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.

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 as 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. You might 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 (2016): 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $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 (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily June 13-Sept. 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Sept. 6-Dec. 18; closed for the season January-April 2017
  • Admission (2016): $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 82-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 (2016): 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Memorial Day weekend-Oct. 15 (tower is only open on holidays)
  • Admission (2016): $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 (2016): noon-6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 27-Sept. 5; noon-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 9-Oct. 9
  • Admission (2016): $5/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.

New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park and Museum

  • Address: 4500 E. Grand Lake Road, Presque Isle
  • Phone: 989-595-5419
  • Hours (2016): 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $3/fee to climb tower

Built as a replacement for the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, the New Presque Isle Lighthouse Park and Museum is part of a 99-acre township park. There’s plenty to do and see, including climbing the 130 steps to the tower’s top. It’s the tallest lighthouse that admits visitors, so you don’t want to miss this one!

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse

  • Address: 5295 E. Grand Lake Road, Presque Isle
  • Phone: 989-595-6979
  • Hours: (2016) 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $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.

Forty Mile Point Lighthouse

  • Address: 7323 US-23 North, Lighthouse Park, Rogers City
  • Phone: 989-734-4587
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m. Sunday
  • Admission (2016): free

Tucked into trees lining Lake Huron, the Forty Mile Point Lighthouse was first lit in 1897, guiding sailors through the treacherous waters between Presque Isle and Cheboygan.

Cheboygan River Front Range Lighthouse

  • Address: 606 Water St., Cheboygan
  • Phone: 231-436-5580
  • Hours (2016): 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday and holidays
  • Admission (2016): $5/adults, $3/children to tour

Currently, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Associations is in the process of restoring this 1880 sentinel, which is still open for visitors. One unique feature: Instead of being on the water’s edge, this lighthouse is located in town.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

  • Address: 526 N. Huron Ave., Mackinaw City
  • Phone: 231-436-4100
  • Hours (2016): 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily June 4-Sept. 4; 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily Sept. 4-Oct. 9
  • Admission (2016): $7.50/adults, $4.50/ages 5-12, free/kids under 4 years

Stop off at this beauty before venturing across the Mackinac Bridge. The 1892 lighthouse is the perfect spot to view the Straits of Mackinac. Hands-on exhibits will teach your kids more about what it was like to live and work in a lighthouse.

Mission Point Lighthouse

  • Address: End of M-37, Old Mission Peninsula, Traverse City
  • Phone: 231-645-0759
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $4/adults, $3/kids 6-12, free/children 5 and under

This quaint lighthouse is tucked right into the peninsula jutting out into the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. Explore the area, take a tour and pack a picnic for a relaxing afternoon.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum

  • Address: 15550 N. Lighthouse Point Road, Leelanau State Park, Northport
  • Phone: 231-386-7195
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily June-August; noon-4 p.m. daily September-November
  • Admission (2016): $4/adults, $2/ages 5-18, free/kids under 5 (plus state park vehicle admission fee)

As part of Leelanau State Park, this lighthouse museum has a number of exhibits to help your kids understand the importance of these beacons to those on the shorelines of the Great Lakes.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

  • Address: 3071 Point Betsie Road, Frankfort
  • Phone: 231-352-7644
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday; check ahead for dates open
  • Admission (2016): $4/adults, $2/kids under 12, free/kids under age 6

This gem of a lighthouse can be a little difficult to find, but it’s worth making the effort. The picturesque tower is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. Nearby, you can make your way through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

  • Address: Ludington State Park, M-116, Ludington
  • Phone: 231-845-7417
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $5/adults, $2/kids 12 and under

The imposing Big Sable Point Lighthouse stretches 112 feet into the Michigan sky. Take your time trekking the 130 steps to the top of the tower and then relax with a walk on the beach afterwards.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

  • Address: Silver Lake State Park, 287 N. Lighthouse Drive, Mears
  • Phone: 231-845-7417
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Admission (2016): $5/adults, $2/kids 12 and under

Rising among sand dunes and evergreen trees, the Little Sable Point Lighthouse isn’t so little! Located in Silver Lake State Park, this brick-covered lighthouse stands 107 feet tall.

Ludington North Breakwater Light

  • Address: Stearns Park Beach, Stearns Park Outer Drive, Ludington
  • Phone: 231-845-7417
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
  • Admission prices (2016): $5/adults, $2/kids 12 and under

Just down the way from the Big Sable, the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse stands at the end of a half-mile break wall. The 57-foot tower is the perfect spot to watch the sunset on Lake Michigan.

Whitefish Point Light

  • Address: 18335 N. Whitefish Point Road, Paradise
  • Phone: 888-492-3747
  • Hours (2016): 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily May 1-Oct. 31
  • Admission prices (2016): $13/adults, $9/ages 5-17, free/under age 5; family pricing available.

One of the most famous lighthouses in Michigan, the Whitefish Point Light is only 15 miles from where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank. The important lighthouse is still in operation, and is part of the museum as well, since it is the oldest lighthouse on choppy Lake Superior.

This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for 2016 by Shelby Stewart.


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