Have you ever wondered what the purpose of a lighthouse is? We often see them from afar, offering light at night and just standing there beautifully during daylight. As residents who don’t utilize lighthouses often, we may see them as mere spectacular landmarks. But they are way more useful than that. A lighthouse’s two primary functions are to aid navigation and alert boats to hazardous regions. It resembles a stop sign on the water.
Lighthouses are painted in various ways to make them easier to recognize for mariners during the day. Since Michigan has 1,305 square miles of inland water and 38,575 square miles of the Great Lakes water area, it isn’t surprising that it is also home to numerous lighthouses. But which of Michigan’s lighthouses are the most beautiful? That’s what we’re going to find out below.
The 14 Most Beautiful Michigan Lighthouses
1. Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse is a lighthouse in Michigan that sits on the shores of Lake Superior. This unusual lighthouse in Michigan guides mariners as they navigate the rugged northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The current red brick building, a Michigan State Historic Site listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1871 to replace the old lighthouse, which was constructed in 1851. A tiny marine museum is housed in the lighthouse keeper’s charming home, which is still operational and open to visitors.
2. McGulpin Point Lighthouse
During their passage across the Straits of Mackinac, shipping vessels were safeguarded by the McGulpin Point Lighthouse. Today, it functions as both a historical site and a public park. One of the oldest standing lights in the Straits, the lighthouse started operating in 1869. The light was only used until 1906 and is situated on McGulpin Point, about 3 miles west of Fort Michilimackinac.
The 10 acres on which the McGulpin Point Lighthouse is situated are open to guests’ exploration. Because of how well it worked, the Lighthouse Board decided to build Eagle Harbor Light in 1871 using McGulpin’s design.
3. Point Betsie Lighthouse
The 1858-built Point Betsie Light is situated on Lake Michigan’s northeastern shore. The local Native American tribes who interacted and collaborated with the French colonizers at the time gave the lighthouse its name. Mariners have long relied on this lighthouse on Lake Michigan to protect them from local natural hazards. The 39-foot-tall cylindrical structure is perched on a dune and is currently regarded as one of Michigan’s most notable historic lighthouses. Guests can take self-guided or semi-guided excursions to explore the lighthouse.
4. Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse
The Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse, one of Michigan’s most distinctive lighthouses, was constructed in 1868 and is a wood structure with a square light tower. Its design is unique, especially for a lighthouse. It is situated close to the north of Munising, Michigan, and was built to direct vessels from Lake Superior into the harbor in Munising by guiding them through the canal east of Grand Island. It replicates an old church as it is positioned on Grand Island’s shores of Lake Superior and is surrounded by a dense grove of trees. Although it is currently on private property, tours are still available to see the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse.
5. Crisp Point Lighthouse
Near the sinisterly named Shipwreck Alley on Lake Superior, where numerous Great Lakes ships have perished over time, stands the Crisp Point Lighthouse. One of five U.S. lifesaving stations on the edge of Lake Superior, this tall, white light was constructed in 1904 and stands today to aid mariners in distress. Everything on the land was demolished by the Coast Guard in 1965, except for the lighthouse and service room. A nearby historical group is now working to maintain what is still standing and inform the public about this lighthouse with its fascinating past.
6. St. Joseph North Pier Inner and Outer Lighthouses
At the mouth of the St. Joseph River on Lake Michigan, the St. Joseph North Pier Inner and Outer are essentially two lighthouses joined by a shared pier. An elevated catwalk extending from the shoreline to the outer tower allows light-keepers to travel between the two Lake Michigan lighthouses. The lights were installed in 1906 and 1907, while the station was constructed in 1832. The water that regularly splashes against the light towers freezes in the winter, producing amazing organic ice sculptures.
7. Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse
One of Michigan’s most distinctive lighthouses is, without a doubt, the Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse, situated along the eastern coasts of Lake Michigan at the tip of the breakwater in Pere Marquette Harbor. The lighthouse is considered to be Michigan’s best lighthouse and was also named one of the top 10 lighthouses to visit in the U.S. by The Weather Channel. Although it is frequently referred to as Ludington Light, it is also known as the Ludington North Breakwater Light due to its placement on the northern breakwater where the Pere Marquette River meets Lake Michigan.
8. Big Red Lighthouse
The Big Red Lighthouse, formally known as the Holland Harbor Light, is the most popular in photographs in Michigan, and for a good reason. A brilliant red structure with a light tower and a black roof can be seen there along the Holland Channel. One of the state’s most magnificent and distinctively constructed lighthouses, it stands out admirably against Lake Michigan’s roaring waves. This lighthouse’s distinctive construction pays homage to the classic Dutch architecture of the town’s earliest immigrants. Lighthouse enthusiasts travel worldwide to admire the “Big Red” Lighthouse’s distinctive beauty.
9. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Attempting to navigate the dangerous Straits of Mackinac, mariners have relied on the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse since 1889. The Old Mackinac Point Light Station was built in 1889 and used from 1890 to 1957. Since it was built, this magnificent lighthouse has resembled a castle and has been a striking icon in Michigan. Four generations of light keepers worked at the Old Mackinac Lighthouse for 65 years. The original Keeper’s Quarters are now accessible to guests as part of museum tours.
10. Point Iroquois Lighthouse
On the banks of Lake Superior, in the charming small town of Brimley, Michigan, is where you’ll find the Point Iroquois Lighthouse. The boundary between Whitefish Bay and the westernmost portion of the St. Marys River, which connects Lake Superior to the other Great Lakes, is marked by Point Iroquois and its light. The 1855-built lighthouse was decommissioned in favor of a more modern beacon in 1962. One of the busiest shipping channels in the world was formerly illuminated by its light. With its traditional design, this lighthouse in Michigan is now a well-liked tourist attraction.
11. Au Sable Light Station
In the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, West of Grand Marais lies the operational lighthouse known as Au Sable Light. The lighthouse was erected in 1874 to alert mariners to a potentially treacherous reef off Au Sable Point. The Au Sable lighthouse is accessible through a 1.5-mile gravel trail that features a lovely walk that follows the edge of Lake Superior’s shoreline and sometimes provides views of shipwreck remnants at the water’s surface. The light station is now being automated and returned to its 1910 appearance. The lighthouse is also listed on the national register of historical sites.
12. Munising Range Lighthouses
The dangerous Grand Island peninsula known as the Thumb was avoided by ships coming into port thanks to the Munising Range lights, which were built in 1908. The U.S. Coast Guard donated this location, consisting of a pair of lighthouses that are still in operation. The rear range light is situated further inland and is perched atop a small hill, and the front range light is a tower that has been blinded to produce the ranging beam. Mariners can navigate the canal by aligning the two lights. The lights given to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore continue to aid in national park navigation.
13. Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
Stone from Lake Huron Beach was used to build the first Pointe aux Barques Lighthouse in 1848. The operating lighthouse is on the northeastern tip of the Thumb in Huron County. The towering white Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse, which went into service in 1848, helped sailors navigate this treacherous location. Historical relics from the past can be found in the fully restored keeper’s home and tower at Pointe aux Barques. The museum is free to visit, although donations are gratefully accepted to support the Society’s operations.
14. Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station
In Michigan, at the Whitefish Point Light Station, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is situated about a 1.5-hour drive from the Mackinac Bridge. The Whitefish Point Light Station is the Upper Peninsula’s oldest working lighthouse and dates back to 1849. Due to the area’s numerous shipwrecks (more than 200), including the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, it is notoriously known as the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes.” The museum displays artwork, shipwreck models, antiquities, and lifelike mannequins. The remaining structures, which date from 1861, include the superb Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and exhibits on lighthouse keeping and lifesaving in the 20th and early 19th centuries.
Summary of the 14 Most Beautiful Michigan Lighthouses
Here is a list of the 14 most beautiful lighthouses in Michigan:
|Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
|McGulpin Point Lighthouse
|Point Betsie Lighthouse
|Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse
|Crisp Point Lighthouse
|St. Joseph North Pier Inner and Outer Lighthouses
|Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse
|Big Red Lighthouse
|Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
|Point Iroquois Lighthouse
|Au Sable Light Station
|Munising Range Lighthouses
|Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
|Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kenneth Keifer/Shutterstock.com
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- Midwest Explored, Available here: https://midwestexplored.com/lighthouses-in-michigan/
- Pure Michigan, Available here: https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/beautiful-lighthouses-michigan-worth-visit