Michigan lighthouses attract many visitors. Sometimes these beacons don't get as much attention, though, as Atlantic coast lighthouses. Even though Michigan doesn't have an ocean shoreline, the state has 3,224 miles of tidal fresh water coastline. Including islands.1 Wow, that's just amazing!
Map of Michigan - Notice all the fresh-water, Great Lakes coastal areas bordering the state.
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Remember four of the five Great Lakes border the state of Michigan. Those that do are Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Michigan has two sections. Don't forget the Upper Peninsula. So it's no wonder there are so many lighthouses in Michigan!
And how many Michigan lighthouses are there? According to United States Coast Guard historical information, there are 129 currently active, inactive, or turned into museum status. 24 had been destroyed.
We'll take you to some lighthouses you'll want to know more about. You may want to plan a visit, see about touring some of them. Or, as with all us lighthouse fans - you want to expand your knowledge of Michigan lighthouses. Maybe make virtual visits.
And don't miss Michigan Lighthouse Guest Keeper Opportunities - you may love that!
Lake Michigan's Eastern Shore
Grand Haven Lighthouse - A Novel History goes with this unusual, yet beautifully stark double light. Nearby Grand Haven State Park make it a double fun place to visit. Find it along Grand Haven's boardwalk. By the entrance to Grand River channel, as it accesses Lake Michigan.
South Haven Light - A picturesque light, reminiscent of Grand Island style. First there in 1872 for South Haven's harbor entrance. Needing many improvements over the years, particularly when beaten down from Lake Michigan's surly seas and harsh winters. Currently cared for by the Historical Association of South Haven. Stop by, showing your support for this historic, well-loved beacon. Go to South Pier's West End, by Black River's outlet into Lake Michigan. In South Haven, of course!
Big Sable Point Lighthouse - An iconic lighthouse midway along Lake Michigan's eastern shore. A few specialized things to know about visiting here:
Tune your radio while in the area, to 1610 am for lighthouse information
This, and three other area lighthouses are managed by Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association (SPLKA). Founded to maintain, restore and manage first Big Sable, and then added the others.
In doing this, their mission is to preserve, promote, educate the public and make lighthouses accessible to all.
Become a Lighthouse Keeper - A specialized program using volunteer lighthouse keepers. How many dream of a chance to Live the Life of a Lighthouse Keeper. Application required, there's a small fee. Your tour of duty can be one or two weeks. There's also an option as a One-Day Lighthouse Assistant. Has this been your desire? Well Here's A Chance for you.
Holland Harbor Light - Nicknamed Big Red. You can see why! Quite famed and adored. Said the most photographed lighthouse in all Michigan. It's very vividly photogenic! The name Holland Harbor comes from original settlers who immigrated from the The Netherlands, referred to as Holland. Seen quite well from Holland State Park. Get some terrific photo shots if you go up Mount Pisgah's dune staircase.5 Access otherwise isn't too easy, as private property surrounds it, with limited parking. There's a gatehouse to enter the foot path.6
Big Red has the most Dutch History of all Michigan Lighthouses
Point Betsie Lighthouse - When you read how this got its name, you'll say "OK, that's not what I imagined!" Make you curious? Alright, we'll tell you. It goes something like this:
French explorers met those who originally lived there: Native tribal council, the People of the Three Fires. They called a river just south "Ug-Zig-A-Zee-Bee" - a habitat for Merganser (aka sawbill) ducks. The river's name meant sawbill ducks in their language. The French began calling the area "Pointe Aux Bec Scies" - sounding as they heard the name of the river. The French words meant Saw Break Point. But - in English, the French sounded like Betsie, and it became Point Betsie!4
Have a Look, a Tour, or a Stay!
Grand Traverse Lighthouse - A Grand place to visit: Northport Michigan's lighthouse. At the end of Leelanau Peninsula in Leelanau State Park, with campsites & 3 cabins for a stay. Plan an entire vacation around this one! The Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum sponsors a Keeper Program between April and December for one or two weeks. They train, you must apply, with a fee. Today's Keeper Life:
Explain the lighthouse history
Gift-shop tasks & work the museum desk
Lighthouse grounds & building upkeep
Miscellaneous needs & objectives
If you really have an interest, you can call: (231) 386-7195
There's also a Winter Keeper program with different time & tasks.
Michigan Lighthouses on Lake Huron
Presque Isle Lighthouses - There are two of these same-name Michigan lighthouses! The Old and the New.7
Old Presque Isle Lighthouse - This first one was built in 1840, only used until 1871 for its beacon. But still today you can visit and go up the tower. The Keeper's House remains, with some provocative activities that can even interest those teenagers!
New Presque Isle Light Station - To replace the old, the lighthouse was built in 1870. Lit the following year, still in service today. Two keeper's homes on the property. A follow-up one built in 1890 is now the Presque Isle Township Museum. The original home is the lighthouse visitor center/museum and gift shop. This Newer lighthouse is the tallest Great Lakes lighthouse that the public is allowed to climb.
Bois Blanc Lighthouse - Three lighthouses were built at this location, on the island of the same name. This last one still standing there was built in 1867. Locally pronounced "Bob Lo" as French pronunciation got away over the years. Deactivated in 1955. Owner-ship is now private, as is the restoration and upkeep. It can be viewed via boat.
Bois Blanc Lighthouse Pre-Private Ownership
40 Mile Point Lighthouse - Located in Presque Isle County’s Lighthouse Park, in Rogers City. Named for being forty miles sailing distance from Mackinac Point. On the National Register of Historic Places, and a Michigan state historic site. Open for touring, managed by the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse Society.
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse - The first light on site from 1848, made from stone taken from Lake Huron. A new brick lighthouse replaced it in 1857 when weather defeated the old one. Still in action today. A Lifesaving Station was added in 1875, the first on the Great Lakes. Visit the restored Tower and Keeper's Home. The Lifesaving Station is being restored now. They sponsor a Festival Day the First Saturday in August. Don't you think it's a beautiful setting for visiting?
Pointe Aux Barques Tower & Light Station on Lake Huron
Round Island Lighthouse - Such interesting history, along with extraordinary struggle to survive. Lit in the spring 1856, abandoned for lack of need in 1947. The National Forest Service took over supervision from the Coast Guard. Without any on-site presence storms and vandals wrought havoc. An Oct. 1972 storm especially was fearsome, demolishing the southwest corner section! Local groups became alarmed & systematically began to help. First repairing damages and refurbishing. Then forming an official nonprofit for restoration and preservation. They hold an Annual Open House the 2nd Saturday of July, weather permitting. The only time you can go there.9
Michigan Lighthouses of Lake Superior
Eagle Harbor Light Station - Just one of Michigan lighthouses with a reputation for spooky happenings over the years. Reported to be haunted, according to 2010's Spirit Sightings and Lighthouse Ghosts by Don Hermanson.8 Dare you go there? Why not! Accounts of Haunting Events by Coasties assigned there won't keep you away, we hope. It was a lifesaving station for those ships in need during Superior's nasty storms. An excellent job was done there. On the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Portage River Lighthouse - Decommissioned in 1920. Now known as the Jacobsville Lighthouse, as a privately owned Bed & Breakfast. Normally open year-round, with about 100 guests, all told.
Wawatam Lighthouse - Well, definitely different. Not historic, in the old sense. But with its own history and story. It's cute. You certainly may want to see it when you're in the Straits of Mackinac area. Particularly when that's a historic navigational route from way back. Built for Monroe Michigan Welcome Center. City of St. Ignace got it later, installing it on boardwalk's end at Chief Wawatam Park. First lit Aug. 20, 2006, it is an official aid-to-navigation. Get to it by going east, on McCann Street.
Crisp Point Lighthouse - Here's a terrific little Paradise Michigan lighthouse to visit. Out of the way, an undiscovered gem. Visitor Center & tower open May's end til Oct. Grounds all year. Even have a Keeper Program (roughing-it sort).
Whitefish Point Lighthouse - One of the 2 lights first in action on Superior. The oldest light still active on this renowned Lake. Whitefish Point is the entrance to Whitefish Bay, location of the Graveyard of Ships. A storm for the Century blew over Superior on Nov. 10, 1975. Whitefish Point's light & radio beacon failed. The infamous Edmund Fitzgerald was lost trying to find the bay. The Shipwreck Museum at the lighthouse honors them, and others lost to Lake Superior.
Whitefish Point Lighthouse
Au Sable Point Lighthouse - In wonderful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A trip here can't be beat for a wonderful day, long weekend, or easily turn it into a full week's vacation. About 12 miles West of Grand Marais. A 4-season place to go. Whatever your tastes, they accommodate you. The entire park has plenty of history and stuff to do. Start at the Visitor Center (closed in winter) to orient yourself for planning. No entry fee to the park.
To Lighthouse: Alger County Rd. H-58 toward Hurricane River CG. Park near bridge in Day Use Parking. Take 1-1/2 mile trail thru campground near Hurricane River mouth, then along U.S. Coast Guard historic road.
Summertime: mid-June through September's end (if staffing, until early Oct.)
Keepers Home & lighthouse tours: Wed. to Sun., 11 am to 4:30 pm
$3 entry ages 6+ (cash/exact amount - no change given)
Marquette Harbor Lighthouse - Since 1866 the bright red visibility has shone dominion over the harbor, aiding mariners. Now also helping visitors navigate there for a visit! Up on that hill at 300 North Lakeshore Blvd. Historic for assisting iron ore trade in Michigan, it's a substantial Marquette town feature. Arrange a tour via the Marquette Maritime Museum, mid-May thru mid-Oct. At tour's end you walk the amazing shore-side catwalk where you can snap a photo of the tower front. Closed Mondays. More details: (906) 226-2006.
Big Bay Point Lighthouse - What history! Definitely a haunted reputation. Some stories: a sad distraught father's suicide, a murder by an army Lieutenant stationed there. Many, many lights on & off, doors open/closing, ghostly fleeting images seen, etc. Over many years, again & again. Get a chance to see if you'll experience any of these things! You can stay there, in the Bed & Breakfast! Located at 4674 County Rd., Big Bay.8
Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Peninsula Point Lighthouse - Fabulously located in Hiawatha National Forest. Can't be beat to have many visit purposes for one trip! Involved in Michigan's iron history, this Michigan lighthouse has a different look to it, with a unique story. After all it had been through, the Keeper's Quarters burned down in 1959, but at least the flames didn't get to the tower. The Forest is open year-round. What to do there? Climb the 40 foot circular tower staircase. Enjoy the Monarch Butterfly migration: late July to early September. Local birding enthusiasts love it, recording over 200 species of birds. Beachcombing: walk along the beach. Picnicking with use of 4 tables & grills. Get there from Rapid River:
Go East 2.4 miles on U.S. Hwy. 2. Turn right on County Road 513. Go 16.2 miles.
Road is now single lane, narrow, winding (no RV/trailers >16 ft. long/ 8 ft. high) - intermittent pull-offs for oncoming traffic.
Travel 0.8 miles to RV parking lot. Drinking water & pit toilet available
Get to this scenic spot in Hiawatha National Forest
DeTour Reef Light Station - At the far Eastern end of the Upper Peninsula, this unconventional appearing Michigan lighthouse is actually 3/4 mile off the coast. So it sits in the waters of Lake Huron. Helping ships, it marks a menacing reef. Look for it 5 miles west of DeTour Village at M-134 Historical Marker, and at the ferry dock on Drummond Island (binoculars will help).
You can visit, inquire: Tours@drlps.com
And they have a Weekend Keeper Program! For information: Keepers@drlps.com or call (906) 493-6609
DeTour Reef Light Station - Not Just Any Michigan Lighthouse!
Manistique Lighthouse - A welcoming village here makes this breakwater light a pleasant stop. You can't miss it, bright red with a black lantern house & gallery. Located at the end of the rocky rip-rap breakwater on the Eastern end of town. You can walk up to it, it's privately owned, so you cannot enter.
Poverty Island Lighthouse - Located off Garden Peninsula, which juts southwest from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It's on the National Historic Register, first lit in 1873. Some tragic happenings related to the Keepers and families occurred during its active time. Deactivated since 1995, the island is federal land.10
Poverty Island Light Station Before Automation
Locating this deactivated Michigan Lighthouse - on the Southwest side of Poverty Island
Seul Choix Point Light Station - Pronunciation: Sis-shwa. Known as one of the most haunted Michigan lighthouses, they say there's probably four that haunt the area. Keeper Joseph Willie Townshend is most talked of. He died in an upstairs bedroom. People still smell his cigar! You can come see for yourself - there's a lot to see! Managed by the Gulliver Historical Society along with the town of Gulliver's Parks and Recreation. To get there from Michigan's Upper Peninsula in Gulliver:
Off U.S. Hwy. 2, take County Hwy. 432 (MacDonald Lake Rd.), which becomes Port Inland Rd.
Turn right onto onto County Hwy. 431 (Seul Choix Rd.) & go 4.1 miles to the lighthouse
Point Iroquois Light Station - Given an important task when first lit in 1857, overseeing one of the busiest seaways in the world! Right on the border between the U.S. & Canada, St. Mary's River takes in Lake Superior's waters here. It begins a 23 foot descent over 74-1/2 miles into Lake Huron. Look for the Sault Ste. Marie Canal's Soo Locks from the lighthouse gallery!
Sand Point Lighthouse - Notable as among the first Michigan Lighthouses with a Woman Keeper. Mary Terry, officially replaced her husband when he died of consumption before he could even see the light turned on. Mary lit it first on May 18, 1868. Now managed by the Delta County Historical Society. Try attending their Holiday Open House. Held yearly between Christmas & New Year's Day. Call or email: (906) 789-6790 / firstname.lastname@example.org
View from the Gallery of Sand Point Lighthouse - Photo Credit: Deb Nystrom
Any Michigan Lighthouses on Lake Erie?
That's sort of a trick question? Maybe! Turtle Island was a tiny nearly 7-acre bit of land sitting half in Ohio and half in Michigan. The lighthouse there sadly is in pretty bad shape. So what about that lighthouse?
Turtle Island Lighthouse - The island sits Northeast of Toledo in Lake Erie. As you can see, the beacon isn't officially a Michigan lighthouse. It sits just over the Ohio line. Named after Miami tribal chief, Little Turtle. Built in 1831, serving about 73 years. During which time it had bouts of deterioration. After decommissioning, even more problems with vandals. High water and ice floes also damaged the buildings and island, causing land erosion. It is a sad case.
Here's another tricky point. Consider Lake St. Clair. The Detroit River is the connector between this lake and Lake Erie. Midway across the lake is the border between Michigan in the U.S., and Ontario in Canada. Including islands, its shoreline is 257 miles long. So by relative extension, maybe the waters of Lake Erie could swish by a Michigan Lighthouse:
Windmill Point Lighthouse - See it where the Detroit River enters Lake St. Clair, in Mariner Park in Detroit. At the end of Alter Road.
But essentially - the answer is no! No Michigan lighthouses in Lake Erie.
1 NOAA (1970). Shoreline mileage of the United States. NOAA Office for Coastal Management. Retrieved from coast.noaa.gov/data/docs/states/shorelines.pdf
2 Anderson, K. (2001-2020). Turtle Island lighthouse. Turtle Island, OH. Retrieved from lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=271
3 U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office, Walpole Island First Nation, Great Lakes Commission, et.al. (1999, Dec. 1). Lake St. Clair: Its current state and future prospects. Environment Canada; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Ontario Ministry of the Environment; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
4 Hawley, J.P. (n.d.) History. As referenced in Point Betsie Lighthouse Est. 1858 Retrieved from pointbetsie.org/history/
5 Holland Area Visitors Bureau (2020). View Big Red lighthouse. History of the Big Red Lighthouse. Retrieved from holland.org/trip-ideas/view-big-red-lighthouse
6 Gronberg, J. (2020). Big Red. Holland historic lighthouse. Retrieved from bigredlighthouse.com/
7 Presque Isle Township Museum Society (2020). The lighthouses at Presque Isle, Michigan. Retrieved from presqueislelighthouses.org/
8 Stampfler, D.H. (2019). Michigan's haunted lighthouses. Charleston, SC: The History Press.
9 Round Island Light Michigan (2016). Round Island Lighthouse. Home. Straits of Mackinac, MI. Retrieved from roundislandlightmichigan.com/
10 Gmiter, T. (2019, April 2). Strange happenings on Lake Michigan island that's been on fire since June. Michigan Live. Retrieved from mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/2016/10/strange_happenings_on_lake_mic.html