Best Collection of Lighthouses on the Great Lakes
Northeast Michigan is home to seven spectacular lighthouses that helped guide ships to safe harbor. Most lighthouses are open mid-May through mid-October. This unique collection of lighthouses features a haunted lighthouse, a lighthouse station where you can spend the night, the Great Lake’s oldest accessible lighthouse and the tallest accessible lighthouse. View one or all of them at your own pace or enjoy a self-guided driving tour of key northern Lake Huron lighthouse coastline destinations. Information is available at the Community Development Building at 235 W. Chisholm St. in Alpena. The tour follows the journey of the Durston during the Great Storm of 1913. For more information, call (989) 354-4181.
“The Alpena Light”, aka Alpena’s “Little Red” Beacon
While the Alpena Light may not be a typical lighthouse, it does meet the criteria to be called one. Located at the mouth of the Thunder Bay River, the 80-foot skeletal tower is viewable from Alpena’s marina and breakwall. Called “Sputnik” (resembles the Russian space satellite) and “Little Red” by locals, it is said this often dismissed light is “Long on duty, short on beauty.”
Little Red is the only lighthouse within the City of Alpena, and believed to be the only lighthouse of this type in the U.S. The station was built of wood in 1877, rebuilt of wood in 1888 and finally constructed of steel in 1914. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. An automated active aid to navigation, the Alpena Light originally housed a Fourth Order Fresnel lens.
4500 E. Grand Lake Rd., Presque Isle, (989) 595-9917
The Presque Isle Light Station includes three historic buildings. The light tower, which connects to a keeper’s dwelling, was built in 1870 and is the tallest lighthouse tower accessible by the public on the Great Lakes. An unattached keeper’s residence, constructed in 1905, has been painstakingly restored and now serves as a museum. The buildings are situated on a 99-acre township park featuring a playground, picnic area, pavilion and nature trails. A gift shop is located in the original keeper’s quarters. Visitors, for a nominal fee, may also climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view. The buildings and grounds are open mid-May through mid-October, from 10a.m. until 7 p.m., daily. The 1905 House is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 11am to 5pm, Tuesday through Saturday; 1pm to 5pm Sunday; closed Mondays.
5295 E. Grand Lake Rd., Presque Isle, (989) 595-6979
The Old Presque Isle Lighthouse is one of the oldest surviving accessible lighthouses on the Great Lakes. Built in 1840 by Jeremiah Moors of Detroit, the harbor light operated until 1871 when the keeper transferred to a new, taller, coastal lighthouse a mile to the north (the New Presque Isle Lighthouse). Visitors can climb the hand-hewn stone steps of the 30 feet tall tower for a panoramic view of the Lake Huron shoreline and Presque Isle Harbor. The keeper’s dwelling serves as a hands-on museum. Here, visitors can blow foghorns and examine other interesting artifacts. They can also ring the bell from the Lansing City Hall clock tower and pose for the perfect photo opportunity with head and hands in an old set of stocks. The buildings and park grounds are open to the public daily, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., mid-May through mid-October. A nominal fee is charged for tower climbs.
County Park Road, Rogers City
Unlike many Great Lakes lighthouses, Forty Mile Point Light does not mark a significant port, but was built so ships would never be out of viewing range of a lighthouse. The light is 40 miles sailing distance from Mackinaw Point, or just north of Rogers City. The lighthouse was built in 1896 to assist ships through the dangerous shoreline where open water, hidden shoals and false bays had claimed a number of vessels. Follow “Shipwreck Trail” to see what’s left of the Joseph S. Fay, one of 27 wooden ships that sank during a fierce storm in 1905. You can see about 150′ of her side wall resting on the beach near the lighthouse. Other features include the steamer Calcite pilot house, a picnic area, swimming beach and hiking trails.
Point Road, Harrisville
Until the early 20th Century, northern Michigan was almost completely dependent on waterborne commerce for all of its needs. Thousands of sailing vessels and early steamers plied the Great Lakes at a time when there were almost no aids to navigation to guide them along the dangerous coastline with its treacherous rocks, shoals and reefs. One such reef extends 1-12/ miles out into Lake Huron at Sturgeon Point, just north of Harrisville, Michigan. In 1869, the Lighthouse Service began construction of the lighthouse at Sturgeon Point to mark this hazard. Sturgeon Point Lighthouse became operational in the spring of 1870 and has been in continuous service for 137 years. It is still an operational lighthouse.
In 1876 the U.S. Life Saving Service established a Life Saving Station just south of Sturgeon Point Lighthouse. This station provided around-the-clock rescue capability for vessels in distress. With the formation of the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, Sturgeon Point became a Coast Guard station. The lighthouse was electrified and automated in 1939 and the last personnel left in 1941. The Coast Guard buildings were subsequently destroyed, however, the lighthouse itself survived but was severely vandalized. In 1982 the Alcona Historical Society leased the lighthouse and began a three year restoration project. The interior of the keeper’s house was completely restored, and the buildings were painted. Almost all of the work was done by volunteers. The lighthouse and keeper’s house are of masonry construction on a limestone block foundation. The tower is 70 feet, 9 inches tall and is 16 feet in diameter at its base. The light is a 3.5 order Fresnel lens made in Paris, France. The light apparatus is still maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The keeper’s house is now a maritime museum which is open to the public seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend. The lighthouse tower is open to the public. The grounds are open all year.
Open Memorial Day through September
12 p.m. – 3 p.m. – Monday – Thursday
11 a.m – 4 p.m. – Saturday & Sunday
Lighthouse Tower Open 12 p.m – 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday & Sunday
One of the oldest light stations on Lake Huron is located on Thunder Bay Island, situated in the center of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Thunder Bay is the outermost island in a group of islands connected to the north point of Thunder Bay by a shallow bank of numerous rocks, most of which are submerged. The light tower was first constructed in 1832 and was built to warn mariners of the dangerous reefs extending from the island. Squatters were attracted to the federally-owned island, and by 1845 a large fishing community thrived there. One hundred and sixty people lived on the island with 31 fishing boats harvesting twelve thousand barrels of fish each year. Faced with government action to remove them from the island, the trespassers picked up their belongings and relocated to nearby Sugar Island, where they stayed for years. Access to the island is limited to the U S Coast Guard, U S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and members of the Thunder Bay Island Preservation Society. Contact the preservation society at (989) 356-6743. The station was placed on the National Historic Register in 1984. The lighthouse is not open to the public but can be viewed via boat from the water.
Middle Island Light Station is located in Lake Huron, halfway between Thunder Bay Island and Presque Isle. There are 7 buildings on the island, including a light tower, Keepers Quarters, an Oil House, Tool Garage, a Fog Horn building and two brick privies. The light is 78 feet above low water and can be seen for 17 miles. Visitors can take a day tour of the island, or even spend a private night on the island in a rustic lodge.
The community of Harrisville, Michigan is on the shore of Lake Huron about an hour’s drive south of Alpena. The Harrisville harbor is a center for salmon and trout fishing. It is also a designated “Harbor of Refuge” on Lake Huron by the US Coast Guard. The Lake Huron beaches in and around Harrisville (including two state parks) have been recognized as being among the “top ten in Michigan.”
With a beautiful downtown and fresh breeze from Lake Lake Huron Harrisville is a mecca of inspiration for writers and artists who summer in the area.
Harrisville is also on the edge of Huron National Forest, which offers outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, swimming, cross-country skiing and trout fishing. The forest contains 330 miles (530 km) of hiking trails.
Sturgeon Point Light Station, a lighthouse and museum is just a few miles to the north, and is open to the public. The town also boasts Harrisville State Park, which includes a wooded campground right along the beach.
The Cabin – 14018 Leer Rd Posen. Fully furnished luxury cottage to accommodate up to 13 people with 5 bedrooms and 3-½ baths. Gourmet kitchen inside, along with an outdoor kitchen and patio with fire pit. Game room with a pool table. You can sit on the second story balcony or deck overlooking the Thunder Bay River or Mill Pond and watch the wildlife or the sun set. There are approximately two miles of trails that take you through beautiful northern Michigan forest, where you will see some of the area’s oldest Hemlock trees. Laundry room, kayaks, paddle boat and canoe available.
The Cottage on Pine Lane – 5653 Pine Ln Posen. Fully furnished cottage with an open floor plan that can sleep up to eight people. Secluded and wooded on the Thunder Bay River and only a few hundred feet from Sunken Lake. Laundry room, kayaks, paddle boat and canoe available.
The Mill House – 13769 Leer Rd Posen. Fully furnished 5 bedroom, 2-½ bath country home that will accommodate up to 10 people. The house overlooks the Thunder Bay River and the Historic Elowsky Grist Mill. Sit on the swing and listen to the water fall over the remnants of the grist mill dam. Fishing and swimming is available in the river and a canoe and paddle are provided for your enjoyment. The property is also available for events such as weddings, reunions, corporate events, and photography opportunities with the Mill, and Barns. Fully stocked kitchen, laundry room, kayak, paddle boat and canoe available.
Hillman is a charming village with a rich history. Located just a short 25-minute drive to the west of Alpena, Hillman offers an opportunity for a quiet afternoon in the country.
Let the Brush Creek Mill take you back in history through displays and memorabilia. Learn about homestead families in the area and what a life was like in the early days of Montemorency County. Young and old alike will find it truly fascinating when it compares to life as we know it today.
The Mill is a cultural center where you can take a class, hold a business meeting, or just explore the past, present, and future. Visit Rivers Edge gift shop where you’ll find items made by local artisans.
Thunder Bay Resort is a beautiful, all-season resort poised on 500 acres in the heart of Northeast Michigan. Known for its award-winning Elk Viewing Dinner Ride and Wine Tasting, Thunder Bay Resort also boasts deluxe lodging, an RV Park, championship golf, and an array of outdoor entertainment and activities.
The staff of the beautiful new Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alpena is eager to exceed your expectations. Our hotel features over-sized guest rooms and suites luxuriously complimented by triple sheeted pillow topped mattresses, rich furnishings and all of the amenities that you have come to expect including a microwave and refrigerator.
During your stay with us, you will enjoy the conveniences of our complimentary Express Start hot breakfast bar featuring our trademark cinnamon rolls and the option to make your own pancakes, free Wi-Fi service throughout the hotel and our meeting room, HD televisions, heated indoor swimming pool, fitness center, 24-hour business center and guest laundry. Whether you’re in town to get out of town or are simply passing through, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Alpena is your gateway to the great outdoors.