With more than 3,000 miles of idyllic shoreline from coast to coast, Michigan is home to many well-known, beautiful, and fascinating lighthouses.
In fact, the Mitten State is home to 129 lighthouses in all.
But if you’re interested in searching beyond the most popular destinations along our Great Lakes, there are some truly spectacular underrated Michigan lighthouses that will take you, sometimes quite literally, off the beaten path!
Here are some of our favorite lesser-known, Michigan lighthouses to explore. They’re tall, steeped in history, and waiting for you to come and explore for yourself!
Big Bay Point Lighthouse and B&B | Big Bay
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Big Bay Point Lighthouse is one of the few remaining operational residential lighthouses and has a bed and breakfast inside.
If you only have a day, make a quick trip to see the beautiful view overlooking Lake Superior. If you have time for a longer stay at the B&B, the breakfast is to die for… or at least that’s what the lightkeeper’s ghost might tell you!
Either way, the building is about 20 miles from Marquette, and it is perfect for a quiet getaway in the U.P. to see some incredible natural beauty.
Tawas Point Lighthouse | Tawas
If you close your eyes and picture a Michigan lighthouse, the Tawas Point Lighthouse might just be the one that pops into your head: A perfect destination surrounded by sandy beaches and offering scenic views of Michigan.
The 70-foot white, conical tower sits on the shores of Lake Huron and has been the subject of many photographs. It’s so well known in fact that the Tri-Centennial State Park in Detroit includes a 63-foot-tall replica of the Tawas Lighthouse at the harbor entrance.
The nearly 150-year-old lighthouse is closed for the 2023 season for preservation work, but the lighthouse complex will eventually include a downstairs museum, and an upstairs mini-cabin available for rent.
South Manitou Island Lighthouse | Empire
However you choose to make the mile-and-a-half hike, drive or ride from the dock to South Manitou Island Lighthouse, you will find your breath taken away by the gorgeous view, just a short distance west of Traverse City.
Active from 1871 to 1958, the South Manitou light was the site of the only natural harbor between the island and Chicago and offered refuge to passing ships.
The top of the lighthouse is the perfect spot to marvel at the expansive Lake Michigan, and on clear days you can peer back into Great Lakes history by viewing the shipwrecks along the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve.
Old Mackinac Point Light | Mackinaw City
If you love Michigan lighthouses and you want to stop off and explore one on your way north to Mackinac Island, the Old Mackinac Point Light is one you’ll want to make time to stop and see.
It sits adjacent to the Mackinac Bridge and offers excellent views of the Mighty Mac!
The 50-foot, Cream City brick tower was built in 1892 and was deactivated in 1957. For decades it served as an important beacon for ships trying to navigate through the Straits of Mackinac.
The construction of the Mackinac Bridge eliminated the need for the Old Mackinac Light, but it was eventually added to the National Register of Historic Places and opened to the public as a museum in 2004.
Au Sable Light | Burt Township
Au Sable Light, on Au Sable Point, is a mile-and-a-half hike from Hurricane River Campground along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
You can take a tour of the bottom of the Upper Peninsula lighthouse, which currently serves as a small museum, or you can make the 87-foot climb to take in spectacular sights and enjoy the serenity of the dunes and waves.
Gravelly Shoal Lighthouse | Au Gres
Located in Saginaw Bay, this Art Deco-style light is an active aid to navigation and was designed to guide ships between Gravelly Shoals and Charity Island.
The tower stands 65 feet tall and the light is fully autonomous and is monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard in Tawas. The National Weather Service also operates an automated weather observing station there.
Gravelly Shoal Lighthouse isn’t available for tours, but it can be seen from shore in Au Gres and on water if you happen to be traveling from Au Gres to Charity Island.
If you’re up for further exploration, tours of Charity Island are available, which can include private tours of the lightkeeper’s house at the renovated Charity Island Light.
Beaver Island Head Lighthouse | Beaver Island
Beaver Island Head Lighthouse is a remote destination — Beaver Island is roughly 15 miles from both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas in Lake Michigan — that can only be reached by plane or ferry from Charlevoix.
The trip is worth it though, as the 46-foot tower provides an entirely unique view of an island covered by thick forests and inland lakes.
A quick climb down a wooden walkway also leads you to the beach below the tower to explore the old Fog House.
Middle Island Light | Alpena County
Michigan’s Sunrise Side is home to several great lighthouses, including the Thunder Bay Island and the New Presque Isle Light.
But it’s also home to Middle Island Light, which is situated on Middle Island, about 10 miles north of Alpena. The light is a three-piece structure made of the actual light, a double keeper’s house, and a fog signal.
The light tower stands 70 feet and the light is under the care of the Middle Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. In 2006, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse | Ludington
About halfway between Muskegon and Traverse City, you’ll find the beach town of Ludington, itself an underrated gem, and Big Sable Point Lighthouse.
Although it is a mile and a half walk down the beach from the nearest parking, this unique lighthouse is regarded by those in the know as one of the most beautiful.
Originally made of porous Cream City Brick in 1867, the facade deteriorated quickly and was covered with familiar brick-shaped pieces of sheet steel in 1900.
William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse | Detroit
Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse is perhaps the most unique lighthouse in Michigan. Standing on a man-made piece of land on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, it is the only lighthouse in the United States made of marble.
Befitting its location along the Detroit River, the Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse was designed by Albert Kahn, considered the “Architect of Detroit,” whose work includes the Fisher Building, Cadillac Place, Belle Isle Aquarium, and several other notable landmarks.
The historical site serves as a reminder of the accomplishments of William Livingstone, a key figure in the growth of shipping along the Detroit River channel and across the Great Lakes.
White River Light | Whitehall
Considered to be one of the area’s most historic landmarks, the White River Lighthouse Station stands as a relic of Michigan’s nautical history on a thin peninsula that separates Lake Michigan and White Lake.
Visitors can climb the cream-yellow, 38-foot light’s spiral staircase to catch amazing views of White Lake, Lake Michigan, and, of course, the picturesque sand dunes.
The light was built in 1975 and is now a seasonal museum that’s open to the public. The museum includes a collection of nautical artifacts and photos from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Point Peninsula Light | Rapid River
Nestled on the Stonington Peninsula on the southern coast of the U.P., this natural yellow light makes for quite the sight in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse was first lit in 1866 and deactivated in 1936.
While the 40-foot light is a site unto itself, it’s also a hidden gem for other reasons. First, it’s considered to be a paradise for rock collectors as its rocky shoreline yields fossils that are millions of years old.
Second, it’s an important spot for the migration of monarch butterflies. On their way to Wisconsin every fall, the butterflies gather by the thousands at the Point Peninsula Light before journeying across Green Bay.
The lighthouse is also a popular spot for migratory birds and is known in some circles as the Point Pelee of the Upper Peninsula.
Seul Choix Point | Gulliver
Tucked away along the northwest corner of Lake Michigan, Seul Choix (Sis-shwa), means “only choice” in French. It dates back to 1892 and measures 77 feet tall.
It is thought to be one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the state and is easily recognized by its white and black markings and red roof.
The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and is open to the public for tours. That includes visitors being able to climb the lighthouse tower. The grounds are open year-round and tours are seasonal.
For those who believe in ghosts, the light is rumored to be haunted by former lightkeeper Joseph W. Townsend.
Lansing Shoals | Lake Michigan
Located in northeastern Lake Michigan, this light station stands at the north end of a narrow passage that ships come through on the Lake Michigan side of the Straits of Mackinac.
The light here was first lit in 1928 as shipments of iron ore from Escanaba increased the need for better lighting in the area.
The Lansing Shoals Light Station sits on a stone bed with caissons made of concrete forming the foundation. While it’s not the easy light to get to, it remains an important station nonetheless to ships navigating the waters of Lake Superior, especially during the later months of the year.
Crisp Point | Newberry
Located to the west of Whitefish Point, Crisp Point is the site of one of five U.S. Life-Saving Service Stations on Lake Superior. The light sits along a stretch known as Shipwreck Coast; a stretch where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in 1975.
Through the years, the lighthouse, which stands 58 feet tall, and the life-saving station have both seen their fair share of damage, due to erosion.
Once in a state of severe disrepair, Crisp Point has risen like a phoenix from the ashes and has been restored to top-notch conditions, Renovations have included the rebuilding of a service building, the addition of a visitor center, and brick restoration of the tower.
Visit An Underrated Michigan Lighthouse Today
So jump in your car and head in any direction toward Michigan’s beautiful coastline. Take your time driving slowly along the coast and keep your eyes peeled for towering lighthouses.
Whether you’re a lighthouse fanatic or you’ve never seen a lighthouse up close, the great state of Michigan offers plenty of opportunity to see these magnificent structures.
Did we forget any other spectacular Michigan lighthouses? Let us know what we missed in the comments!