16 Michigan Lighthouses You Should Visit in 2016
Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the country, and for years visitors have enjoyed visiting and photographing our unique and scenic lights. As more an more people join the cause for lighthouse preservation we have seen more lighthouses turned into museums and opened to the public. We put together this list of 16 Michigan Lighthouses You Should Visit in 2016, providing a variety of structures from the sandy shore of Lake Michigan to the rough and rocky Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior. Of the lighthouses on this list, 14 are open to the public as museums or for tower climbs, giving you a chance to obtain some unparalleled views of Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Remains of shipwrecks can be found near a few of these structures, reminding visitors how important and necessary these lighthouses were/are. Enjoy our list, and have fun exploring Michigan’s maritime history!
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse – The first lighthouse Chris and I have real memories of visiting is Mackinaw City’s historic Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, a beacon that marked the way through the Straits of Mackinac before the construction of the Mackinac Bridge. Due to its location, this is also our most visited lighthouse, and we’ve stopped by at least once a year every year dating back to the 1990s. The lighthouse is made of cream colored brick, and its castle-like appearance has endeared it to visitors for decades. It was first lit in 1892, and it served the Straits area well until it was deactivated in 1958. In 2004, the lighthouse complex was opened as a maritime museum, which makes it possible to climb the tower for an amazing view of the area. More information: http://www.mackinacparks.com/parks-and-attractions/old-mackinac-point-lighthouse/. 526 N Huron Ave, Mackinaw City, MI
Little Sable Point Light – Silver Lake State Park is home to sand dunes that stretch for miles, Lake Michigan beach and a nationally-known ORV area. The park’s day-use area south of the campground features more sandy beach as well as the historic Little Sable Point Light. This brick tower stands 107 feet tall, and is all that remains of what was once a full lighthouse. Today, it is possible to climb the tower thanks to the Sable Point Light Keeper’s Association – you can find out more at http://www.splka.org/littlesable.html. Built in 1874, the tower has stood the test of time incredibly well, and this is one of the most beautiful settings on Lake Michigan. 287 N. Lighthouse Dr, Mears, MI
Au Sable Light Station - As the only lighthouse in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the Au Sable Light Station sees quite a few visitors despite the 1.5 mile hike it takes to get to it. Shipwrecks still poke out of the shallow waters of Lake Superior on the beach south of the lighthouse, reminders of why this lighthouse is still an active aid to navigation. It went into service in 1874, was automated in 1958, and its tower stands 87 feet tall. Several outbuildings remain and the keeper’s house has been renovated; park rangers offer guided tours and tower climbs during summer months. For more details: http://www.nps.gov/piro/learn/historyculture/ausablelightstation.htm. From H-58 west of Grand Marais, turn in to the Hurricane River day use area near the campground. The trailhead is well-marked and the path to the lighthouse is level; an alternate route is to simply follow the shoreline and beach.
New Presque Isle Lighthouse - One of Michigan’s tallest lighthouses, the New Presque Isle Lighthouse’s tower stands 107 feet above the Lake Huron shoreline. In 1870 it replaced the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse located a few miles south. The light from here can be seen for 22 nautical miles. Today the complex is open to visitors, with the tower open and the keeper’s house serving as a museum. Head to http://www.presqueislelighthouses.org/home.html for more details. 4500 E. Grand Lake Rd., Presque Isle, MI
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse - In 2015 the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse celebrated its 175th anniversary, and even though it has been more than 140 years since this was an active aid to navigation it is still worth a visit. The 38 foot tall tower is brick and painted white, and stands near the keeper’s house which is also painted white. Both buildings are open today as part of a museum, and this is one of several Michigan lighthouses that is rumored to be haunted. For more details visit http://www.presqueislelighthouses.org/home.html. 5295 E. Grand Lake Rd., Presque Isle, MI
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse - One of the most picturesque lighthouses on Michigan’s Lake Superior shore, the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is easily identified by its red brick construction and red/white brick pattern tower. The lighthouse sits on a rocky point marking the entrance to Eagle Harbor, a busy port during the Keweenaw mining boom. The current lighthouse was constructed in 1871 and still serves as an active navigational aid today. The Keweenaw County Historical Society operates a lighthouse museum here, as well as a maritime museum in the old fog signal building and a fisheries museum in a separate building. Find out dates and hours of operation at http://www.keweenawhistory.org/sites/lighthouse.html. 670 Lighthouse Rd., Eagle Harbor, MI
William Livingstone Memorial Light - Designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, the William Livingstone Memorial Light on Belle Isle is the only lighthouse in the nation constructed entirely of marble. It was dedicated in 1930, and it pays tribute to the former president of the Lake Carriers Association and one of the biggest advocates for constant improvements in Great Lakes shipping. The lighthouse is 80 feet tall and it stands guard along a still-busy stretch of the Detroit River. East end of Belle Isle, parking area is off of Lakeside Dr.
Holland Harbor Light - “Big Red,” as the Holland Harbor Light is known to area residents, is a local icon that has stood at the channel connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa since 1907. It can easily be seen from Holland State Park, which is an incredibly popular summer recreation spot thanks to its sandy beach. The lighthouse stands 32 feet tall and has a gabled roof, part of what makes it such an aesthetically pleasing beacon. To see the lighthouse from Holland State Park: 2215 Ottawa Beach Rd, Holland, MI
Seul Choix Point Lighthouse - Since 1895, the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse has marked a dangerous stretch of Lake Michigan between the Straits of Mackinac and Green Bay. The tower is white with green trim and a red cap, it stands 77 feet tall. The attached dwelling is made of brick with Italianate bracketing, making it one of the Upper Peninsula’s most visually striking lighthouse complexes. This is another one of Michigan’s lighthouses that is rumored to be haunted by a former lighthouse keeper. The Gulliver Historical Society maintains the lighthouse and several outbuildings as part of a museum, find out more at http://www.greatlakelighthouse.com/. 905S Seul Choix Point Road, Gulliver, MI
Point Iroquois Lighthouse - Marking an incredibly important point where Lake Superior connects to the St. Mary’s River and the rest of the Great Lakes, the Point Iroquois Lighthouse has stood since 1870. The Canadian shoreline is visible from the grounds, and the Gros Cap Reef Light (in Canadian waters offshore) has taken over in lighting the way since the 1960s. The Hiawatha National Forest maintains the lighthouse and keeps the dwelling open as a maritime museum and the tower open for climbing. Information on dates and hours of operation: http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/. 12942 W Lakeshore Dr, Brimley, MI
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse - The ore docks in Marquette have been one of the busiest spots for freighter traffic on Michigan’s Lake Superior shore for decades, and the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse helps guide those ships in. Featuring a 40 foot tower attached to a keeper’s dwelling that seems like a cross between a church and a barn, this is one of Marquette’s most easily recognized landmarks due to its bright red paint. It can be viewed easily from McCarty’s Cove beach and the Marquette Maritime Museum leads tours daily during the summer months. Find out more at https://mqtmaritimemuseum.com/marquette-lighthouse/. 300 North Lakeshore Boulevard, Marquette, MI
Crisp Point Lighthouse – It will take more work and more driving to get to Crisp Point Lighthouse than any of the other lighthouses on this list, but the reward is a restored 1904 beacon and a secluded stretch of Lake Superior shoreline. At one point only the tower remained and that was in danger of falling into the lake, but restoration efforts and the formation of the Crisp Point Light Historical Society helped save this lighthouse and preserve its future. The tower is 58 feet tall and open for climbing when volunteer “keepers” are present. Restrooms and a gift shop were recently added to the lighthouse complex. All the details can be found at: http://www.crisppointlighthouse.org/. 1944 Co Hwy 412, Newberry, MI
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse - Boats rounding Michigan’s Thumb have to be wary of the dangerous reefs and shoals in Lake huron, and the Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse has helped guide them since 1857. An 89 foot tall tower painted white with black and red trim is attached to a keeper’s house with a matching paint scheme. The Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse Society maintains the complex as a museum, and the surrounding area is known as Lighthouse Park. For hours and more info: http://www.pointeauxbarqueslighthouse.org/. 7320 Lighthouse Road, Port Hope, MI
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse - You can not only visit Michigan’s oldest surviving lighthouse just north of Port Huron, you can tour a museum and climb the tower as well. Increased vessel traffic from the east made a lighthouse here necessary, marking where the St. Clair River meets Lake Huron. This was Michigan’s first lighthouse and the second-oldest on the Great Lakes; it went into service in 1829. Today a coast guard station is found next to the lighthouse complex, and restoration efforts continue to help restore other buildings on the property. For more information on hours head to http://www.phmuseum.org/fort-gratiot-lighthouse/. Fort Gratiot Light can be found at the intersection of Omar St. and Garfield St. in Port Huron.
Point Betsie Lighthouse – A picturesque location, unique design, and close proximity to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore help make Point Betsie Lighthouse one of the most photographed lights in the state. This was the last manned lighthouse on Lake Michigan, and the tower is 39 feet tall sitting atop a dune. Nearby private residences were once part of the Life Saving Station here, and this is one of the best places to view a stunning sunset. The lighthouse was completed in 1859, and features a cylindrical tower attached to a keeper’s house with a red roof and green trim. The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse have helped make the lighthouse available for tours, weddings and special events – find out more at: http://www.pointbetsie.org/events.html. 3701 Point Betsie Rd, Frankfort, MI
Big Sable Point Lighthouse – One of the main attractions at Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan, the Big Sable Point Lighthouse is reached after a sandy hike of more than one mile. Following the beach can be scenic but taxing, so there is also a more level trail leading to the light from the campground. Easily recognized by its metal-plated white and black tower, this light was put into operation in 1867 and its tower stands 112 feet tall. The attached dwelling is white with a red roof. The Sable Point Light Keeper’s Association provides volunteer keepers in the summer months, and for a small fee you can climb the tall tower for unbeatable views of the shoreline and state park. Find out more: http://www.splka.org/lights.html. 5611 N Lighthouse, Ludington, MI