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Must-See Lighthouses

Southern West Michigan

For over 100 years, the historic South Haven lighthouse has guarded the entrance of the Black River. Thousands of South Haven lighthouse fan photos have circled the globe. Nearly 3,000 alone are posted on the photo-sharing website Flickr.com. These photos have also been published in hundreds of other places around the world.

While visiting South Haven, make sure to check out the Michigan Maritime Museum! Experience the rich maritime heritage of the Great Lakes by visiting Michigan’s most distinguished institution of maritime research, preservation, and education.

Central West Michigan

The Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association is responsible for four lighthouses: Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington, Little Sable Lighthouse in Silver Lake, Ludington North Breakwater in Ludington, and the White River Light Station in Whitehall.

The Big Sable Lighthouse was built right after the Civil War in 1867. The lighthouse is open for climbing and touring from May to the end of October in 2019. In the mid-1980s, this lighthouse and keeper’s quarters almost washed into Lake Michigan. Now saved and preserved, the lighthouse and attached keeper’s quarters welcome visitors all summer long.

Alone on a beach on the eastern side of Lake Michigan, the light tower of Little Sable Point Lighthouse appears out of place, almost surreal. Save for the top, the conical brick tower resembles a brick smokestack from a long ago abandoned factory. The catwalk, windows, and roof reveal it was a beacon for mariners, with a history worth knowing, but the dwellings and other buildings long since have disappeared, robbing the light of the grandeur of other lights.

Built in 1924, the Ludington North Breakwater tower, located half a mile out into Lake Michigan, is made of steel plates and takes the shape of a four-sided pyramidal tower with four round portholes windows on each of the three decks. The white painted tower is capped with a square gallery and an octagonal iron lantern installed in its center. The entire section below the gallery was given a white coat of paint, and the black-painted lantern gives the light its distinctive day mark. The tower is open for visitors to climb daily from May 24th to September 2nd, 2019.

The White River Station and Museum was built in 1875 from Michigan and Wisconsin limestone. In the lighthouse’s 84 years of operation, the light had only a handful of keepers. Its first lighthouse keeper was Captain Bill Robinson who, with his wife Sarah, raised 11 children at the light. He lived at the light until his death at the age of 87. Some claim the Captain and Sarah still watch over and reside at the lighthouse. The lighthouse and museum are open daily for self-guided tours from May 24th to October 27th, 2019.

Muskegon is home to the Muskegon South Pierhead and South Breakwater. Awarded to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in June of 2010, these lighthouses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are proud participants in the USLHS Passport Program.

Established in 1839, two lights on the Grand Haven‘s south pier, both painted red, are connected by a lighted catwalk that also connects them to the shore and the Grand Haven Boardwalk. The inner light is cylindrical, and the foghouse outer light stands on a huge concrete foundation. People often enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk that borders the Grand River channel and the pier, making the Grand Haven lighthouses one of the most photographed lighthouses in the Midwest. The Grand Haven pier is also a popular spot for fishing and catching the sunset.

Don’t miss one of Michigan’s most photographed lighthouses, Holland’s own Big Red Lighthouse. For a great view of Big Red, visit Holland State Park and walk along the boardwalk to the north pier (wheelchair accessible). You can also view Big Red from atop Mt. Pisgah, where the dune staircase takes you 157 feet above sea level.

Northern West Michigan

The Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse is located in Manistee County on the west end of the north pier. The light was replaced in 1873 when the new structure was augmented with a combination fog signal and light tower at the end of the wooden north pier. To make access to the light safer during stormy weather, this new light was outfitted with an elevated wooden catwalk running from the shore to the light.

Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state in the United States, and the Traverse City area has several of them. Thanks to its history as a major port and its location on Grand Traverse Bay near the once-bustling Manitou Passage, Traverse City is a convenient base for exploring five historic lighthouses: Mission Point, Grand Traverse, South Manitou, North Manitou, and Point Betsie. Best of all, four of the five can be easily visited and are open for tours, and two even allow visitors to try their hands at being volunteer lighthouse keepers.

A visit to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport should be on your lighthouse bucket list. Enjoy a walk through the restored keeper’s dwelling, and climb the tower for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan, Cathead Bay, Grand Traverse Bay, and the Manitou Passage. You can tour the Fog Signal Building and new Shipwreck Exhibition, drive the Remote Operated Vehicle, and listen to the Fog Horn on Saturdays in the summer.

Cheboygan is the only place in the state where you can see six lighthouses at the same time. If you’re trying to see as many Michigan lighthouses as possible, you can easily check six off the list with one visit to Cheboygan.

Visit the Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse in Charlevoix, built in 1948. The lighthouse is owned by the City of Charlevoix and maintained and preserved by the Charlevoix Historical Society, while the United States Coast Guard is responsible for the operation of the light itself.

Michigan has more lighthouse than any other state and the Straits of Mackinac area is home to more than a dozen of these historic navigational aids in what is referred to as the “Crossroads of the Great Lakes.” Both McGulpin Point Lighthouse and Mackinac Point Lighthouse on the mainland are open for seasonal tours. Starting this summer, the remote White Shoal Lighthouse will welcome visitors to explore its towering candy-cane stripped tower. Those who want to get out to see the water-based lighthouses can make reservations for Shepler’s Ferry tours which offers cruises out to the offshore lights, or head further up the St. Mary’s River toward Sault Ste. Marie for even more lighthouse viewing aboard that area’s local lighthouse tour.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Journey out to Point Iroquois Lighthouse, which is approximately 20 minutes west of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on the Lake Superior Shoreline. Lake Superior, the deepest and coldest of the Great Lakes, was especially hazardous in this area because of bad weather conditions and the numerous ships leaving and approaching the Sault Ste. Marie locks. The purpose of Point Iroquois Light Station was to guide freighters safely between the open waters of Whitefish Bay and the St. Mary’s River. From birch bark canoes to giant ore freighters, this unique point of land has influenced travel for centuries.

Whitefish Point is located at the extreme southeastern end of Lake Superior as part of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. It is a critical turning point for all vessel traffic entering and leaving this largest of all the Great Lakes. The Whitefish Point Light Station was established by Congress in 1849. Since then, the life-saving beacon has illuminated these dangerous waters for mariners continuously. Today, the Whitefish Point Light is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. The present light tower was constructed in 1861, during Abraham Lincoln’s administration.