Have you thought of visiting some amazing lighthouses around Lake Michigan, but don’t want to spend days trying to find the ones worth seeing? (Now You Can)
I traveled 1,000 miles around Lake Michigan From December 28th, 2015 to January 3rd, 2016, to find the best of the best lighthouses to visit, document, and photograph. In this blog post, I will tell you how to get there, share some images I took, and give you some important tips that I learned while photographing them.
Old Michigan City Light
Michigan City Lighthouse
Built in 1904, and the only public lighthouse in Indiana, it’s very easy to get to. Located at the end of a breakwater in Washington Park. I took my photographs just after the first snow at the end of 2015. After a fresh snow is a great time to take pictures, but you also have to be very careful of slippery ice if you’re going to walk across the Breakwater, since there are no safety rails. The waves can and will slash over depending on weather conditions, and can pull you into the lake as well. It’s okay, because there is a beach here, so you can take your pictures from the beach area without doing anything dangerous.
St. Joseph Lighthouse
This is one of the most iconic lighthouses in the country, because of the winter ice and snow. Very easy parking lot to park in, with easy access to the beach and lighthouse from the break wall. I took these pictures on February 15/2016. If you plan your photographs here just right, you can get some amazing fine art pictures. It’s also very dangerous in winter, so make sure you have a partner, warm clothes, and ice cleats.
Holland Harbor Lighthouse
Also called Big Red, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1872, and is located in Ottawa County Michigan on Ottawa beach road. This lighthouse is also next to a beach area with parking. Easy walking for pictures and just taking in the scenery. Even in the winter, this lighthouse is very accessible and easy to navigate around.
Grand Haven Lighthouse
This lighthouse was built in 1907 and is next to the beach at the South side of the Grand river. This area around the Breakwater can get very choppy and dangerous. if you do walk the Breakwater, make sure you do it with extreme caution.
White River Lighthouse
The White River lighthouse is located in Whitehall Michigan, and is one of my favorite lighthouses, because of the landscape and architecture. This one is easy to get to with its own parking lot and museum.This was Built in 1875
Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Located on the shoreline of Silver Lake State Park. Once in the parking lot, its just a couple hundred foot walk between two sand dunes. This lighthouse was built in 1874.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Big Sable Point is my favorite lighthouse to date. It looks like the perfectly envisioned lighthouse, sitting next to the shoreline with its Black and White tower in contrast against the sand and lake. This is a two-mile hike from the parking lot of Ludington state park, between the forest and sand dunes. If the snow is more than a few inches, it will be a very rough hike. This lighthouse was built in 1867
Manning Memorial Lighthouse
Easy access from a beachside parking lot that sits right next to this one. It was built in 1990, which makes this one of the newest lighthouses around.
Manistee Michigan Lighthouse
This is located on the North Pierhead of Manistee Michigan and has two lights. The first has an easy access breakwater to walk out to the north lighthouse. There is a beach parking lot you can park at, only about 100 feet from the start of the breakwater.
Point Betsie Lighthouse
If you’re looking for picturesque, you found it in the Point Betsie Lighthouse, just South of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Frankfort Michigan. This beautiful landmark was built in 1858. Closed during the offseason, but less crowded, so easier to explore and take pictures.
Old Mission Point Lighthouse
This quaint little lighthouse was built in 1870 and situated on the northern most part of Old Mission Peninsula. Easy access for parking next to the building.
Driving to these amazing lighthouses
Most Lighthouses in the upper peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin are off the beaten path. The last 5 miles or more can be quite dangerous to drive on because they are not used much during offseason, which means they are not snow plowed as well, and can be icy. Make sure you have a cell phone with you just in case.
What to Wear
If you are going to photograph these lighthouses during offseason, you may want to buy a set of snow – ice cleats. These fit right over your shoes or boots, and have pointy bottoms, so you won’t slip on the ice and snow. These are especially important for anyone walking out on the Breakwater. If you do go out on the Breakwater, pay attention to the waves, and have an (out) or an option if a large wave is going to come over the wall at you. Make sure you bring an extra pair of pants, shoes, and socks.
Most lighthouses with parking lots charge a fee to park. Most that have museums charge an admission fee as well. This can really add up if you’re going to a lot of lighthouses. Some of these are well worth the fee while others are not. It depends on what your personal interest is in seeing the inside. I, myself love architecture and mother nature.
Why to Go Off-Season
- No parking fees
- No admission fees
- No crowds
- The winter landscape
- Mystical skies
- Time – To me, this is a great time to take in all the beauty of the lighthouse, the grounds, and the sea, without being rushed.
Grand Traverse Lighthouse
The parking lot is alongside the lighthouse, but small, so get there early or off-season. Quaint lighthouse in Leelanau State Park in Northport Michigan, with a museum inside. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse, also known as Cats Head was built in 1851.
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
Besides the wonderful architecture of the Old Mackinac Point Light, it’s great to also see the Mackinac bridge in the background, which is the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. It sits on the upper peninsula of the Lake Michigan shoreline that intersects Lake Huron. The grounds and buildings are meticulously landscaped which makes this a great lighthouse, and a must to visit.
St Ignace Wawatam Lighthouse
Just on the other side of the Straits of Mackinac, the St. Ignace lighthouse sits on the North side of the Mackinac Bridge, with a Breakwater leading to it. The lighthouse was relocated from Monroe Michigan in 2005. The Monroe lighthouse was built around 1850.
Seul Croix Point Lighthouse
Built in 1892, the Seul Croix Point Lighthouse sits on the shoreline in Schoolcraft County, Michigan. There is also a museum at this lighthouse.
Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse
The Manistique lighthouse has a parking lot of easy access about 100 yards from the breakwater. This Breakwater is very dangerous and unstable to walk in winter as it gets very icy. The parking lot is large, so you should not have a hard time finding a space. This beauty was built in 1916.
Menominee North Pier Lighthouse
Located on Harbor Drive, the Menominee North Pier Lighthouse may not be the most beautiful around, but what happened during January 1st, 2016 was Amazing. The whole side of the street leading to the lighthouse was covered in a natural ice sculpture. This light was built in 1877. Easy parking off Harbor Drive with a very large parking lot.
Waukegan Harbor Lighthouse
Built in 1889, and then extended further out in same area years later. Located off Madison street in an industrial area. Sometimes the lighthouse themselves don’t make the most interesting pictures, but go there in the right weather condition, and you will find some truly amazing landscapes. This was taken on January 11th on a freezing cold morning. Caught this one just before the sun and clouds decided to hide, and the snow started.
Grosse Point Lighthouse
This beautiful stately lighthouse is located in Evanston Illinois on the Michigan lakeshore. It was completed in 1873. In 1941, Grosse Point Lighthouse was decommissioned by the US Coast Guard as a precaution of possible air raids after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a parking lot on the side of the structure for easy access to lighthouse grounds, and lake.
Chicago Harbor Lighthouse
The Chicago harbor Lighthouse is very easy to get to. It’s located just past the point of Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. Very large parking lot located in Navy Pier, and a short walk outside to see the lighthouse. The cool looking light was built in 1893.
Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall Light
This light is located about 200 yards to the south of Navy Pier. It can be reached by a long guide wall from the shoreline if you want to get right in front. This pier light was constructed in 1859.