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Best Michigan Lighthouses To Explore For Summer Fun

Standing tall against crashing waves and calm waters alike, Michigan's many lighthouses that guide sailors safely to shore now also beckon families to come and explore.

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No two lighthouses are exactly alike. From the color of the light to the shape of the tower, these sturdy beacons are unique by design.

Lighthouses are to sailors what street signs are to drivers: They mark the path and let you know your location. In the daytime, sailors could tell where they were on the Great Lakes just by looking at the construction of the lighthouse. And at night, the color and timing of a lighthouse's flash signaled to sailors which lighthouse they were seeing in the distance.

Even today, mariners on the Great Lakes use these lighthouses much as they did years ago. While the lighthouse keepers are gone, the automated lights still help sailors find their way, acting as a backup for electric navigation systems.

Lighthouses can also provide your family with some direction – for a getaway! And, lucky for us, Michigan holds a treasure trove of lighthouses. With the longest freshwater shoreline of any state – or even country – it's no wonder lighthouses line both the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. In fact, of all the states, Michigan has the most lighthouses with 129 still standing! Here are some of the best.

Note: Most times below are for August 2013. You may want to call ahead to check the lighthouse hours, which are subject to change.

Huron Lightship Museum

  • Address: 1115 Sixth St., Port Huron
  • Phone: 810-982-0891
  • Hours (2013): 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2013): $7/adults, $5/students and seniors, free/ages 4 and under, $20/family admission for two adults and up to four children

Floating lighthouses, known as lightships, were able to navigate deeper waters and other places where a navigation signal was needed, but building a lighthouse wasn't possible. The Huron Lightship happens to be the last of its kind. Today, it's a National Historic Landmark.

Fort Gratiot Light Station

  • Address: 2800 Omar St., Port Huron
  • Phone: 810-982-0891
  • Hours (2013): 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2013): $7/person, free/ages 4 and under, $30/family admission for two adults and up to four children

As the oldest lighthouse operating in the state, this 86-foot structure reopened in May of 2012 after undergoing renovations. Enjoy the winding 82-step walk to the lighthouse's balcony for a view of Lake Huron. Save some time for the beach that sits just below the lighthouse.

Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse and Museum

  • Address: 7320 Lighthouse Road, Port Hope
  • Phone: 989-428-4749
  • Hours (2013): 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily (tower is only open on holidays)
  • Admission (2013): $2/donations to climb the tower, free/museum, which is open to the public

First constructed in 1848 and then rebuilt in 1857, this lighthouse guided sailors through a treacherous stretch of water. But not all ships made it safely through the waters. There are at least 105 known wrecks credited to the stormy seas here, and more than 200 rescues took place while it was operational. The light keeper's house now holds a museum for visitors to learn more.

Tawas Point Lighthouse

  • Address: 686 Tawas Beach Road, East Tawas
  • Phone: 989-362-5041
  • Hours (2013): Noon-6 p.m. daily (except Tuesdays) May 25-Sept. 2; Noon- 4 p.m. (except Tuesdays) Sept. 3-Oct. 19
  • Admission (2013): $2/person

Now part of the Tawas Point State Park, this lighthouse juts 70 feet into the Michigan sky. Take your time going through the attached museum – and plodding up the 85 steps to the top of the tower.

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

  • Address: 5295 E. Grand Lake Road, Presque Isle
  • Phone: 989-595-6979
  • Hours: (2013) 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2013): $3/fee to climb tower

This imposing 1840 lighthouse is one of the oldest on the Great Lakes. Make sure to take your camera up the tower to snap amazing views of Lake Huron.

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