The picturesque shores of Michigan are where historic lighthouses stand tall, guiding ships for hundreds of years. Michigan has over 129 lighthouses that have withstood the test of time, embodying architectural marvels and cultural landmarks. Thousands of people around the globe have made hunting lighthouses a hobby, with vacationers looping the lake for generations. The official "Lake Michigan Circle Tour" is a route created in the 1980s with more than 100 lighthouses, countless islands, unique attractions, parks, and natural areas, miles of glorious beaches, quaint harbor towns, an internationally-recognized urban center, and one "modern marvel" – the Mackinac Bridge. The guidebook was transformed into a map in 2007, and the route can now be found online at Lake Michigan Circle Tour: Lighthouse Driving Itinerary. For more aquatic fun in West Michigan, view our map of boating destinations here.


Lighthouses Around West Michigan

Two iconic lighthouses welcome visitors to Ludington while keeping the harbor safe. Take a short pier walk to see the North Breakwater Light up close. The North Breakwater Light turns 100 years old this year and is open for tours from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. The historic Big Sable Lighthouse can be found at Ludington State Park, where you can take a 1.8-mile walk to view it or take a bus on scheduled days. This famous black and white tower is open for tours from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. In July, it will be open seven days a week. 


The White River Light Station in the White Lake Area (part of the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association) holds a total of five free concerts during the summer. Bring your lawn chair and relax while listening to some great music performed by local artists. They are excited for their 2024 lineup and hope to see you there. 


Whitefish Point is the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum features the bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald and other shipwrecks that will amaze and inspire the visitor. A ticket will get you into the museum, their movie theater that features a 15-minute film on Edmund Fitzgerald. Plus, access to their 1923 USCG Surfboat house and 1861 USLHS Light Keeper's Quarters. Make sure you walk the beach and take in the beauty of Lake Superior and cap the trip off with some souvenirs from their incredible gift shop. They hope to see you at Whitefish Point

Muskegon County boasts three magnificent lighthouses to explore.  History buffs and lighthouse enthusiasts will love that they can visit three historic lights. Two offer tours: climb the iconic Muskegon South Pierhead Light for breathtaking panoramic views. Explore maritime history at the White River Light Station & Museum, which also features a fascinating collection of artifacts. Don't miss the unique Muskegon South Breakwater Light, accessible by foot via a scenic pier walk.


The Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, the city's oldest significant structure, holds immense historical importance as one of Lake Superior's most historic navigational beacons. It played a vital role in the development of the Great Lakes iron ore trade. Built in response to the increasing ship traffic on Lake Superior in the mid-19th century, it first lit up in the late 1850s, quickly becoming a vital guide for ships navigating the Lake's tricky waters. Today, tourists and history buffs frequently visit the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse to explore its fascinating maritime history.


Join in on a Historic Grand Haven Lighthouse two mile walking tour on June 4th with Local History & Genealogy Specialist, Jeanette Weiden. Learn about the lighthouse, how it was built, the history of the pier & harbor, and Grand Haven’s connection to the U.S. Coast Guard. More info here.

For a one-of-a-kind experience, choose a cruise past Holland’s Big Red Lighthouse aboard the Holland Princess. From spring through fall, this 65’ paddlewheel boat journeys past historic landmarks, picturesque lake homes, and nature at its best. Come float your way to Lake Michigan aboard a truly remarkable vessel. 


In St. Joseph, visitors can tour the remarkable North Pier Inner and Outer Lights Lighthouses. Have the unique opportunity to chat with the team of Lighthouse Dockets and learn about the St.Joseph area's rich maritime history. The tour includes an inside tour of the famous Inner Light that has been standing since and even explores the inside of the Inner Light, which was first lit in 1839.


One of the most charming aspects of Downtown South Haven is its proximity to the lakeshore. Visitors can enjoy food, shopping, and unique lodging options within a charming maritime district. In addition, the South Haven Lighthouse, built in 1872, is mere minutes from downtown and gives visitors an astounding view during sunset and any time of the day. 

Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City offers visitors a peek into what life was like around the turn of the century for lighthouse keepers and for others who lived and worked in the area at the time. Mission Point is open nearly every day from ten to five. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for a small fee and don’t forget to check out the second-floor museum. 


The Keweenaw Peninsula features eight lighthouses located on the Peninsula and seven in Isle Royale National Park off the shore of the Keweenaw. Take a self-guided tour of the region and admire historic lighthouses that continue to serve as critical navigational guides for freighters traveling through Lake Superior.


Combine Michigan history with mystery by cracking open one of the riveting books – Michigan's Haunted Lighthouses and Death & Lighthouses on the Great Lakes are filled with colorful accounts dating back to the early 1800s. If you're a paranormal and true crime fan, these titles are perfect. Order your autographed copies – and find out where Dianna from Promote Michigan will speak about these and other topics here


Specialty Ships and Boat Cruises

Cross Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger, a passenger steamship/carferry offering daily crossings as well as monthly shoreline cruises from the Ludington port. Stretch your legs on the open-air deck, enjoy a meal on board, and don’t miss Badger BINGO in the lounge. Find recreational activities in Manitowoc upon your arrival in Wisconsin for a Midwest getaway. Be sure to ask about the evening shoreline cruises that feature live music, food, drinks and fun. 


The Little Traverse Bay Ferry with ports in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Bay Harbor will now be offering more sunset cruises out of Petoskey this summer. Check out their Fireworks Cruises this summer for the 3rd of July (Bay Harbor) and 4th of July (Petoskey and Harbor Springs) Fireworks. There are fishing charters available out of Bay Harbor too. 


The Michigan Maritime Museum prides itself on the breadth in time period and style of its fleet that range from a tall ship to a Coast Guard lifeboat. Five on-water exhibits made up of both replica and historic vessels comprise the fleet. The Museum Fleet can be viewed from the Museum docks and all are available to the public for on-water experiences. Each vessel has a story of its own and represents a certain era and style of maritime history. Learn more about each of these incredible vessels. 

Mackinac Island offers a plethora of opportunities for water enthusiasts, with various excursions and activities to explore the surrounding waters. Enjoy private boat charters, sunset cruises under the Mackinac Bridge, and the thrill of a Great Lakes fishing charter. Great Turtle Kayak tours also offer special excursions to Round Island, home of the iconic Round Island LightHouse. For more information on all water activities on Mackinac Island, visit their website


From the vast freshwater expanse of the Big Lake to the scenic Kalamazoo River, there’s nothing like experiencing the unsalted waves of Saugatuck/Douglas by boat. For the quintessential Saugatuck water experience, take a ride on the Star of Saugatuck. This 51-ton double-decker authentic sternwheeler paddlewheel boat traverses the river toward Lake Michigan and provides a leisurely cruise along the town, harbor, and scenic natural areas. Refreshments are served onboard, and the tour narrations are both fun and informative. The Saugatuck/Douglas area also has numerous sailing excursions, boating trips, and fishing adventures available for charter. Visit their website to learn more. 


Explore Muskegon by water.  Aquastar Cruises offers scenic public cruises and private charters. Cruise through Muskegon Lake, past the natural beauty of Muskegon State Park, and out to Lake Michigan for breathtaking vistas. Keep an eye out for the iconic Muskegon South Pierhead Light and Muskegon South Breakwater Light. During your journey, you'll also see historic reminders of the past – the WWII landing ship USS LST 393 and the USS Silversides Submarine. Relax on a sunset voyage, choose a themed cruise, or simply enjoy the stunning scenery. The two-deck Aquastar features a full-service bar, dance floor, and comfortable spaces for sightseeing and relaxation. Book your unforgettable cruise today.

The Marquette Maritime Museum, a unique combination of museum and lighthouse, offers a glimpse into the rich maritime history of the region. Through a diverse collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays, visitors are invited to explore the evolution of the Great Lakes’ shipping, navigation, and the lives of those who shaped it. From historic vessels and lighthouses to stories of shipwrecks and the iron ore history of the region, the museum provides an immersive experience for all ages, celebrating the enduring legacy of maritime heritage in the Upper Peninsula. 


Crystal Blue Cruises in Grand Haven is a fun way to spend an evening. With up to six guests on this cruise, tour the grand river, enjoying an up-close view of the beauty inside the waterway. Perfect for a family to enjoy, or even a group of friends that need some catching up. 


Whatever your dream day on the water, there’s a seasoned captain on deck in Holland to make it a reality. Hook a giant king salmon at sunrise, picnic aboard a luxury powerboat, or steer a sailboat into the sunset. The choice is yours.