Point Betsie Lighthouse has a special place in Benzie County. Located in Frankfort Michigan, this place wins the award for the oldest structure that is still standing in the county. Amongst all of Michigan’s 83 counties, Benzie is the smallest.
However, Point Betsie is a heavy-hitter of sights to see. Benzie County might be small, but Point Betsie Lighthouse makes it mighty.
Are you wondering how a Michigan lighthouse can have such an impact that visitors have continued to clamor for a peek and visit for more than 164 years? We have all the deets!
About Point Betsie Lighthouse
Built in 1858, Point Betsie Lighthouse has done something unusual for a building this old. It has managed to stand the test of time and water.
Essential for Navigation
When it was built, the Manitou Passage was a crucial waterway that allowed vessels to ship necessary items throughout that part of the Great Lakes. The channel was once a vital route for transport by lake freighters.
While the channel no longer serves as a main thoroughfare, it still has useful purposes thanks to Point Betsie Lighthouse. Besides being an honored structure and historical landmark, the United States Coast Guard still utilizes the signal lights for navigation and safety.
A Destination of Its Own
By land or sea, many visitors make their way to Point Betsie Lighthouse to see the source of the beacon that has guided so many to safe shores. It is listed as located in Frankfort Michigan and is just west of Crystal Lake.
However, the physical structure is technically located north of town, with Frankfort being the nearest incorporated area. Some consider “Point Betsie” to be a location itself. So, it’s not unusual to see the lighthouse’s location referred to as either Frankfort or Point Betsie proper.
One of Point Betsie Lighthouse’s most unique features is its striking visuals. It is simply one of the most gorgeous lighthouses in the country and has long been a muse of many artists, whether cast in paint or set to needlepoint.
An Accessible Site
Point Betsie Lighthouse is also one of the most accessible Great Lakes lighthouses to the public. While you may find quite a few lighthouses sprinkled upon the shores of the five Great Lakes, many have few signs of constant human interaction. In fact, some seem downright ghostly. Thankfully, that is not the case for Point Betsie.
Before taking the trip, make sure that you have a camera on hand, even if it’s just your phone. In the spring, summer, and fall, the landscape is far too pretty to let it slip away into a memory. In the winter, you will see some amazing natural ice sculptures along the shores. You will want to capture these images so that they last forever.
The Perfect Timing
Another important thing to keep in mind is the timing of your visit to Point Betsie Lighthouse. The official tour is only available from May until the lake starts to freeze, but you can visit the grounds to see the beautiful tower any time of year.
FAQs About Point Betsie Lighthouse
How tall is Point Betsie Lighthouse?
Point Betsie Lighthouse stands at a height of 39 feet. It is further elevated because the tower’s base is a sand dune, which raises the existing height of the tower. Also, this makes it more effective as a safety beacon.
Is Point Betsie Lighthouse an active navigation aid?
One of the most efficient functions of Point Betsie Lighthouse is as a fog signal building.
Throughout the Great Lakes, weather patterns and climate changes constantly affect navigation. For Lake Michigan, “steam fog” is of particular concern, especially during colder weather and with polar vortexes.
What are steam fog and polar vortexes near Point Betsie Lighthouse?
Polar vortexes are weather patterns that seem to have an affinity for visiting the Great Lakes, and Lake Michigan is one of its favorite haunts. This is part of why Lake Michigan tends to experience strange, yet beautiful, ice formations more than any other Great Lake.
Lake Michigan is perfectly positioned to have warm water while arctic air rolls over its surface. This, in turn, gives rise to steam fog. That particular type of fog is what makes Point Betsie Lighthouse’s strong fog signal so essential for the U.S. Coast Guard and traveling water vessels.
Things to Do at Point Betsie Lighthouse
The first thing that you should do at Point Betsie Lighthouse is explore the area! Observe the unique structure and appreciate its beauty and durability. The lighthouse tower is a structural soldier. So, by all means, give the building its appreciative due.
When the lighthouse is open from May through fall, feel free to take the offered tours, and check out the gift shop. However, there’s a nice swath of shoreline to wander along, too. Plus, there’s much more to do beyond Point Betsie Lighthouse.
More Things to Do Near Point Betsie Lighthouse
630 Main St, Frankfort, MI 49635
Alongside Betsie Lake is a nice park that boasts natural mineral water. Frankfort Mineral Springs Park has a bike trail, playground, and picnic area to enjoy.
Gorgeous lake views and quiet serenity make this a nice place to reflect on everyday life. Some visitors will find the metallic smell of the mineral water unusual but not necessarily unpleasant. However, it is drinkable and considered to be very healthy.
606 Main St, Frankfort, MI 49635
This 22-mile trail runs the length of Benzie County and is perfect for bikers and hikers. The beginning of the trail starts next to the playground at Frankfort Mineral Springs Park and runs east and south to Thompsonville.
As the surrounding area is breathtaking, this doesn’t have to be a competitive trail (unless you want it to be). You can take your time and take in the scenery as you make your way from Frankfort to other points in the county.
Dining Near Point Betsie Lighthouse
If you’re looking for a bite to eat when visiting Point Betsie Lighthouse, the Frankfort area doesn’t disappoint. Here are a couple of places to check out when your tummy starts to rumble.
415 Main St, Frankfort, MI 49635
Dinghy’s Restaurant & Bar is perfect for grabbing lunch before or after taking a lighthouse tour. This is the quintessential burger, sandwich, and taco place in Frankfort Michigan. Stopping by on a Friday? You’ll be the lucky recipient of its famous Friday Fish Fry, which is succulent and straight-up delicious.
727 Main St, Frankfort, MI 49635
Birch & Maple is a nice place to dine when you’re ready for dinner, so add it to your post-lighthouse itinerary. The restaurant is positioned next to the harbor, so you will have a great view of the ships that roll in and out.
Lodging Near Point Betsie Lighthouse
1602 Crystal Dr, Frankfort, MI 49635
Chimney Corners Resort is just a few miles from the Point Betsie Lighthouse. From May to October, visitors have a variety of lodging choices — beach cottages, bluff-side cottages, cozy apartments, and rooms in the main bed and breakfast lodge.
On the grounds, a restaurant serves dinner, and barbecue and burgers are its star meals. So, if you want to make this place a one-stop, sleep-and-eat location, you could do so!
15 S, 15 2nd St, Frankfort, MI 49635
Also only a few miles from Point Betsie Lighthouse, Harbor Lights Resort is on the swanky side of lodging. If you like a bit of luxury during your stay, it could very well be worth it.
An indoor pool and lakeside setting are vital features of this 3-star resort. In addition to being a bookable place to stay, it is also a condominium community for year-round residents.
Explore the Beautiful Area Around Point Betsie Lighthouse
Point Betsie Lighthouse is located in the perfect place to observe an astounding historical structure that is surrounded by unheralded lakeside beauty. While the scene is less boisterous than typical city life, the scenic serenity speaks volumes.
Frankfort Michigan is the place to go when you want a meaningful visit that has spectacular views. Put Point Betsie Lighthouse on your travel list. You’ll want to go back time and time again.