White Shoal Lighthouse Opening to the Public For First Time Ever
White Shoal Lighthouse, one of the most iconic lighthouses in Michigan, will open to the public in 2019 for the first time. Thanks to an impressive restoration campaign since the lighthouse was privately purchased, lighthouse fans will be able to get an up-close look at the candy striped iconic Michigan lighthouse.
(Photo from White Shoal FB Page)
On Facebook New Year’s Day, the owners of the White Shoal Lighthouse announced plans for public viewing in 2019 with this:
- “History will be made in 2019 as White Shoal becomes available for public viewing for the first time ever! Beginning on July 20th 2019, White Shoal Light Historical Preservation Society will be hosting guest for day-tours and even select overnight stays! We are opening the doors a full 5 years ahead of our original schedule in order to share our vision with you! Exciting details about schedules and tours will be announced throughout the month of January 2019 and tickets will go on sale beginning in February.”
The White Shoal Lighthouse is located 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. When it was constructed, it made the nearby Waugoshance Lighthouse obsolete. The lighthouse provides warning to ships in a dangerous area. Over the years, the lighthouse has become iconic in Michigan and national thanks to its candy-stripe barber pole red and white design. The lighthouse has been featured in tourism campaigns and formerly on Michigan license plates.
The White Shoal Lighthouse is a personal favorite of ours thanks to its unique design. We have been fortunate enough to view the lighthouse up close thanks to several trips on the Shepler’s Ferry Lighthouse Cruise Westbound Trip. See our photos from those trips here and check with Shepler’s on a 2019 schedule and prices here.
Brent Tompkins (Traverse City) and Mike Lynch (Weidman) purchased the famous lighthouse in 2016 when the light went up for auction. Their bid of $110,009 won the auction and started a path of restoring the lighthouse. We had the chance to as Tompkins questions about the project and the recent announcement that the lighthouse would be open for tours beginning in 2019. For more on the owners and the restoration, check out the website.
Tompkins tells us that some of the major factors affecting the restoration are weather, logistics, and funding. “This is an extremely dangerous area of Lake Michigan with wicked currents and weather that changes in a heartbeat. The waves out on Grays Reef and White Shoal are unpredictable and can build to 12 feet or larger in a matter of minutes! The structure itself is nearly impossible to approach in waves greater than 4 feet,” Tompkins tells us.
The White Shoal Lighthouse is one of the only light stations on the Great Lakes that doesn’t have an underwater electricity cable run to her. Tompkins tells us, “We have to provide all of our own power generation on site. For sewage, we store everything on site and then have to pump it on board a work boat and transport it back to shore for disposal.”
The tours in 2019 come as a fundraiser to generate funds for the restoration, which Tompkins estimates will cost around $3 million. The owners and Board of Directors realized they needed to open the doors before the major restoration begins to show people the vision and also to help raise money for the project.
There are two big takeaways here that we want to share. Number one is that whatever the final cost ends up being unveiled by the White Shoal owners, think of it as a cool lighthouse tour and also as a donation to help the restoration. Tompkins reminded us that there are very few grants available to help with lighthouse restoration. If you love and appreciate lighthouses, why not donate to the cause and tour this great lighthouse all at once? The second big takeaway is that while the doors will be open for tours in 2019, this may not be the case the following year or parts of the next few. At some point, major restoration will take place and will mean working on the lighthouse instead of doing tours. That means that if you want to see this lighthouse inside, you may want to make sure a 2019 trip is booked or you could have to wait until the final project is ready to be viewed by the public.
We will wait and let the owners officially announce tour dates, prices, and full details, but we would like to share some of the information we were given by Tompkins.
There are plans for day tours that would run around 6 hours and accommodate 30 people from Mackinaw City. The narrated trip will include a trip to the lighthouse, a 2 hour visit to the lighthouse, and a trip back. Lunch will also be provided for everyone on this cruise. Additionally, VIP tours will be offered to those interested. These trips will cost a little bit more, but will be closer to 8 hours and include visits to two additional lighthouses, additional food and drinks, and a smaller amount of people in the tour group. The VIP cruises will take visitors up close to Waugoshance Lighthouse and Grays Reef. Waugoshance remains one of the coolest Michigan lighthouses thanks to its birdcage design and the interesting trivia that it was used as a bombing target for test runs during World War II.
Overnight stays at White Shoal will be extremely limited in 2019. Guests would stay for two or three nights, but due to the weather conditions, would need flexible schedules. Overnight stays will include all meals and be the ultimate lighthouse experience. Prior to the full restoration, overnight stays will not offer the full deluxe experience, but Tompkins tells us that a comfortable bed, running water, showers, and toilets will be available to overnight guests.
Inside, the lighthouse offers over 5,000 square feet on 11 separate levels. Tompkins tells us, “When restoration is complete, the structure will offer a large museum/gift shop, 6 private rooms, a library, a bar, a lounge in the lantern, a kitchen and dining level, and an entire level for staff. There will be private sleeping accommodations for 12 people with overflow space for parties as large as 20.”
Tours to the lighthouse will begin July 20th and run through September 3rd for this year. In the future, the lighthouse will be open for tours from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day weekend.
(Photo from White Shoal Facebook Page)
If you are interested in voyaging out to White Shoal Lighthouse, be sure to follow their Facebook page for the latest on prices and dates. Consider donating to the cause if you are able, as the lengthy battle to get this all said and done is in the millions. Tompkins tells u, “The best way for people to get involved in the near term is to come out and visit us and spend money on the tours.” If you’re interested in seeing more great Michigan lighthouses, check out our road trip guide here.
Big thanks to Brent Tompkins for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him the best with the continued restoration of the White Shoal Lighthouse.