With over 100 lighthouses to visit around Lake Michigan, it stands to reason that touring and photographing lighthouses is a popular activity!

Many people enjoy taking the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, visiting as many of these lighthouses as possible. Their historical significance, as well as their various shapes and colors, make this a fascinating vacation. From St. Joseph’s North Pier Light in southwestern Michigan all the way up to McGulpin Point Lighthouse at the Straits of Mackinac….the western coast of Michigan is home to about 35 lighthouses. The eastern coast of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin boasts about the same number, including a wonderful cluster in Door County.

Most Lake Michigan lighthouses were built in the 1800s when ship traffic was at its heaviest…especially during the lumbering era. Long before marine radios, lighthouses were the only means to safely navigate the harbors, many of which were rocky. The comforting beams of light guided thousands of ships with their precious cargoes into port. Many lighthouse keepers inhabited these structures, or lived nearby and walked the dangerous catwalks out to the light. Today the lights are automated and guide fishing boats and other pleasure craft to safety. They also serve as tourist attractions. Many are open during the summer offering a climb to the top to enjoy the magnificent views of Lake Michigan.

The Charlevoix South Pier Light Station
Photo by Todd and Brad Reed Photography

Why is there such a fascination with lighthouses? One reason may be their location…along beautiful shorelines. They are a photographer’s dream, especially during one of Michigan’s glorious sunrises or sunsets. Another reason is their unique architecture–no two lighthouses are alike, and they’re built to withstand the toughest of weather conditions. The view from the top, along with the sparkling Fresnel lenses, are reason enough to climb the numerous steps up. Thanks to groups like the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association and its smaller organizations, these lighthouses have been preserved and maintained so that future generations can enjoy and appreciate them. Hundreds of volunteers serve as hosts during the summer, sharing the rich maritime history with visitors as they tour the lighthouses.

Plan your next vacation along Lake Michigan and visit some of the most beautiful lighthouses our country has to offer.

Featured Lighthouses in West Michigan

Ludington’s North Breakwater Light — Walk the half-mile long pier to West Michigan’s most popular lighthouse.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse — Located in the Ludington State Park.
North Pierhead Lighthouse in Manistee — At the Manistee beach.
Grand Traverse Light Station — Located on the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in Northern Michigan, The Grand Traverse Light was established in 1852.
Point Betsie Light Station — Nestled in a dune just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the tower stands 39 feet tall, but with the height of the dune it towers 52 feet above Lake Michigan.

Central West Michigan Lighthouses

Grand Haven Lighthouse — The Grand Haven lighthouse is at the mouth of the Grand River.
White River Light Station in Whitehall — Operated by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers.
Pentwater Pier Head Lights — At the channel to Pentwater Lake.
Little Sable Point Lighthouse — Located at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.

Northern Michigan Lighthouses

Harbor Point Lighthouse — Located in Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan.
McGulpin Point Lighthouse — This lighthouse is located in the Straits of Mackinac at Mackinaw City.
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse — Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is in Mackinaw City.

Northeastern Wisconsin Lighthouses

Manitowoc North Breakwater – Walk out to the end of the pier to this Manitowoc lighthouse, and wave to the carferry S.S. Badger as the ship passes by.
Algoma North Pierhead – This lighthouse can be seen all along the Crescent Beach Boardwalk and is accessible via the pier if you want to venture closer.
Kewaunee Pierhead Lighthouse – Located in Kewaunee, Wisconsin…halfway between Sturgeon Bay and Manitowoc along Lake Michigan.