Discovery Island (Bay Lake)

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. 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.

Discovery Island
Previously known as Treasure Island, Riles Island, Idle Bay Isle, Raz 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; -81.56694
OpenedApril 8, 1974 (1974-04-08)
ClosedApril 8, 1999 (1999-04-08)
OwnerThe Walt Disney Company
Operated byWalt Disney Parks and Resorts
ThemeAnimal observation
Area11.5 acres (4.7 ha)





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, after the island's owner became ill, and 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.[9]

Discovery Island housed approximately 150 birds and small primates.[10]

Filming location


The island was occasionally used as a movie filming location, most notably for the climax of Treasure of Matecumbe, in which it doubled for the titular Florida Key.



Discovery Island closed to the public on April 8, 1999, exactly 25 years after its opening.[11] 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, it is widely believed that high costs of maintenance, poor attendance and the opening of a bigger and newer Disney Animal Kingdom, are the most likely reasons.

Since its closing, the island has sat largely abandoned, with no signs of development. Disney 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.[11][12] As of 2024, all original buildings and attractions remain on the island, though several have sustained major damage from hurricanes and natural decay.

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 the former site of Disney's River Country water park, which closed in November 2001 and was ultimately demolished in April 2019.

Unsanctioned visits


In 2009, an account was published of an unauthorized exploration "a couple of years ago" with photographs by Shane Perez.[13] In 2017 a film was published by Matt Sonswa of exploration of the island.[14] On April 30, 2020, a man was arrested for camping on Discovery Island. He was 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.[15]

Former attractions



  1. ^ a b 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. ^ "DISNEY SETTLES 16 ANIMAL CRUELTY CHARGES ATTRACTION WILL PAY $95,000 TO AVOID GOING TO COURT". Orlando Sentinel. January 6, 1990. Archived from the original on May 5, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ Barker, Tim (March 26, 1999). "DISNEY TO CLOSE ITS STRUGGLING DISCOVERY ISLAND". Orlando Sentinel.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Hughes, William (October 16, 2016). "Myst creator Rand Miller on his favorite puzzle that everybody hates". The A.V. Club. G/O Media. Retrieved June 21, 2024.
  13. ^ "Exploración del parque abandonado Discovery Island en Walt Disney World".
  14. ^ Kubersky, Seth. "The shadowy world of Orlando's theme park urban explorers: Are they legends or are they idiots?". Orlando Weekly.
  15. ^ Madeline Holcombe; Kay Jones (May 3, 2020). "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.
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