The Six Best Lighthouses in Michigan
January 25, 2020
I want to be a lighthouse keeper.
Maybe not now, maybe not in 10 years, but eventually. I could stare at a lighthouse for hours - encapsulated by its beauty, wanting to know every detail of its history.
I want to feel the force of the storms it's seen. I want to feel the love it held.
I’ve spent my life around these lakes. There are over 100 lighthouses around the shores of Michigan. Through the years I've seen quite a few - but there is a handful that sticks out. These are my top picks for the best lighthouses in Michigan.
Big Sable Point Light
This is my favorite lighthouse in the world, no questions asked. Nestled into quiet dunes two miles from civilization, without cell service, and killer sunset shows. I’m picturing a massive storm rolling across Lake Michigan as I sit in the tower sipping a Keurig coffee and eating my ice cream cone.
Ludington State Park opens the lighthouse every year in search for lighthouse keepers. If you volunteer, you’ll spend two weeks being the coolest person in Michigan. It’s been on my bucket list for years.
2. St. James Lighthouse
I may need to build an actual house attachment if I plan to live in this one, but this light and I go way back. Every summer I visit Beaver Island, and every summer I hug this lighthouse. A childhood tradition that my 27-year-old self has no shame admitting.
Located in the middle of Lake Michigan, Beaver Island sits 27 miles off the coast of Charlevoix. The quiet island contains around 400 people year-round and is a haven for summer family adventures. Mopeds are a common form of transportation, and Daddy Frank's ice cream shop is incredible and the reason my ice cream addiction begun.
3. Grand Haven Lighthouse
The summer crowds can be a bit much, but that’s why I prefer to visit in the off-season. Photographing this lighthouse at sunset is extraordinary all year round, especially when waves are breaking over the pier. If you’ve ever been interested in freshwater surfing, the nearby local surf shop is the perfect starting place.
The pier is iconic to Michigan and is a rad representation of the state.
4. St. Iroquois Lighthouse
A lighthouse keeper has been watching over the lighthouse for three years with his pet cat that roams about. When I met him, I realized he was the male version of me in 50 years and I half-wanted him to be my adopted Uncle. He decorates the outside with white Christmas lights which sparkle every night. There is also no admission fee for the tower. Double win!
It sits slightly northwest of Sault Ste. Marie on a serene peninsula. The tower faces Lake Superior and Canada’s distant shoreline, while the water often reflects brilliant colors of a sunset. I love to sit on the pebble-filled shores watching distant freighters make their way to the Soo Locks.
5. Port Austin Lighthouse
Goal: spend the night in this lighthouse. Barrier: may get arrested in the process.
This is a privately owned lighthouse, and one day I plan on buying it with all my other lighthouses. Its remote location makes it the hardest to visit on the list, as it sits 3 miles into Lake Huron off the shore of Port Austin. Once I own it, I plan to kayak out there with a bottle of wine, Josh, some chips and salsa, a camera, and my cat Indiana Jones.
Oh! And ice cream in a cooler. Easy.
6. Grand Island Lighthouse
Currently abandoned, and absolutely stunning. When winter arrives with fresh snow that coats the trees, this lighthouse beams with beauty, even with its covered windows and locked doors. The simplicity it presents is what makes it one of my favorites. I once found myself laying at the base to take a nap on a brisk 20-degree day. Best sleep I ever had.
Grand Island is situated off the coast of Munising. During especially cold winters, one can walk across the frozen Lake Superior bay to explore the island’s ice caves and winter beauty. In summer there is a ferry to the island, where some own cottages and others simply camp and explore.
To be quite honest - I've seen a lot of lighthouses in my life. From the coast of Australia, Costa Rica, California, Maine, and beyond, there's a lot of lighthouses checked off my life. However, lighthouses in Michigan are something special. I'm a firm believer that if you sit next to one long enough in silence, you'll feel the stories of its past. A lighthouse in Michigan holds a certain magic. Don't take it for granted.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.