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Belle Isle Aquarium

November 20, 2021

  • 3 Inselruhe Drive
  • Detroit, MI 48207
  • (313) 331-7760
  • Website

We had pretty much a whole day to kill in Detroit. We were in town because L was playing a flag football game at Ford Field through the Playworks program at her school. We decided to make a weekend out of it and do things we don’t normally get to do in Detroit.

We got up Sunday morning at our hotel in Dearborn and went to breakfast before the church rush began. After that, we still had several hours before we needed to be at Ford Field.

We’ve lived in Michigan for about 14 years now and we haven’t spent a ton of time in Detroit for anything other than an occasional sporting event or work. One of the things I’ve always wanted to do was go see what Belle Isle is all about.

We started our afternoon at the Belle Isle Aquarium. This almost 120 year old aquarium is on Inselruhe Drive just north of The Strand on the west side of the island. The 10,000 square foot single gallery museum is free but also accept donations.

We really had no idea what to expect with this place. We didn’t know if this would kill a few minutes or a few hours and we had no idea of what exactly we’d find when we walked through the doors.

The Belle Isle Aquarium was the third largest aquarium in the world when it was built in 1904. Today, aquariums have tanks larger than the entire building.

The aquarium is considered a single gallery because it’s really just one long hallway. There are tanks on either side with benches running along a divider in the middle. Due to COVID protocols, we were asked to make a counter clockwise loop through the building.

The arched ceiling is tiled with green glass tiles. This is meant to elicit the feeling of being underwater while walking through the gallery.

The exhibits in the museum are all i similar sized tanks with windows every couple of feet. There are 60 exhibits with tanks that are are framed in glass tile with a metal railing to keep you back….or to rest your little one’s feet when you inevitably have to pick them up to see what’s inside.

The exhibits are mostly fresh water fish from the Great Lakes region. We saw a lot of familiar fish and the kids even recognized some of the names from fishing with Grandpa at the lake.

There a few salt water exhibits as well but not nearly as many. The aquarium is really a celebration of the Great Lakes and the waterways of Michigan.

The thing that was kind of surprising was how many Eel exhibits they had. The kids were really impressed by this as I don’t think either had actually ever seen an eel before. They were pretty active too and from really tiny ones barely poking out of the gravel in the bottom of the tank to the larger electric eels, they all grabbed the kids’ attention.

It took us maybe 45 minutes to walk through the entire aquarium. As I said in the beginning, I had no idea what the expect when we walked in the door but the kids really enjoyed it. It’s a small aquarium but you get really up close to a large variety of water creatures.

The final stop on the Aquarium tour was just outside the main doors between the Aquarium and the Conservatory. There’s a small koi pond between the two buildings that also gives you a really good look at the architecture of these two historic buildings on Detroit’s historic Belle Isle.

The thing with Belle Isle is that there is a lot to do. We would still spend another three hours or so at other attractions, hiking, and playing on the playground. The Belle Isle Aquarium is really a great way to break up the outdoor activities. There’s a lot to learn about Michigan and the Great Lakes inside this historic building

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