Lighthouses That Should Be on Your Summer Road Trip List
Michigan’s 3,200 miles of shoreline have earned it the moniker The Great Lakes state. But all this big lake real estate means Michigan is also home to the most lighthouses in the United States. More than 120 lighthouses dot the edges of both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Some are publicly-owned while others are cared for by nonprofit preservation groups. With so many to choose from, you’ll definitely want to pick some Michigan lighthouses to visit on your next summer road trip.
Michigan’s lighthouses were all built with one goal in mind: to protect mariners from dangerous conditions close to shore, or out in open water. Their lights and fog horns were designed to warn ships away from shore, or mark dangerous reefs that could wreck a ship.
Some of the state’s lighthouses are tall and sleek, others are stocky and look like they have been built to withstand any storm. Several are easily accessible at the edge of beach towns or just a short walk from a parking lot. Others are at hike-in locations along a shore and require a little effort to reach them. A few are so remote you can only see them by boat. Here is a fun mix to explore.
Grand Haven’s South Pier and Lighthouses: This long pier and its inner and outer lighthouses are big draws for tourists and locals alike. Its iconic lighted catwalk and lighthouses are located at the edge of Grand Haven State Park, and the pier is linked to a well-used city walkway that skirts the edge of the channel leading out to Lake Michigan.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse: With its black-and-white striped tower at the edge of Ludington State Park, this lighthouse offers incredible views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding coastline. The views are even sweeter if you pay a small fee to its nonprofit caretakers and climb the 130 stairs to the top of the tower. This one is definitely worth the hike, and is a destination for state park campers and day-trippers alike. From the park’s parking lot, it is nearly a two-mile walk or bike ride to the lighthouse.
Mission Point Lighthouse: Half the fun of this spot is the drive up Old Mission Peninsula, where it sits at the tip. This lighthouse is about 17 miles north of Traverse City, and looks out over Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan. For a small admission fee, you can climb the tower and take a self-guided tour of the lighthouse and its historical artifacts. Trails fanning out from the lighthouse are great for wooded walks along the bay. Want to stay overnight? Check out the nonprofit owner’s website for details on their Keepers program.
Round Island Lighthouse: More than a million people motor past this picturesque lighthouse in the Straits of Mackinac each year, but few ever set foot on this small uninhabited island that is overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. Round Island is a much-photographed light, as it is the lighthouse seen from nearby Mackinac Island, and it’s the one ferry boat passengers ride past on their way to Michigan’s most popular island. The best way to see this lighthouse is from the water. Give it a wave and take a lighthouse selfie as you breeze by.
New Presque Isle Lighthouse: On a finger of land jutting out into Lake Huron north of Alpena, the New Presque Isle Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse tower that’s open to the public on the Great Lakes. Want to see the best view? Climb more than 100 steps up to the top of the tower. History buffs will have lots to explore here. The site also includes a Keeper’s House and museum displays.
Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse: This lighthouse sits at a unique spot – at the top of Michigan’s Thumb overlooking Lake Huron. It is one of the oldest continuously operating lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and it is open for free to the public. On certain dates each year, the tower can be accessed by anyone who wishes to climb to the top.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse: Perched high atop the curve where Lake Superior flows into the St. Mary’s River, for decades this Upper Peninsula lighthouse has warned ships of the narrowing waterway ahead. Just east of Whitefish Bay, the light building boasts a spiral staircase and a 65-foot tower. Stunning views include the biggest Great Lake, Canada to the north, and a steady stream of freighters traveling to and from the Soo Locks.
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