Lighthouses of West Michigan

Explore the lighthouses of West Michigan with tours, tower climbs, museums, and more! Learn about Michigan’s maritime history, get an up-close look at the lamps and lenses, and enjoy the beauty of the lakeshore from a unique point of view.

There are more than 100 lighthouses that you can visit in West Michigan and along the shores of Lake Michigan. Learn more about each one, as well as the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, through WMTA’s Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map. The 2020 edition of the map will be out in April, and you can request one here.  

Whether you see the St. Joseph North Pier range lights from the bluff, high above the water in St. Joseph, or from the beach at Tiscornia Park, the two structures stand as beacons at the mouth of the St. Joseph River as it empties into Lake Michigan. Both lights have been on the pier since 1907, guiding boats safely to harbor. If the weather is good, you can walk down the pier and take a closer look at the structures. Open, weather permitting, Memorial Day through Labor Day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, you can climb the St. Joseph North Pier Inner Light for a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and Southwest Michigan’s shoreline. 

Michigan is a land of mysteries surrounded by vast inland seas with mysteries of their own. Explore the Manitou Passage and the Beaver Passage, home to the largest collection of lighthouses and shipwrecks in all of Lake Michigan at the Maritime Lecure Series: Exploring Shipwrecks & Lighouses in Northern Lake Michigan with presenter Ross Richardson. This lecture will be held at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven on March 25th from 6:30 pm-7:30 pm. Tickets are $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, and free to Museum members. 

For over 100 years South Haven’s lighthouse has guarded the entrance of the Black River. This iconic sentry, with its red base and 1,200 foot catwalk, provides immediate recognition for people who have lived in or visited South Haven. The public is welcome to stroll out on the pier and marvel at the views and take in a beautiful sunset.  

Don’t miss one of Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and Holland favorite, “Big Red.” 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 Mt. Pisgah, where the dune staircase takes you 157 feet above sea level.

Muskegon’s South Pierhead and South Breakwater lighthouses were awarded to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy in June of 2010 from the Federal Government for preservation. The lighthouses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are proud participants in the USLHS Passport Program.

The Sable Points 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.

  • White River Light Station and Museum in Whitehall welcomes visitors to visit the newly renovated lighthouse keepers workshop, which is an extension to the museum exhibits located inside of the lighthouse. The light was built in 1875 by Captain William Robinson, and now serves as a physical reminder of the rich nautical history of Michigan. The museum hosts many interactive learning activities as well as exhibits detailing the keepers who kept the light and many Great Lakes maritime artifacts. Visitors are also encouraged to climb the small tower and experience the wonderful views of White Lake and Lake Michigan. The lighthouse and museum are open seven days a week; hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 22nd to October 25th. 
  • The Little Sable Lighthouse in the Silver Lake State Park is a very accessible lighthouse to visit. It features an ADA compliant walkway from the parking lot right up to the lighthouse. The 115-foot tower still houses the original 3rd order Fresnel lens, which greets visitors who climb to the top to experience the wonderful views of the surrounding dunes and Lake Michigan. The lighthouse is open seven days a week; hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, from May 22nd to September 20th.
  • The Ludington North Break Water Lighthouse is located in Ludington. This 54-foot light sits ½ mile out on the pier and welcomes harbor traffic as it comes into Ludington. The light is open for climbing and features some wonderful lighthouse exhibits on each of the four different levels for guests to enjoy. Wonderful views of the busy harbors are enjoyed by all who climb. The lighthouse is open seven days a week, weather permitting; hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 22nd to September 7th.
  • Big Sable Point Lighthouse sits 1.8 miles inside of the Ludington State Park in Ludington. The lighthouse, built in 1868, is 112-feet-tall and the keepers quarters is still intact. The keeper’s quarters house a small museum space, a wonderful historical video, and a great gift shop. Unique views from the top of the tower include Lake Michigan, the wonderful Ludington State Park, and the Nordhouse Dune lands. The lighthouse is open seven days a week; hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm from May 6th to October 25th. Six “Bus Days” are offered during the season, when, for an additional charge, visitors can ride out and back to the lighthouse on a small handicapped-accessible bus. 

Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Tens of thousands of visitors every year enjoy the lighthouse park, beach, and museum from May through October. The lighthouse is open daily from 10am until 5pm. August 7th-8th they will be hosting the Michigan Lighthouse Festival in honor of National Lighthouse Day. Get to know the lighthouse event more with the unique volunteer keeper program at Mission Point Lighthouse.

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. 

Take a step back in time and explore the life of a lighthouse keeper at Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort. See the keeper’s daily routines, feel the danger of a long-ago Lake Michigan rescue, and explore the original 1858 lighthouse, keeper’s residence, fog signal building, and Boathouse Museum.

A point in the storm and a guiding beacon since 1889, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse helped passing ships navigate through the treacherous waters of the Straits of Mackinac. There’s just as much to see from the top of the tower as inside the original buildings, now part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks. Authentically restored quarters and exhibits, including the original lens, a movie (Shipwrecks of the Straits), and the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum make this “Castle of the Straits” a true gem of the Great Lakes. The Keepers’ Quarters contains three rooms restored to their 1910 appearance and a gallery exhibit on the history of the lighthouse featuring hands-on displays and original artifacts. A new exhibit devoted to optics and lenses as well as sound and fog signals is located on the main floor of the house. New for 2020: the second floor of the house will be open to the public for the first time in the house’s history with exciting new exhibits. A new gallery space and two bedrooms restored to their appearance in 1910 will tell the story of the Keeper George Marshall, his wife Maggie, and their extended family as they lived and worked at the lighthouse. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is situated in Michilimackinac State Park, Michigan’s second state park. It features stunning views of the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Bridge. It is open May 7 – October 11.

Based out of Mackinaw City, Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry offers a unique look at the lighthouses in the Mackinac Straits area with tours lasting from three to four hours. You can even cap off your day in northern Michigan with an Evening Lighthouse Cruise, where you’ll see the lights at work as the sun sets and the stars come out.

From the pit of your kayak, capture an exquisite shot of the Copper Harbor lighthouse, a Michigan State Historic Site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Part of Fort Wilkins Historic State Park, the lighthouse is accessible by boat only. Consider a Porter’s Island Paddle with the Keweenaw Adventure Company to get not only the perfect view, but perhaps a chance to get out to tour about the property, too!