Michigan Lighthouses You Can Stay At
Lighthouses continue to fascinate people around the world, even decades after stations were manned by keepers. Vacationers hoping to experience a taste of what life was like at a lighthouse will find Michigan has many options, with close to 20 lighthouses that currently offer some kind of overnight accommodations. While some of the beacons on this list are privately owned and operated as either a bed and breakfast or vacation rental, others are found in state parks and other locations offering on-site keeper programs. Keeper Programs often include leading tours, selling merchandise, grounds maintenance, and other light cleaning duties – a peek into the past and what was expected of lighthouse keepers. This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, but we’ve included all the lighthouses we know of that currently offer lodging (but excluding several that offer volunteer opportunities at the lighthouse and lodging off-site). Michigan Lighthouses You Can Stay In or At includes locations on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and more. Look for links to reservation information in each paragraph. Thanks for reading!
Sand Hills Lighthouse (Bed and Breakfast) – After years of operation as a bed and breakfast, the Sand Hills Lighthouse is under new ownership and taking a year off while renovations are completed. This lighthouse has a very unique design and was constructed in 1919 to help warn of a nearby reef. After its active years it was used as a Coast Guard training facility during World War II. To find out more about reservations for the 2020 season and beyond, head to https://sandhillslighthouseinn.com/.
Jacobsville Lighthouse (Bed and Breakfast) – Visitors here can stay in the former keeper’s quarters that are located in a schoolhouse-style dwelling attached to a 51-foot tall conical tower. The Jacobsville Lighthouse dates back to the 1860s and has been operated as a bed and breakfast since the early 2000s. In addition to the great views of Lake Superior, guests can visit a nearby historic schoolhouse, beach, the Portage River (Keweenaw Waterway) Lower Entrance Light, bald eagle nests, and more. Details can be found at http://www.jacobsvillelighthouse.com/.
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. 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 https://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 http://www.pointbetsie.org/reserve/keepers-quarters/.
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 a week or two weeks, and have several responsibilities while staying at the lighthouse. Find out more at http://www.splka.org/big.html.
Tawas Point Lighthouse (Volunteer Keeper) – 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 https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mhc/tp_keeper-info_512638_7.pdf.
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 https://www.vrbo.com/3893239ha.
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 http://www.crisppointlighthouse.org/volunteerkeepers.html.
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 http://www.missionpointlighthouse.com/keeper-program.html.
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. Find out more at https://www.gllka.com/cheb-volunteer.html.
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 (https://www.gllka.com/sthvolunteer.html). 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.
DeTour Reef Light (Keeper Program) – The 1930 DeTour Reef Light marks an important point for most freighters traveling to and from Lake Superior, as it sits in the passage between Drummond Island and the eastern Upper Peninsula. The DeTour Reef Light Preservation Society has offered a keeper program for a few years now, and it has proved incredibly popular. “The program provides significant free time away from lighthouse work and tour duties. We are planning tours on only one day of each keeper weekend. Keepers will reside at the lighthouse Friday through Sunday, perform cleaning and light maintenance tasks, greet visitors and assist with tours of the lighthouse, keep a log and prepare their own meals. Keepers must be in good physical condition, capable of making multiple trips up and down the vertical 20-foot pier ladders and to the top of the lighthouse.” Find out more at http://drlps.com/stay-or-visit/stay-at-the-lighthouse/.
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 https://www.phmuseum.org/overnight-at-the-light/.
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 http://www.40milepointlighthouse.org/assistinfo.html.
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 https://www.grandtraverselighthouse.com/keeper-program/.
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 https://www.mcgulpinpoint.org/explore-mcgulpin/overnight-accommodations/.
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: “So, you want to stay overnight at an abandoned lighthouse in the middle of the Straits of Mackinac…20 miles West of the Mackinac Bridge, 13 miles from the closest boat ramp, and 7 miles from the nearest shore (an uninhabited island)? Absolutely!” There are currently limited dates for this unique experience; find out more at https://www.preservewhiteshoal.org/overnight-stay.
South Fox Island Lighthouse (volunteer keeper/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. Find out more about lighthouse keeper opportunities at http://www.southfox.org/camper%20keepers.htm.