Five Things to Keep in Mind on a Lake Michigan Lighthouse Tour

Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state and all of them have a unique look and story, making it the perfect place for a summer lighthouse tour. Today, guest blogger Kendra Higgins from Spring Lake gives us five helpful tips to keep in mind on a Lake Michigan lighthouse tour.

Grand Haven Lighthouse by Missy Mayer

Grand Haven Lighthouse by Missy Mayer

As the name implies the Great Lakes Circle Tour follows state highways around Lake Michigan, through Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan creating one of the most memorable road trips where you can see over 80 of the iconic lighthouses that lace the Lake Michigan shoreline. The trip was inspired by our annual Glowing for Grand Haven event that takes place in July to help raise funds to restore and maintain the Grand Haven Lighthouse. We wanted to explore, learn more maritime history, and further cultivate the meaning behind our event. What better way to do so than to hit the road and learn firsthand along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. So what does it take to accomplish such a road trip? Well you’re just in luck, we’ve narrowed down the top 5 Michigan musts!

North Pier Lighthouse in St. Joseph by Jerry Joanis

North Pier Lighthouse in St. Joseph by Jerry Joanis

1. Patience. If you set out with a plan for your road trip, you better pack a lot of patience. Let us just remind you the joys of traffic and road construction as they are a usual hurdle in everyday life, let alone a week’s voyage. Your phone doesn’t always get a signal, your GPS will take you on some strange path because you mistyped one number when typing in the coordinates, and heaven forbid you have car trouble! So, whether the trip is to see lighthouses, national monuments, explore state parks, or just go off the beaten path, just remember, it’s supposed to be fun. Be patient and enjoy the ride!

2. Plan for more time than you anticipated. While it correlates with being patient, we also suggest if you’re in it for the adventure, to plan for a couple extra days. Not all small lakeshore towns are tourist traps. Some are rich with locals that have lived in the same town for generations who can’t wait to hold the door open for you to explore the best local breakfast joint, or the long dirt road that opens up to unsurpassed views of Lake Michigan. Their shared secrets just may become a tradition in your family.

Little Sable Point by Kristina Austin Scarcelli

Little Sable Point by Kristina Austin Scarcelli

3. Michigan Weather. While Michigan weather is unpredictable, make sure you enjoy the season(s) you set off in. We had the luxury of starting out and ending in the warmer spring climate along the Southwest Michigan coastline; an intense 50 degrees. Yet in the U.P. we personally witnessed the feet (yes, feet) of snow and ice caves left as reminders from the polar vortex. Whether you enjoy 70° and sunny sun bathing on the beach, or snowmobiling across miles of trails, pick your season…or in Michigan’s case you may just experience all four!

4. Avoid Being Hangry. We get that when traveling with kids they’re hungry, bored, have to pee, dropped their snacks, and then starts the screaming. However, don’t doubt that the same can’t and won’t happen with grown adults who begin to experience the symptoms of being “Hangry” (anger caused by hunger). We recommend throwing out the rules of the new trendy diet you’re on, and load up on the snacks, and then get a few more “just in case”. There’s nothing like driving along the circle tour curves, with the sun roof open (or gloves on, depending on your season), jamming to the greatest hits of all time sharing a bag of Better Made chips.

Charlevoix Lighthouse by Brian Hudson

Charlevoix Lighthouse by Brian Hudson

5. Collect. Take in everything you see and share it! We’re not suggesting you continuously post on Facebook or Twitter every second something happens, but share the newest hotspot you found to grab dinner or share about the fabulous staff you encountered at one of your overnight stays. Travelers today are more prone to go off the beaten path and take suggestions from family and friends on what direction to head. When you begin to share, you’ll start to realize the things that are most important to you, bettering your vacation or overnight staycation experiences.

Kendra Higgins, Director of Marketing and Social Media for Holiday Inn Spring Lake. Sprouting from Mid-Michigan farm country, Kendra has a new found love and appreciation for Michigan’s golden coast as an active community member and newly fashioned lighthouse enthusiast.  She encourages you to visit the Grand Haven area and follow the hotel on Facebook, Instagram, and Blog to learn more about their lighthouse tour!

Fall in Love with Michigan Lighthouses

Lighthouses in Michigan are the stars of the shore. Today, guest blogger Sharma Krauskopf tells us the story of how she fell in love with Michigan lighthouses

I am fascinated with lighthouses and here’s why – Lighthouse Digest. For the last 20 years, I have been writing books and magazine articles and speaking about lighthouses. I also lead tours, have lived in a lighthouse in Scotland, and now am making a movie about lighthouse keepers. I have been living in Michigan for over 30 years but hadn’t been involved Michigan lighthouse to any great extent. People have a tendency to not be a tourist in their own neck of the woods, and I guess I’m a good example.

A few years ago that began to change. Due to health issues and family responsibilities my ability to travel long distances to lighthouses came to a screeching halt. What happened next I call the “tugboat effect,” named after an antique wind-up tugboat toy we had that took off across the floor until it ran into an obstacle which caused it immediately to turned in another direction. Like the tugboat, I instantly changed directions by looking closer to home where I found Point aux Barques Lighthouse for my movie.

Recently, my husband and I took a trip to see the Saginaw River Range lighthouse only to find a sign saying “Closed to the Public”. Remembering the tugboat, we changed direction promptly traveling further north to Tawas Point Lighthouse located near East Tawas, Michigan. This magnificent lighthouse and its well maintained park have belonged to Michigan DNR since 2001. Having seen and written about hundreds of lighthouses, I can guarantee this is an extraordinary one. Being that it was the off-season, there were few people around and it was like we were living at the lighthouse. We found a motel in Tawas City so we could be at the lighthouse for sunrise the next morning which turned out to be a good decision as we got some beautiful pictures.

Upon returning home, I discovered the Lightkeeper at Tawas Point Lighthouse program. Having lived at a lighthouse for many years, I know how much fun, adventure, and beauty the job involves, and I have already submitted our application for next year. If you live in Michigan hopefully you’ll remember this blog. If circumstances dictate you can’t travel far, remember the tugboat. I don’t regret my international travel, but I do feel badly that I had not seen more of my home state when I was younger. I should have jumped in the car and experienced all the beauty, history and entertainment that was just down the road.

Sharma Krauskopf lives on a farm near Parma, Michigan. For many years, she and her husband owned Eshaness Lighthouse on the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Currently she is executive producer of a feature length motion picture about lighthouse keepers which will be filmed in the fall of 2014 at Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in the Thumb area of Michigan. For more information on her movie, check out the website. 

Do you have a favorite Michigan lighthouse? Tell us in the comments below. 

Beauty and History at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival

Michigan lighthouses bring history, beauty, and uniqueness to our coastline. Each year, visitors can take an in-depth tour of some of these lighthouses at the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival. This year’s festival will be held October 10th- 13th in Alpena, MI. Guest blogger Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center walks us through what visitors can expect at the upcoming festival. 

Visiting the coastline of Lake Huron, stopping at a Michigan state park, fond memories can be made so easily.

Although modern navigational technology has made lighthouses nearly obsolete, some still do serve as a guiding light for ships on the Great Lakes. More than 115 lighthouses dot Michigan’s Great Lakes coastline providing unique opportunities for visitors to learn about our maritime history.

Tawas Lighthouse Tawas Point State Park and Lighthouse in East Tawas invites you to experience the sights of Michigan.  This fall, Oct. 10-13, brings the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival to the sunrise side of Michigan.  Visitors can explore many lighthouses from short to tall, white to stripes, all found along the great Lake Huron up to the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

Headquarters for the 18th Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival is in Alpena.  At the APLEX Event Center there will be over 100 maritime vendors, artists, authors and more.  This half-way point allows you to rest up, listen to presenters and talk with other lighthouse enthusiasts.  There is plenty to do and see for every family member.

When traveling north on US-23 your autumn view is spectacular with painted foliage and pristine water guiding your way past several historic lighthouses.

Stopping at Tawas Point is a highlight. The land curves out into the blue water as the lighthouse nestles between Lake Huron and Tawas Bay.  This allows a majestic view of Michigan’s sunrises and sunsets with plenty of wildlife along the way.

This festival is the only time during the year that visitors will be able to tour the Guest Keeper Quarters above the museum.  Guest Keepers themselves will be able to show you around the entire lighthouse and give you the inside scoop on staying in the lighthouse and becoming a guest keeper yourself.

Tawas LighthouseEntering the park, Tawas Point Lighthouse will guide your way.  The gift store is an historical landmark itself and was built in 1906. There you can purchase unique souvenirs to mark your visit, as well as your ticket into the lighthouse.

At the lighthouse itself, you will experience the history that helped make Michigan. You can learn about past keepers, their family life, the trials of keeping the light burning and reasons why there are so many lighthouses on the Great Lakes. You are welcome to walk in and explore the space, where you can touch as well as look as you learn about life at the lighthouse.

Tawas LighthouseYou may also climb the 85 steps up to the lens room and see the original 4th order Fresnel lens that still guides ships today.  The 360-degree view from the top reveals the beauty of this point. The significance of our lighthouses in years past can be discovered over many visits – the importance of keeping lighthouses in our future can be found in just one.

For more information on the Tawas Point Lighthouse, including tours, the lightkeeper program and upcoming events, go to www.michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

Peggy Allen of the Michigan Historical Center has been the caregiver to the Tawas Point Lighthouse and grounds for the past decade. She works to renovate, up-keep and introduce many events and opportunities for guests to experience the many facets of Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park.  

Will you be at this year’s Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival? Let us know!