Michigan Lighthouses You Can Stay At (2023 Update)
Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state, so it should come as little surprise that we also lead the way in the number of lighthouses visitors can stay at. We last posted a list of these opportunities in 2019, and there have been some changes since then so we felt it was a good time to update this list. We had the chance to spend a night at the Little River Lighthouse in Maine on a summer vacation last year and it remains one of the coolest things we’ve ever done! An overnight stay, weekend getaway, or weeklong vacation at one of these landmarks will definitely be a memory you and your family will remember for years to come. Each listing here provides a few details about the kind of accommodations (rental, keeper program, etc.) and lists contact information for each property. We’ve done our best to double check the accuracy of this list but feel free to reach out with any updates or changes. These are the 18 Michigan lighthouses you can stay at:
Big Bay Point Lighthouse (Bed and Breakfast) – Located on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, the Big Bay Point Lighthouse entered service in 1896. This majestic brick building has a 64 foot tall tower rising above the attached dwelling, which is now available to guests as a bed and breakfast with seven different room options. Located 24 miles north of Marquette, Big Bay offers peace and quiet or the chance for various types of outdoor recreation. For more information on room rentals and rates, head to www.bigbaylighthouse.com.
Point Betsie Lighthouse (Keepers’ Quarters) – One of the state’s most photographed locations, Point Betsie Lighthouse is located near the Sleeping Bear Dunes and offers weekly rentals of its keeper’s quarters. The keeper’s quarters sleep up to six people, and offer unlimited tours of the lighthouse, beach access, and stunning sunsets on Lake Michigan. Find out more at www.pointbetsie.org.
DeTour Reef Light (Keeper Weekends) – Overnight keeper stays at DeTour Reef Light are once again being offered for 2023. From the DRLPS site: “DRLPS spent the summer of 2022 looking into options to restore power to the Light. It was determined that the underwater power cable is not repairable. As we work to restore power to the Light, we will be scheduling Keeper weekends as we have done in the past. The experience will look a little more rustic, however. There will be a generator that can be run occasionally to provide use of the microwave and refrigerator. However, there will no hot water available for showers or potable water. Please bring your drinking water, charcoal for the grill and a flashlight.” This is a great chance for some solitude and scenic views as you watch freighters pass by the light! More information available at www.drlps.com.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse (Volunteer Keeper) – The Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park is reached after hiking almost two miles, yet thousands make the trip to it each summer. The SPLKA is ready for those that make the trip, offering lighthouse tours and tower climbs thanks to a volunteer keeper program. Keepers sign up for tours of two weeks, and have several responsibilities while staying at the lighthouse. SPLKA also has opportunities to volunteer at the Ludington North Breakwater Light, White River Lighthouse, and Little Sable Point Lighthouse. Find out more at www.splka.org.
Tawas Point Lighthouse (Volunteer Keeper) – *program suspended in 2023 during construction, expected to resume in 2024* From May to October each year, one of Michigan’s most recognizable Lake Huron beacons hosts a volunteer keeper program. Tawas Point Lighthouse at Tawas Point State Park often reminds people of East Coast lights near Cape Cod, as this classic looking lighthouse warns mariners of a sandy piece of land that hooks out from the rest of the shoreline. “For just $75 per person, lighthouse keepers are provided two weeks of lodging in the second‐story quarters of the historic light keeper’s dwelling which overlooks the scenic shores of Lake Huron. Accommodations include two bedrooms which can sleep up to four adults, along with a modern fully‐equipped kitchen, shower and bath. Free parking is also provided. The keeper schedule is designed to allow participants time to enjoy recreational activities on their own while providing valuable volunteer services.” Find out more about the requirements and responsibilities at www.michigan.gov.
Eagle River Lighthouse (Vacation Rental) – If you’re planning a trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula, consider staying at the Eagle River Lighthouse. From the vacation rental listing: “Carefully restored 1850’s lighthouse boasts 3000 sf of living space including gourmet kitchen, library, 3 bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. Interior opens onto 1200 sf of gorgeous deck and a four season sunroom. Easily move from indoor comfort to the beauty of the outdoors on Lake Superior’s shore. Everything our guests need, from linens to top notch cooking equipment to a good read is waiting at the Eagle River Lighthouse.” This lighthouse is just blocks from Eagle River Falls and historic bridges and landmarks, an hour or less away from many of the Keweenaw National Historic Park attractions, and walking distance from the legendary Fitzgerald’s Restaurant. View the listing at www.vrbo.com.
Crisp Point Lighthouse (Volunteer Keeper) – One of the hardest Michigan mainland lighthouse to get to (18 miles of back roads that can sometimes be tricky to navigate) is Crisp Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior. This lighthouse was once almost lost to the elements but now stands proud thanks to the relentless efforts of the Crisp Point Lighthouse Preservation Society. Each summer, volunteer keepers can camp next to the lighthouse (bring your own trailer/camper) and help keep the grounds clean and the tower open for visitors. Find out more about joining CPLHS and becoming a keeper at www.crisppointlighthouse.org.
Old Mission Point Lighthouse (Volunteer Keeper) – This schoolhouse style lighthouse has stood guard at the 45th parallel since the 1870s. Located at the tip of a peninsula that sticks out into Grand Traverse Bay north of Traverse City, the Old Mission Point Lighthouse has become a popular summer stop for photographers, kayakers, history buffs, and more. The Hessler Log Cabin, a great example of an 1850s pioneer cabin. Volunteer keeper opportunities are available for a week at a time in the summer, and responsibilities include leading tours and running the gift shop. Find out more at www.missionpointlighthouse.com.
Cheboygan River Front Range Light (Volunteer Keeper) – The Cheboygan River Front Range Light dates back to the 1880s, and thanks to the efforts of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association it has been restored to its 1910 appearance and is occasionally open for tours. GLLKA offers a volunteer keeper program, which allows people to stay in the lighthouse for a weekend. Duties include leading tours, helping visitors climb the tower, and running the gift shop. We had the chance to do one of these tours in 2021 and the volunteer keepers were great! We even got to make the trip down to the Cheboygan Crib Light and see the views from the top of the tower there too! Find out more at www.gllka.org.
St. Helena Island Lighthouse (Volunteer) – You can get a distant view of the St. Helena Island lighthouse from the mainland of the U.P. just west of St. Ignace, or get up close on a Westbound Lighthouse Cruise with Shepler’s Ferry out of Mackinaw City. To truly experience this island, consider staying at the lighthouse as part of a volunteer program through GLLKA (www.gllka.com). For decades now GLLKA has undertaken restoration and preservation projects at this 1870s lighthouse, which has a 63 foot tall tower attached to a keeper’s dwelling.
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse (Groups) – All visitors to Michigan’s oldest lighthouse are welcome to climb the tower and tour the other buildings during open hours, but the Fort Gratiot lighthouse in Port Huron also offers a fun experience for groups. Overnight at the Light: “the Port Huron Museum proudly presents this program held at the historic Fort Gratiot Light Station. This is a unique opportunity for 20 or more people to spend the night, bunk room style, in this notable building on a remarkable 5-acre campus.” Find out more at www.phmuseum.org.
40 Mile Point Lighthouse (Keeper Program) – This 1897 lighthouse on Lake huron’s “shipwreck coast” is so named because it is 40 miles from Mackinaw and was constructed so that mariners would never be out of sight of a beacon on their journey north or south. Today the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse is open to visitors and is part of a museum complex that also includes a one-room schoolhouse, the pilot house of an old ship, a visible shipwreck on the beach, and other maritime artifacts. The volunteer keeper program “offers an on-location RV campsite where prospective Guest Lighthouse Keepers have the advantage of being able to use their own personal living quarters while, at the same time, experience an opportunity to work and live at an historic lighthouse. Keepers will thoroughly enjoy their time spent here; make new friends and have lots of fun.” Find out more at www.fortymilepointlighthouse.org.
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse (Assistant Keeper Program) – You can stay in the assistant keeper’s house next to this 1848 lighthouse at the tip of the Thumb! The Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse assistant keeper program sounds awesome: “Your group of two to four adults can spend a week or more staying in the assistant keeper’s house overlooking the scenic shores of Lake Huron and helping us as a “Lighthouse Keeper.” The cost is $100 per person per week, plus your agreement to provide volunteer services.” Find out more at www.pointeauxbarqueslighthouse.org.
Charity Island Lighthouse (rental) – Want to have an island to yourself? The Charity Island Lighthouse offers weekly rentals and an amazing experience. “The Lighthouse and keepers quarters are located on the very northern tip of Big Charity Island, a heavily wooded Island with 3 miles of shoreline located10 miles offshore in the very middle of 20 mile wide Saginaw Bay. Maritime history surrounds this privately owned home with history Kiosks that relate highlights of the lighthouse’ past service located outside around the yard. 90% of the Island is managed by Federal Fish & Wildlife Service as Wildlife Sanctuary. Bald Eagles are a common sight from the house as are white pelicans that come to Saginaw bay each year from the Gulf of Mexico. Song Birds are abundant. Island Wildlife includes Fox, Mink, raccoons, chipmunks, three bald eagles nests , dozens of swans, geese, wood ducks. Spring and fall Snowy Owls are often sighted on the island. Find out more about this lighthouse and rental opportunity at www.charityisland.net.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse (Keeper Program) – At the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula north of Traverse City you can find the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, an 1858 structure now open as part of a museum complex in Leelanau State Park. The keeper program here sounds great: “as a lighthouse keeper, you’ll stay in the former assistant keeper’s quarters on the northern side of the lighthouse. Inside you’ll find a fully-equipped modern kitchen, a comfortable living room area, two bedrooms, and one and a half baths. Each of the bedrooms contains two twin beds, accommodating up to four adults at a time. During your stay, you’ll be responsible for greeting visitors and providing historical information, and duties such as helping in the gift shop and museum admissions area, miscellaneous projects and tasks such as yard and grounds work. Complete training is provided.” Find out more at www.grandtraverselighthouse.com.
McGulpin Point Lighthouse (Apartment Rental) – While you can’t stay inside the lighthouse at McGulpin Point, you can rent the cottage next door! This 1869 lighthouse is one of the original beacons in the Mackinac Straits area, and has been beautifully restored by Emmett County. The lighthouse is now open for tours and tower climbs, and a history/nature walk to the lakeshore features many colorful and informative plaques. The apartment next to the lighthouse has modern amenities and can hold up to four people. Find out more at www.mcgulpinpoint.org.
White Shoal Light (limited overnight stays) – The newest addition to this list is the White Shoal Light – one of Michigan’s tallest and most recognizable beacons with its unique candy cane stripes. The White Shoal Light Preservation Society offers: “White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society will be opening to the public for a brief time in 2023. We are designing this season’s stays based on what we learned from our inaugural 2019 season. There were things that worked well and things that didn’t. We have decided to increase time on the lighthouse to a minimum of three nights. There are two reasons we open White Shoal Light for public stays. First, the structure is so amazing and so hard to access that we like to give folks an opportunity to see this one-of-a-kind marvel of 1908 engineering! Second, and most important, we are using the funds raised from overnight stays to continue current and future maintenance and restoration work.” Start your application at www.preservewhiteshoal.org!
South Fox Island Lighthouse (volunteer work week(s)) – Another secluded lighthouse opportunity can be found on South Fox Island in Lake Michigan, where the Fox Island Lighthouse Association offers campers the chance to stay on the island for weeks at a time while doing work projects. There are two towers on the island – the 1867 original lighthouse is 39 feet tall and made of brick, while a steel skeletal tower was added in the 1930s and stands 60 feet tall. “Given the beauty and history of South Fox Island, many potential volunteers inquire about on-island projects. These are not for everyone. Because we are safety conscious, trips may be cancelled or delayed because of weather. Trips can be long and rough. There is no dock. The transfer between boat to dinghy requires a degree of agility and “boat smarts.” The work can be tough. Housing conditions are fairly rustic. That said, volunteering on the island may be one of the most rewarding and engaging experiences you’ll ever have.” Find out more at www.southfoxisland.org.
Additional notes: Since our last publication of this list the Portage River (Jacobsville) Lighthouse has become a private residence and the Sand Hills Lighthouse remains closed for renovations. Links that used to lead to information on overnight stays at the Whitefish Point Light Station Crew Quarters seem to have disappeared. Potential future options for overnight stays include the North Manitou Island Shoal Light and Rock of Ages Lighthouse.