A Modern Day Look at Walt Disney World’s (Abandoned) Discovery Island

by SharonKurheg

Between 1974 and 1999, Discovery Island was an island (duh!) that was open as a hard ticket attraction in Walt Disney World’s Bay Lake, located roughly between the Contemporary Resort Hotel and the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. The highlight of the island was that guests could observe its many species of animals and birds.  After 25 years of success, it closed to guests shortly after Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened and, a few months later, was virtually abandoned after all the resident animals has been transferred to Animal Kingdom.

I visited Discovery Island as a kid in the 1970s. My memories of it are pretty vague,
partially because it was more years ago than I care to think about, but also because, well,

I was a kid and thought it was kind of boring ;-). I’d probably enjoy it more now, but that’s not possible because it’s been sitting abandoned for nearly 20 years. I’m positive nature would have taken it over by now, but without visuals, who would know for sure?

Well, as it turns out, a local “urban explorer” (one who examines man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Thanks, Wikipedia!) somehow got to Discovery Island earlier this year and videotaped what he saw. So now we can know for sure what the former nature park looks like:


(Note: we do not condone this guy’s activities. He surely had to bypass WDW security to do this, as well as, of course, potentially could have been hurt or killed in the process of getting to or walking around the island. But the video is there on YouTube, so…)

Did you ever go to Discovery Island? Did you like it or were you like me and thought it was just plants and birds and rocks and things and not nearly as cool as Space Mountain? 😉

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Christian December 1, 2018 - 10:32 pm

Wow, I love that top picture. Unless my memory is playing major tricks on me, things have changed a lot, mostly less shore around the contemporary, with more land filled in for condos and whatnot.

SharonKurheg December 1, 2018 - 10:36 pm

Yeah, it IS a cool pic 🙂

I don’t know so much about the shore around the Contemp that you mentioned. When the Contemporary was built, it had 2 “arms” on either side of the main building; one towards the MK and the other in the other direction. The “outhouses” on the left side were removed to build Bay Lake Tower. The ones on the right side are still there. Trees would be bigger now, too, which makes land appear smaller. 🙂

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