In Pursuit of Michigan’s Lighthouses

Discover seven unique lighthouses – each with a special story to tell.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse surrounded by beach grass.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Todd and Brad Reed Photography

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With more than any other state, Michigan’s lighthouses steadfastly watch over the Great Lakes. Not only can you capture beautiful photographs of these maritime treasures, but you can also learn about their captivating histories and find nearby activities for a day of adventure.

Worth the Climb

Boldly striped in black and white, Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park is one of the most beloved in the state. Reaching the top of the 113-foot-tall structure requires some tenacity: It’s a nearly 2-mile walk along a soft, sandy road to reach the lighthouse followed by a 130-step climb. Once you catch your breath, you’ll probably lose it all over again when you look out over the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

Where History Comes to Light

Ships sailing between the Manitou Passage and the Straits of Mackinac had to turn off the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula into Grand Traverse Bay, and the Grand Traverse Lighthouse has been its marker since 1858. Today, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum has a restored keepers’ home, reflecting what it was like to live in and operate the lighthouse in the 1920s and 1930s. Take a tour and spend more time exploring the trails and interactive playground at Leelanau State Park.

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

A Night of History

Michigan’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse was the first to watch over Lake Huron. Standing 86 feet high at the entrance of the St. Clair River, Fort Gratiot is open for tours. You can climb 96 iron stairs and step out onto the catwalk for sweeping lake views. Or make it a complete vacation and reserve an overnight stay for 20-plus guests in 1874 Keeper’s Duplex.

Sights and Sounds of Nature

Bird-watchers flock to Tawas Point where more than 200 migrating species converge – including an impressive number of migrating warblers. Tawas Point, which is part of Michigan’s 143-mile-long Sunrise Coast Birding Trail, is especially lively in May during the Audubon Society’s Tawas Point Birding Festival. Hear the birdsong as you follow the lighthouse trailhead and arrive at the historical Tawas Point Lighthouse that was built in 1876. Stay tuned as the popular two-week Lighthouse Keeper Program is expected to return in 2024. 

Brick lighthouse on the shoreline
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

A Michigan Icon

A sturdy sight standing along the Straits of Mackinac, Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse began guiding ships through rough waters in 1889. Today, this decommissioned lighthouse is an educational space where you can walk through restored keepers’ quarters and a museum gallery, and join a demonstration of the old fog signal whistle.

Detroit’s Marble Marvel

Designed by famed Detroit architect Albert Kahn, the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in North America constructed of Georgia marble. You can view this elegant art deco structure on Belle Isle overlooking Lake St. Clair and learn about its history as a memorial to William Livingstone – president of the Lake Carriers’ Association from 1902 to 1925.

Breakfast with a View

Spend a leisurely night at Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast on the cliffs of Lake Superior. You can start your day with a delicious breakfast and end with spectacular sunset views from the light tower. Explore around town at Big Bay, walk along the waterfront in Van Riper State Park and retire in your private accommodations inside a two-story brick building.

These are only the tip of the lighthouses you can find in Michigan. Find many more along 3,200 miles of shoreline for a deeper understanding of Michigan’s maritime history.