With so much shoreline, it’s no surprise that Michigan has a fair number of lighthouses. On the Sunrise Side you’ll find Lake Huron and Lake Erie, each with several large bays and inlets. These areas were populated in the past by lumbermen and fishermen, who utilized the fresh water for its resources and transportation capabilities.
Ships and boats depended on lighthouses to guide them home, avoid shallow areas, or to find shelter during inclement weather – and they still do. Here are several lighthouses to visit on the beautiful northeast side of the state.
Mileage: 342 miles
Driving Time: 6 hours, 46 minutes
Stop #1: Forty Mile Point Lighthouse
Located in Presque Isle County’s Lighthouse Park north of Rogers City, Forty Mile Point lighthouse has been a beacon since May 1897 – and it’s still operational. The grounds are open year-round from 8 a.m. until sunset while the lighthouse tower and museum are open seasonally. Admission is free. There is ample parking, including RV and bus parking with a turn-around loop.
Stop #2: Presque Isle
Here, you’ll find two lighthouses, plus a range light. The 1840 (old) lighthouse was built to assist with the growth in ship traffic following the War of 1812; it’s one of the oldest surviving lighthouse in the Great Lakes. The stone and brick tower reaches 30 feet high and helps lead sailors into State Harbor, one of the best refuges on Lake Huron. It’s a beautiful spot to wander around. One of the best parts is being able to ring the bell that once hunt in the clock tower of Old City Hall in Lansing, but kids might enjoy playing pretend in the stocks. The 1870 (new) lighthouse is built at the tip of Presque Isle Peninsula, one mile from the old lighthouse, and remains active today. The 113-foot-tall lighthouse is distinguished by its four-window design and wrought-iron brackets supporting the gallery. It’s open to the public from spring until fall for a small fee.
Stop #3: Tawas Point Lighthouse
Maritime buffs, birdwatchers, and photographers will enjoy this fascinating lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1876 – the second structure to be erected at this point. It’s worth planning a stop here to see either the sunrise or the sunset. The white tower with staggered windows and an attached brick structure that is now a museum, can be toured independently or with a guide who will explain the history of the light. A Recreation Passport is required for entry, as the lighthouse is within the boundary of Tawas Point State Park.
Stop #4 : Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse
From Memorial Day weekend through October 15, visitors can submerge themselves into Pointe Aux Barques’ rich history; from historical artifacts, shipwrecks, and tales of the original keepers, this museum has something for everyone! Not to mention, it’s free admission for all ages.
Stop #5: Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
The second oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and the oldest on Lake Huron, Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, is located in the town of Port Huron. Originally constructed in 1825, and then later reconstructed in 1829, this 82-foot, white-brick beacon has been guarding ships passing through the St. Clair River – one of the busiest waterways – for nearly two centuries. From spring (open date varies) through December, visitors can tour the lighthouse and climb the steps – closed-toe shoes are required. Tickets are $7 for ages four and up or $30 for family admission. There are 94 stairs that spiral upward to give climbers a one-of-a-kind view.