Discovery Island (Bay Lake)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Discovery Island
The Wreck of the Walrus on Discovery Island.
LocationWalt Disney World Resort, Bay Lake, Florida, United States
Coordinates28°24′52″N 81°34′01″W / 28.41444°N 81.56694°W / 28.41444; -81.56694Coordinates: 28°24′52″N 81°34′01″W / 28.41444°N 81.56694°W / 28.41444; -81.56694
ThemeAnimal observation
OwnerThe Walt Disney Company
Operated byWalt Disney Parks and Resorts
OpenedApril 8, 1974 (1974-04-08)
ClosedApril 8, 1999 (1999-04-08)
Previous namesTreasure Island, Riles Island, Idle Bay Isle, Raz Island
Area11.5 acres (4.7 ha)

Discovery Island is an 11.5-acre (4.7 ha) island in Bay Lake, Florida. It is located on the property of Walt Disney World in the city of Bay Lake. Between 1974 and 1999, it was an attraction open to guests, who could observe its many species of animals and birds. Disney originally named it Treasure Island, and later renamed it Discovery Island. It currently sits abandoned, but can be seen by any watercraft in Bay Lake. Discovery Island is now the name of one of the lands in Disney's Animal Kingdom.



From 1900 to 1937, the island was known as Raz Island, named after the family that lived there.[1] In the late 1930s, it was purchased for $800 by a man named Delmar "Radio Nick" Nicholson, who renamed it "Idle Bay Isle" and lived there for 20 years with his wife and pet crane. It was later sold, renamed "Riles Island,"[2] and used as a hunting retreat. Disney bought it in 1965 as part of its strategic property acquisitions before building the Walt Disney World Resort.[3][4]

Delmar lived on the island and grew exotic plants prior to the island's acquisition by Disney.[5]


The island opened as Treasure Island on April 8, 1974, as a place to observe wildlife, and was later renamed Discovery Island when it was recognized as a zoological park. The admission cost in 1995 was $10.60 for adults and $5.83 for children aged three through nine.[6] In March 1999, admission was $12.67 for adults and $6.89 for children, including tax.[1] The island's facilities were the home of the last known Dusky Seaside Sparrow before it died in July 1987.[7] In 1989, Disney was accused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals of mistreating vultures that landed on Discovery Island. Disney confirmed some of them died while being captured by their employees.[8] Following this allegation, State and Federal officials charged Disney with 16 counts of animal cruelty. These charges were ultimately dropped after Disney made improvements, but did not admit to wrongdoings.[1]


Discovery Island closed to the public on April 8, 1999, exactly 25 years after its opening.[9] but continued to operate until July 9, 1999, at which point all of its animals had been relocated to Disney's Animal Kingdom (whose Safari Village hub area was renamed Discovery Island) and other zoos. Although Disney never officially stated its reasons for closing the park, poor attendance and high maintenance costs, combined with the newer and bigger Disney's Animal Kingdom being opened a year before, are the most likely causes.

Since its closing, the island has sat largely abandoned, with no signs of development. As of 2021, all original buildings and attractions remain on the island, though several have sustained major damage from hurricanes and natural decay. Disney also considered teaming up with Cyan Worlds to turn the island into a replica of the titular island from the video game Myst, where visitors would solve puzzles while exploring.[9][10]

Today, the island can easily be seen from Walt Disney World Monorail, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, as well as from boat trips between them. It is adjacent to Disney's River Country, which closed in November 2001.

Unsanctioned visit[edit]

On April 30, 2020, a man was arrested for camping on Discovery Island. He was subsequently removed from the island and banned from Walt Disney property. He called the island a "tropical paradise", and said he did not know the area was off limits to the public.[11]

Former attractions[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Baker, Tim (March 26, 1999). "DISNEY TO CLOSE ITS STRUGGLING DISCOVERY ISLAND". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  2. ^ Sklar, Marty (August 13, 2013). Dream It! Do It!: My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms. Disney Electronic Content. ISBN 978-1-4231-8452-2.
  3. ^ Kurtti, Jeff (1996). Since the world began : Walt Disney World, the first 25 years (1st ed.). New York: Hyperion. p. 53. ISBN 0-7868-8219-0. OCLC 34753433.
  4. ^ "Discovery Island: The Early Years". March 24, 2008. Archived from the original on July 21, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  5. ^ Andrews, Mark (May 29, 1994). "ORLANDO'S 'RADIO NICK' EARNED NAME, FAME IN EARLY DAYS OF RADIO". Orlando Sentinel.
  6. ^ "Walt Disney World Transportation and Ticket Center". Archived from the original on August 25, 2017. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  7. ^ Peterson, Cass (July 18, 1987). "GOODBYE, DUSKY SEASIDE SPARROW". Washington Post.
  8. ^ Navarro, Mireya (June 21, 1995). "Disney Announces Plans For a Wildlife Theme Park". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  9. ^ a b Yasharoff, Hannah. "What is Discovery Island, the abandoned Disney World attraction where a man was caught camping?". USA TODAY. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  10. ^ Hughes, William (October 16, 2016). "Myst creator Rand Miller on his favorite puzzle that everybody hates". The A.V. Club. G/O Media. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  11. ^ Madeline Holcombe; Kay Jones. "Man arrested for camping at Disney island told police he didn't know he was trespassing and thought it was a 'tropical paradise'". CNN. Retrieved May 4, 2020.

External links[edit]