Belle Isle is a small island in the city of Richmond, Virginia. Belle Island lies within the James River, and being owned by the city it serves as a city park. It is accessible to pedestrian and bicycle traffic via a suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge from the northern shore of the James. Except when the water level of the James is high, it is also reachable by foot from the southern shore via easy boulder-hopping. From Belle Isle, one can see Hollywood Cemetery, the old Tredegar Iron Works, and Richmond City's skyline. Belle Isle has many bike trails around the island, and has a small cliff used for rock climbing instruction.Our Richmond travel route planner makes visiting Belle Isle and other Richmond attractions simple, and helps you make a travel plan personal to you.
Belle Isle was originally known as Broad Rock Island. It was first explored by Captain John Smith in 1607. In the 18th century the island was occupied by a fishery. In 1814, the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company completed a nail factory. During the 1860s, the island was inhabited by a village complete with a school, church, and general store.
Civil WarThe island served as a prison for Union soldiers during the American Civil War. Between 1862 and 1865, the island was home to about 30,000 POWs and as many as 1,000 died, though accounts vary with the South claiming the death rate was low, while the North claimed it was very high. The Battle of Walkerton was the result of a failed Union attempt to free them.
Belle Isle Reviews
We had a little time in the afternoon before meeting friends for dinner, so we walked over the pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle. What we saw was interesting — though I wish I had time to explore more. ... more »
walk your dog, picknick, stick your toes in the water. this is an amazing place to spend an afternoon. more »
I run on this island 2-3 times a week! It’s a great hidden just 5 minutes from downtown Richmond. Highly recommend for any tourist, local, or visitor. Great way to see the beautiful James River. There are historical signs with information about historical Richmond. Almost important, absolutely beautiful. You are surrounding by running water.
Everything about this place is beautiful and amazing. It's so peaceful and equally fun. Pet friendly. Family fun. Even have really nice areas where you can get in the water. Perfect date spot. I enjoy every visit
Places to stay near Belle Isle
Plan your trip to Richmond
Get a personalized planA complete day-by-day itinerary
based on your preferences
Customize itRefine your plan. We'll find the
best routes and schedules
Book itChoose from the best hotels
and activities. Up to 50% off
Manage itEverything in one place.
Everyone on the same page.
View all >
Side trips from Richmond
Hidden gems in Richmond
View all >
View all >
Plans to Belle Isle by other users
60 days in Norfolk BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM July, outdoors, wildlife, popular sights PREFERENCES: July, outdoors, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 14 days in Richmond BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, kids, popular sights PREFERENCES: June, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 17 days in Richmond BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, teens, kids, outdoors, relaxing, historic sites, museums, wildlife, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: June, teens, kids, outdoors, relaxing, historic sites, museums, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 60 days in Williamsburg BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES April, popular sights PREFERENCES: April ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 58 days in Richmond BY A USER FROM BRAZIL March, popular sights PREFERENCES: March ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular sights PACE: Medium 11 days in Central Virginia BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES April, outdoors, historic sites, museums, slow & easy, hidden gems PREFERENCES: April, outdoors, historic sites, museums ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Slow & easy