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Sightseeing in Northern Michigan: Lake Michigan Lighthouses with Pictures

Updated on June 14, 2011

The Lighthouses of Northern Michigan's West Coast

There are hundreds of lighthouses all around the Great Lakes. Northern Michigan is home to many unique specimen. These are the lighthouses along Northern Michigan's west coast, starting at Ludington State Park and continuing all the way up the Lake Michigan shore to the Mackinac Bridge.

See more Northern Michigan pictures at

Photo by Doug Coldwell via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Doug Coldwell via Wikimedia Commons

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington, Michigan

After a dozen shipwrecks in the area in 1855, Michigan senator Charles Mears sought federal funds to build a lighthouse. Construction on the Big Sable Point Lighthouse was completed in 1867. In 1902, the original brick tower structure was encased in metal due to deterioration. The lighthouse remains an important navigational beacon today.

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is nestled in the heart of Ludington State Park. Viewing the lighthouse from land requires a hike of about 1.5 miles, as this area of the State Park is off limits to motorized vehicles. An entry fee is required for entry onto the grounds of the Ludington State Park.

Photo by Rhonda Rowley
Photo by Rhonda Rowley

North Pierhead Lighthouse, Manistee, Michigan

Marking the entrance to the Manistee River Channel, the North Pierhead Lighthouse is one of only two lighthouses on Michgan's west coast that still retains its original catwalk. (The lighthouse in Grand Haven also has a catwalk.) The current structure was ercted in 1927, replacing a wooden lighthouse from the 1870s.  The Manistee River Channel connects Lake Michigan to Manistee Lake, home to several factories.  Because of this, the North Pierhead Lighthouse remains an important landmark in Great Lakes navigation today.

On a clear day, visitors to the North Pierhead Lighthouse can enjoy fabulous views. In ideal atmospheric conditions, you can see both the Big Sable Point Lighthouse to the south and Onekama's Portage Point to the north.

Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons

North Breakwater Lighthouse, Frankfort, Michigan

The iron, pyramid-shaped structure of Frankfort's North Breakwater Lighthouse was constructed in 1912, though it originally sat in a different location. A pair of breakwaters was built at the mouth of the Frankfort harbor in 1930; the lighthouse was relocated in 1932 to the north breakwater where it sits perched on a two-story metal base. The light remains active today, safely guding boats in and out of the harbor.

Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons

Point Betsie Lighthouse, Frankfort, Michigan

The cylindrical tower and attached dwelling of Frankfort's Point Betsie Lighthouse were originally ercted in 1858. In 1891, a fog signal building was added and the dwelling portion of the lighthouse was expanded to accomodate an additional keeper.

In 2004, ownership of the lighthouse was transfered from the United States Coast Guard to the local government, who then leased the site to a non-profit organization, The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse. After extensive fundraising, the lighthouse underwent $1 million in renovations, including a complete restoration of the structure and repainting the lighthouse to its original color scheme. The Point Betsie Lighthouse dwelling and tower are open to the public seasonally.

Photo by Jjegers via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Jjegers via Wikimedia Commons

Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse, Empire, Michigan

The Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse in Empire, Michigan is one of few contemporary lighthouses on the Great Lakes. The lighthouse, built to resemble the light tower at Point Betsie, was erected in 1991. It was built in memory of Robert H. Manning, a lifelong Empire resident. Manning, a local fisherman, went out onto Lake Michigan as often as possible and often commented about how a lighthouse would help him find his way home.  His family built the structure after his death.

The Robert H. Manning Memorial Lighthouse is owned by the Village of Empire and is situated at the north end of the Empire Village Park.

Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Jonesey via Wikimedia Commons

Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelenau County, Michigan

At the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, marking the entrance to the Grand Traverse Bay from Lake Michigan. It was built in 1858 to replace a deteriorating tower that was erected in 1852.

In 1972 the lighthouse was deactivated, replaced by a light atop a metal tower. Today, the lighthouse is home to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum.  Since the lighthouse is within the Leelanau State Park, an entry fee is required to visit the lighthouse.

Photo by Bkonrad via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Bkonrad via Wikimedia Commons

Old Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City, Michigan

The lighthouse at Old Mission Point once marked the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula, aiding ships in navigating between the east and west arms of the Grand Traverse Bay.  The light is no longer active today, replaced by a beacon 2 1/2 miles offshore.  The humble structure has been open to the public for tours since 2008.

Photo by abarndweller via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by abarndweller via Wikimedia Commons

Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse, Charlevoix, Michigan

The Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse marks the entrance to the Pine River. The current steel structure, built in 1928, replaced a wooden tower from the 1880s.  The river is an important shipping route, connecting Lake Michigan to Round Lake.

The lighthouse was deemed excess by the United States Coast Guard in 2005 and ownership was subsequently awarded to the City of Charlevoix in 2008. Since then, the Charlevoix Historical Society has raised more than $29,000 to help restore and maintain the structure.

Photo by Bkonrad via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Bkonrad via Wikimedia Commons

Little Traverse Lighthouse, Harbor Springs, Michigan

The Little Traverse Lighthouse is located at the tip of Harbor Point, a narrow strip of land that forms the harbor at Harbor Springs. Harbor Point is home to a gated community, so there is no public access to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is best viewed by boat.

Photo by Cass via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Cass via Wikimedia Commons

McGulpin's Point Lighthouse, Mackniac Ciy, Michigan

The lighthouse at McGulpin's Point began service in 1869, marking the entrance to the Straits of Mackinac on the southeast side. However it was in use for only 37 years, deemed redundant after the Mackinac Point Lighthouse was opened just two miles to the east at a better, more visible vantage point.

Since closing in 1906, the lighthouse and grounds have been transfered to private hands. In 2009, the lighthouse was rededicated, complete with a replica of the original lantern room which had been removed sometime during the previous century.

Photo by James Marvin Phelps via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by James Marvin Phelps via Wikimedia Commons

Mackinac Point Lighthouse, Mackinac City, Michigan

From its opening in 1892 until the it was deactivated in 1957, the Mackinac Point Lighthouse was an important navigational beacon.  It led the way to the Straits of Mackinac, the passage between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

Today, the lighthouse and its grounds are part of the Mackinac State Historic Parks.  The dwelling and tower are open to the public seasonally.


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    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 3 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I have visited and photographed most of the lighthouses you list here. I really enjoy visiting Michigan's lighthouses. I thought the one at Point Betsie was particularly charming.

    • SmittenWithTravel profile image

      SmittenWithTravel 7 years ago

      Wow! You definitely put a lot of historical data into your hub...very well done!

    • profile image

      I walk with Jesus 7 years ago

      I'm a Michigander myself. Awesome, beautiful, and useful hub! Rated up for sure!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      I've been to the two in Mackinac City. I love lighthouses and I've toured the ones here in NC on the Outer Banks. Well written. Make an edit: spelling change on the Point Betsie hub subtitle and it will be 'perfect'. :)

    • rhondarowley profile image

      Rhonda Greene 7 years ago from Manistee, MI

      I try to get out as much as I can in the summer. I have a few friends who own boats and sometimes I get invited along to take a ride. When I can't catch a ride, I love to go swimming in Lake Michigan. It's a little bit cold sometimes but it is incredibly refreshing on a hot, humid day!

    • HealthFreak31 profile image

      HealthFreak31 7 years ago

      do u go out on the lake a lot