Casino is a two-story Beaux-Arts building designed by architects Van Leyen and Schilling designed to provide views of the Detroit River and Canada. The building opened to the public in 1908. This was not a gambling establishment but rather a key meeting point for individuals and groups on the island and a location for refreshments. The Casino is often erroneously attributed to Albert Kahn’s design possibly because construction methods developed by Kahn’s brother were used to build it. Today, the Casino is available for rentals for meetings, parties, weddings and special events.
Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory
The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory was opened in 1904 and was designed by Albert Kahn, modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The Conservatory is divided into 5 distinct sections: The Palm House, Tropical House, Showroom, Cactus House and the Fernery. Mrs. Anna Scripps Whitcomb bequeathed her 600-plant orchid collection to the City of Detroit and the Conservatory. In 1955 the Conservatory was dedicated to her. The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is open Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 5 pm.
The Aquarium was designed by architect Albert Kahn and was opened on August 18, 1904. Its Beaux Art style entrance decorated with stone facade incorporated two spitting fish and the emblem of Detroit. The aquarium interior had framed cypress tank-lined walls that were filled with fresh and salt-water fish. The water contained in many of these tanks was brought directly from the ocean for the aquarium. The Aquarium closed in 2005, it was the oldest continually-operating aquarium in North America. The Aquarium reopened September 15, 2012 and is open every Saturday & Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Free admission and parking.
The Greenhouses are used by the City of Detroit and the Belle Isle Botanical Society. The Greenhouses are also home to the DPS Golightly AgriScience Program where 10th-12th graders are trained for post-graduation jobs as green's keepers, florists, arborists, nursery owners and related fields.
The White House is the oldest building in the park, built in 1863 by the son-in-law of Barnabas Campau. It is now used as an administration office.
Perry's Victory Cannons
Perry’s Victory Cannons are located in front of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum. These were cannons captured by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry from the British at the Battle of Lake Erie, which sealed American victory in the War of 1812. The cannons were originally at the old city hall until it was raised.
Dossin Great Lakes Museum
In 1949, the Detroit Historical Commission opened the City’s Maritime Museum aboard the landed wood schooner J.T. Wing, which was the last commercial sailing ship on the Great Lakes. By 1956, the Maritime Museum was closed due to the deteriorating condition of the J.T. Wing. The Dossin family donated a check for $125,000 for a Maritime Marine Museum to be built on Belle Isle. On July 24, 1960, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum opened on the J.T. Wing’s former site. Visitor hours are Saturday & Sunday 11am to 4pm.
Athletic Field & Field House
The Field House was built in 1898, designed by Detroit architect Edward A. Schilling. It was originally built as a bicycle pavilion. It is located behind the 36-acre Athletic Field, which has facilities for softball, baseball, football, soccer, rugby and track. Across the street are handball/racquetball courts.
U. S. Coast Guard Station Belle Isle
The U.S. Coast Guard Station was completed in 1942 and formerly known at St. Clair Lifeboat Station. The U.S. Coast Guard operates this facility and rescue station located at the southeastern tip of the island. They patrol the Detroit River from the western edge of lake St. Clair to Point Mouilee in Lake Erie.
Belle Isle Practice Center - Driving Range & Putting Greens
The Belle Isle Practice Center is an outdoor golf facility with a 30 bay full-length driving range, which has a grass tee open. There are also three putting greens, two large chipping greens with four sand traps. The season runs from March through October and is open from 9am till dusk. Spring and fall season opening times are dependent on weather. For more information visit www.belleislepracticecenter.com or call 313-821-5218.
Nature Zoo (Former Nature Center)
The Belle Isle Nature Zoo opened in April, 2005 and was formerly the Nature Center which was built in 1977. A variety of programs are offered including educational programs and the Deer Encounter. Fifteen fallow deer that once roamed the island now enjoy a one-acre enclosure at the Nature Zoo. The Zoo is open daily 10am-5pm 362 days a year – closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. For more information or to check deer feeding times call 313-852-4056.
Detroit Yacht Club
The Detroit Yacht Club is one of the oldest and largest yacht clubs in the world. The original building was founded in 1868 and was destroyed by a fire in 1904. The current DYC building is east of its original location. The current clubhouse was completed by George Mason in 1922 and provides social and recreational boating activities to its members. This is a private club and is not open to the public.
Beach & Waterslide
The Belle Isle Beach is a half-mile long swimming area and is the only public beach in Detroit. The Water Slide is located next to the beach; both are open from the second week in June through Labor Day. There is a $3 charge for an all day pass to ride the Water Slide. Visitors can enjoy 'Jazz On the Beach' during the summer on Sundays from 6-8pm.
The first slide was installed in the 1960’s and was replaced with a larger one in 2004 at the cost of $450,000. There is a charge of $1 per ride to the slide.
Kids Kingdom Playscape
This one-half acre playground has swings, tunnels, slides and other play equipment. It is the starting location of a Fitness Jogging Trail for all age groups. The Playscape was built with the aid of the Junior League of Detroit.
Borreal Wetlands Forest
The Borreal Wetlands Forest is a remaining remnant of the old forests that covered the entire area prior to settlement of the Michigan territory. It is Belle Isle’s wet-mestic flatwoods and is considered endangered. Some of the species contained in these woods are: Pumpkin Ash, Swamp White Oak, Shumard Oak, Drummond's Dogwood, Shellbark Hickory, Spice Bush, Wahoo, Pin Oak, Chinkapin Oak, Bur Oak, Silver Maple, Shagbark Hickory, Musclewood, Ironwood and Hawthorn. In the spring, you can find White Trout Lilies in bloom.