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Belle Isle

Tour Overview

Belle Isle is America's largest city-owned island park.  Despite recent budget cuts, the 982-acre island remains one of Detroit's premier attractions.  Belle Isle has an incredible range of things to see and do, including 5 miles of scenic shoreline, cultural institutions, historical monuments, sports facilities, and outdoor recreation.  During your visit, consider packing a lunch and enjoy great views of the Detroit skyline, Windsor (Canada), freighter traffic, and the Ambassador Bridge from the beach or shoreline picnic areas.  There are dozens of great attractions on Belle Isle, and this mini-tour highlights a few of our favorites.


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Belle Isle Scott Memorial Fountain -- bewalt

Scott Memorial Fountain [A]

This huge white marble fountain welcomes you as you cross the MacArthur Bridge onto Belle Isle.  James Scott, an eccentric Detroit gambler and socialite, bequeathed a $500,000 fortune to build this beautiful display along with a life-sized statue of himself.  The fountain features 109 water outlets in the shape of human heads and animals, and colored light and water shows presented Memorial Day through September add to the spectacle.  The fountain is a Belle Isle landmark and popular gathering place for visitors.  Across from the fountain you will see the Belle Isle Casino, a grand two-story Spanish-style building with ornate towers and encircling verandas now used as a meeting point for individuals and groups on the island.


Nancy Brown Peace Carillon [B]

J.E. Leslie was an influential Detroit News columnist from 1919 to 1942 operating under the pseudonym of Nancy Brown.  Her Detroit News Experience Column gained tremendous popularity with its warmth, sincerity, and family-like bond it created with her readers.  So much so that over 35,000 visitors descended on the Detroit Institute of Arts at the same time to view artwork discussed in one of her columns.  Brown's face rarely appeared in print, and the anonymity fueled her popularity.  Her fans were finally treated to a "face-to-face" meeting in 1936 during the dedication of the Peace Tower built using funds generated by her readers.  The beautiful 85-foot tower and carillon serenades island visitors with occasional musical chimes.


Dossin Great Lakes Museum [C]

Discover Detroit's maritime history at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum located along the western shoreline of the island.  The museum tells the story of boats, sailors and cargoes on America's inland seas. Dossin visitors can take the helm of a Great Lakes freighter or admire the carved oak and stained glass of an early passenger steamer's grand salon or visit one of the three changing exhibit galleries.


Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory [D]

Albert Kahn designed this fascinating structure after Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and built it on a 13-acre parcel shared by a perennial garden, rose garden, and lily pond.  It's signature 85-foot dome shelters a wide variety of tropical trees, a continuous display of blooming plants, and one of the largest orchid collections in the country donated by Anna Scripps Whitcomb in 1953.  The conservatory is free to the public and open year-round, including holidays.


Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse [E]

Another island attraction designed by Albert Kahn, this exquisite lighthouse honors William Livingstone, a prominent and popular Detroit resident in the early 1900s and president of the Lake Carriers Association from 1902-1925.  It is one of two memorial lighthouses in Michigan and the only one in the nation built entirely of marble.  Construction of the lighthouse was completed in 1930 in time for the opening of the navigation season.  The lighthouse's 80 foot height and 11,500 candlepower makes it visible for 15 miles and a key navigational aid for Lake St. Clair freighters. 


Outdoor Sports & Recreation [F]

Belle Isle is an oasis for those looking for outdoor sports and recreation.  The array of activities found in one place is simply  incredible.  The outdoorsman will enjoy the 200-acre woodlands, inland lakes, bicycle and nature trails, and Nature Center.  The conventional sportsman will love the handball, racquetball, and basketball courts, 9 baseball diamonds, 10 lighted tennis courts, 9-hole golf course, driving range with putting green, running track, World Cup soccer field, and swimming beach.  And let's not forget the Giant Slide and Kingdom Playscape for the kids!


Detroit Yacht Club [G]

Founded in 1868 and one of the oldest yacht clubs in the United States, the Detroit Yacht Club has served as host to  Presidents, local statesmen, Royalty, and the Hollywood elite.  The DYC maintains 380 boat wells and provides private and business entertainment in its beautifully maintained 1920s Mediterranean-style villa.  Nearly two-thirds of the DYCs membership is non-boating, making it one of the most popular social and recreational destinations in Detroit.



Tour Map

Number of Destinations:  7

Overall Tour Time:  1 hour (scenic shoreline drive) to 1 day (all attractions)


Belle Isle



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Grosse Pointe & Nautical Mile

Kids Stuff






Windsor (Canada)

Resources & Links

Belle Isle Grand Prix

Friends of Belle Isle




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