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.
Indoor recreation area offers heated swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool, game room, putting green, ping pong and pool tables. Restaurant and bar on premises. Meeting and banquet space to 250. Lodgenet in room interactive information and entertainment. Free High Speed Internet.
- Restaurant on site
- Exercise Room
- Game Room
- Free Internet Access
- Conference Facilities
- Meeting Facilities
- Breakfast available
- Cable TV
- On-Site Guest Laundry
- Smoke Free Rooms
- Indoor Pool
- Barrier Free
- Pets Welcome
- Open Year Round
Payment Types Accepted
- Master Card
- American Express
Michigan’s 100th State park is one of the most unique state parks in the midwest. The variety of terrain and unique geologic, historic, and natural elements found at the park create a unique collection of experiences to be had by visitors.
Few places remain that offer a true outdoor trail adventure. Flat, smooth trails are nice but where do you go when you want a good back-to-nature challenge? Rockport is perfect for long hikes or mountain bike trail rides. Rugged trails transverse the 4,000+ acres of the Rockport property. Some parts of the trails are smooth, some are rocky, and some are delightfully interrupted by wandering tree roots. Enjoy the wilds of the wilderness with a map and a compass and your sense of exploration. Trails fan out from the parking lot.
Deepwater Port & Pier
In the mining days freighters pulled into port to load their bellies with freshly mined stone. All that remains of this era today is the pier platform. A walk out onto the pier surrounds you with the breeze of the big lake and stunning views of her sparkling waters. You can spot the ancient dock pilings peeking out near the edges of the pier as turquoise water laps against the cement walls. The pier is located just off the parking area.
Besser Natural Area & Bell Village
On the north end of the Rockport property is a stunning beach, nature trail, and remnants of an historic village. Besser Natural Area is home to one of Michigan’s last remaining stands of virgin pine. Hike through an easy trail in the soft woods to view the timber and what remains of the old village of Bell, including the community’s primitive cemetery. When your forest adventure is complete, relax along one of Michigan’s most beautiful sandy beaches, near Bell Bay. Just off shore lies a shipwreck in mere feet of water and a ship’s mast rests in a lagoon along the shoreline.
Rural isolation has its benefits. Being miles away from any major metropolitan area gives northeast Michigan an unique advantage for those who enjoy the mysteries revealed in the night sky. Our lack of concentrated light pollution makes the cosmos appear crisp and clear. Dark lands can be found at Rockport State Park Recreation Area where light emissions are among the lowest in the Great Lakes. Stars, meteors, planets and moons await your discovery.
Access to the big lake is easy with the boat launch located at the Rockport harbor. There is plenty of parking for trucks with trailers. Fish for Brown Trout, Chinook, King, Salmon, Lake Trout and Walleye. Fishing off the pier is also a fun way to spend the day.
Fossils in the Quarry
Today, the terrain of the abandoned 300-acre limestone quarry is like something from another planet and hiking through the quarry is an interesting and intriguing experience. As you walk be careful not to trip over fossils. The landscape is dotted with fossilized remnants of the Devonian Period some 400 million years ago. Don’t forget a bucket! Each visitor is allowed to take home up to 25 lbs of fossils per person per year. The quarry is easily accessed via the trail from the parking lot. Trail is rugged; sturdy shoes recommended.
A dozen sinkholes dot the Rockport property and make for an exciting adventure into the forest in search of these unique geologic features. While most of the Rockport sinks are dry you can find one that is nearly 100 ft. deep and filled with water and fish! While it is not recommended that you climb into them for safety reasons, you can hike up to the edge and see the karst topography before your very eyes. Sinkholes are located throughout the forest and can be found by hiking out beyond the quarry. Trails are rugged but are also passable via mountain bike.
Two conveyor tunnels from the old mining operation have become home to, and a hibernation site for three species of bats; big and little brown bats, and the tri-colored bat. The third being less common in the state, especially in the lower peninsula. The number of bats hibernating at Rockport is significant and it is important to protect these populations. A group of high school welding students from Alpena constructed grates for the tunnels. The group is part of the only 4-H welding group in the state. The grates cover openings in the conveyor tunnels to keep people out but allow the bats easy access. Look for interpretive signage near the tunnels behind the large rock hill adjacent to the pier.
The Nautical City is a quaint port town with charming streets, a beautiful harbor, and two distinguished museums. Spend an afternoon strolling the streets and grab a gourmet coffee before heading back to Alpena for the night.
Presque Isle County Historical Museum is one of the best small museums in Michigan. Under the direction of Curator Mark Thompson, the museum has received recognition from many sources, including the State of Michigan Historical Society. The museum is in the process of expanding. The current location is at 276 West Michigan Avenue, Rogers City, MI 49779. This is the site of the Bradley House–home of Carl D. Bradley, the founder of the Limestone Quarry and the Bradley fleet of Great Lakes freighters. The museum has acquired an adjoining property, located at 185 West Michigan. This location is under development, and it is planned to be open soon.
The Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum is located at 367 North Third Street, Roger’s City, MI 49779. Under the direction of David Erickson, the Lore museum contains many nautical artifacts and detailed biographical records of the many sailors who have perished on the Great Lakes.
Both museums are must see destinations for everyone who visits Roger’s City.