Belle Isle/A Day in Richmond
by Kimberly Suter
Are you looking for a day trip outside of Williamsburg? Would you like to do something active or simply sunbathe and relax? Look no further than Belle Isle in Richmond, VA. Belle Isle has something for everyone seeking to enjoy nature. On our visit, we explored the many trails Bell Isle had to offer, although we will return with our bikes, a picnic lunch, and bathing suits.
Our trip began by parking in the parking lot off of Tredegar St. and crossing the suspension bridge onto the island. I have to say, as someone who’s afraid of heights, this was a little nerve wracking! It is an impressive, wavy bridge spanning the James River. The beautiful view of the rapids, rocks, and rushing water allowed me to forget my fear and pretend not to feel the bridge sway slightly below my feet. When we arrived on Belle Isle, one of the first features we encountered was the bike park. Although small, it was impressive and made us long for our bicycles (we didn’t bring them on this trip). We watched for a while as children and adults maneuvered over and through the many obstacles and embankments placed perfectly for maximum enjoyment.
We continued along the trails stopping periodically to read about the historical remnants left behind, observed people sunbathing on massive rocks and lounging in naturally created pools, and explored the rocks ourselves marveling at the tranquility around us.
If you plan to bike, make sure you park at the entrance to the suspension bridge in order to get to the island. If you are going to sunbathe/relax in the water, you may want to consider a life jacket for non-swimmers or small children as the current can be strong and quick. Also, be mindful when walking on algae covered surfaces on the rocks or in the water as they are as slick as ice!
Looking to incorporate Belle Isle into an entire Richmond experience? Here are my suggestions for “A Day in Richmond:” Begin with breakfast at either Perly’s (111 E. Grace St.), a Jewish Restaurant and Deli, The Fancy Biscuit (1831 West Cary St.), or Kuba Kuba (1601 Park Avenue), Cuban; equally delicious for dinner! Now that you’ve fueled the tank, use your energy to explore Belle Isle in whatever way suits your family.
From here, you can continue exploring on foot or bike along Canal Walk. This is another system of trails that allow you to discover the beauty of Brown’s Island and cross another (stationary) bridge. From this bridge, you can watch kayakers and rafters maneuver the rapids along the James and climbers practice their belay techniques.
If you want something more exhilarating check out Riverside Outfitters (804-560-0068) for rafting trips down the James. The upper river rafting trip is recommended for anyone with children from 5-10 (smaller rapids and swimming). Please note, you will need to call in advance and reserve your spot and ask about Covid safety measures.
If you’d rather venture into the city a bit, check out The Fan district. Located just a short drive from the Belle Isle area on the edge of VCU’s campus. The Fan offers an array of beautiful Victorian homes, boutiques, and cafes. This is a great place to grab a coffee or tea and sightsee or shop. Carytown is also within walking distance from here.
However you decide to spend a day in Richmond, I hope it’s an amazing experience that has you longing for the next adventure.