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Lake Michigan Lighthouses Guide

Lake Michigan Lighthouses: 19 Must-See Spots

With over 115 lighthouses, Michigan is home to more lighthouses than any other state – and nearly half are found on the Lake Michigan coast.

Even just along the Lake Michigan shoreline, you’ll find lighthouses of all kinds, ranging from bold red pierhead lights, tall columns that tower over the sandy beaches they guard, and even ones with keeper quarters attached (some of which are available for stays).

Read on to learn more about these mysterious landmarks – some of which are even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

South Haven Lighthouse on Lake Michigan
South Haven Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Explore these Lake Michigan Lighthouses

The sheer quantity and diversity of these lighthouses mean the list is is incredibly long, but we’ve made it easy with a compact list of some of the best, must-visit lighthouses on Lake Michigan.

Fall is the perfect time to visit these lighthouses, too: the crowds have thinned out and you’ll catch some amazing lake breezes. 

If you’re a Michigan traveler or someone who loves exploring our stunning Great Lakes coast, you’ll want to see these beautiful lighthouses that dot our shoreline.

st joseph mi

St. Joseph North Pier Lighthouses

Charming St. Joseph, Michigan, also known as the “Riviera of the Midwest” doesn’t do anything small, so of course, there are two lighthouses here.

The town’s stunningly picturesque pier is a focal point of the shoreline, and that’s where you’ll find a unique pair of lighthouses.   

You’ll most likely recognize these iconic lighthouses, located on the North Pier, from a picture or calendar: they’re that pretty.

These lighthouses mark the mouth of the St. Joseph River, and they’re a popular tourist destination throughout the summer and into the fall. 

This lighthouse pair was built in 1907 and consists of an inner and outer light connected by an elevated catwalk.

The pier inner light is a round structure in the middle of the pier. The pier outer light is a white house with a 35-foot tower that sits at the end of the pier.

In the summer, dramatic sunset views paint the sky over Lake Michigan. In winter, the scene changes dramatically:  the lighthouses become coated in a slick sheet of ice and snow that looks otherworldly.

If You Go: St. Joe is home to some of the prettiest Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan, and it’s very family-friendly.

You might want to plan at least a weekend around visiting this lighthouse, because once you see the cure downtown – complete with brick-paved streets – you’ll want to spend at least a day wandering here.

You’ll find some good restaurants; fudge and ice cream spots; gift shops and even some top-rated arts galleries downtown. 

Stop by the White Pine Winery and Lazy Ballerina’s downtown tasting rooms, too. St. Joseph is located right on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, and several wineries are located nearby.

There is a wide range of both independent and chain hotels in St. Joseph, as well as private vacation rentals if you decide to stay overnight or make a weekend out of your visit.  

Holland MI's "Big Red" Lighthouse
Holland MI’s “Big Red” Lighthouse

Holland Harbor Lighthouse

One of the most popular tourist destinations in west Michigan, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse has such an unforgettable and unique shape that we couldn’t possibly skip over it.

This lighthouse, known as “Big Red,” looks remarkably like a big red house. The single most photographed lighthouse in Michigan is well worth a visit.

Go to Holland State Park and travel along the boardwalk to the north pier for a fantastic view that’s also wheelchair accessible.

Or for a bigger trek,  consider visiting Mt. Pisgah where the staircase over the dunes rewards you with a beautiful view from 157 feet above sea level. 

You can’t visit the Holland Harbor Light without at least stopping by downtown Holland, MI.

Tourism is their business in this little Dutch town, and the local restaurants and businesses cater to visitors.

If you visit in the late spring, you can time your trip to Holland MI around the National Tulip Festival. The festival is a week-long celebration of the area’s rich Dutch heritage. The entire town comes alive with fun activities and millions of colorful tulips in bloom.   

If You Go: You’ll want to wander down Eighth Street, a cute few brick-paved blocks of shops and restaurants.

Be sure and check out Centennial  Park, a Victorian-era park that pays homage to one-time summer resident L. Frank Baum.

Baum is said to have authored “The Wizard of Oz” while vacationing on nearby Lake Macatawa. This almost six-acre park features a pretty gazebo, a fountain, and stunning floral displays.  

South Haven Lighthouse
South Haven Lighthouse

South Haven & Grand Haven South Pier Lighthouses

The west Michigan lighthouses at South Haven and Grand Haven stand as a sort of mirror to each other across about 50 miles of Lake Michigan coastline.

Built in 1903 and 1881 respectively, these two grand lighthouses act as symbols of Michigan’s maritime culture with their bright red paint and classic designs.

Welcoming thousands of visitors each year, these are some of the most photographed lighthouses in the state – and it’s easy to see why.

South Haven Light 

Located at the end of South Pier at the spot where the Black River meets Lake Michigan, the pretty, red South Haven Light is still operational.

Walking along the pier to the lighthouse is a rite-of-passage for visitors to this popular Lake Michigan beach town. 

If You Go: South Haven’s South Beach offers a beautiful stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline, and it’s ADA-accessible too. You can access the pier here, or find a spot on the beach or at one of the picnic tables lining the paved pathway.

If you visit in the summer or fall, you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Friends Good Will. This tall ship is a replica of a square-rigged sailboat from the War of 1812, and is operated by the Michigan Maritime Museum.

You can catch a ride on the Friends Good Will or watch it majestically sail down the Black River, past the lighthouse, and into Lake Michigan. It’s pure Michigan fun. 

Grand Haven Lights 

There are two lighthouses located on Grand Haven’s south pier.

These pier lights are a popular stop on the Lake Michigan circle tour and are both quite picturesque. Both of the Grand Haven lighthouses are painted red and are connected by a lighted catwalk.

These lighthouses are accessible via the Grand Haven boardwalk and the shoreline in Grand Haven State Park.

The inner light is shaped like a cylinder and the Grand Haven north pierhead light resembles a square red house.

Standing way out in Lake Michigan against frothy whitecaps and bright, blue sky, they make a perfect Michigan picture. 

If You Go: Plan to spend some time exploring the beachfront here: both Grand Haven City Beach and Grand Haven State Park offer wide, sugar-sand beaches with lots of room to spread out.

They’re both ADA-accessible, with wide, paved pathways and a free Trak chair for even more beach accessibility. You can see the chair in action in this amazing review on the YouTube channel “Paralyzed Living,” found here.

We love to wander downtown Grand Haven and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants lining the streets of the downtown area.

Follow the main street until it dead-ends into the boardwalk. Walk along the boardwalk and take in the pretty Lake Michigan views; it’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon.     

Little Sable Point Lighthouse
Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Big & Little Sable Point Lighthouses

It’s just another reason to love Ludington: two of the state’s prettiest lighthouses sit along this beautifully wild stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline. 

The Big and Little Sable Point lighthouses are some of the tallest lighthouses in Michigan.

In Ludington, the Big Sable Point lighthouse stands over 110 feet tall and Little Sable Point lighthouse sits to the south in Mears, but don’t be fooled by the name, this light is only a few feet shorter than its bigger sibling.

The way these giant lighthouses sit on isolated shores makes them both great choices for a unique summer beach spot, or an eerie winter exploration site.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Big Sable Point Light

Black-and-white-striped Big Sable Point Light is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to the Ludington area.

It’s a short trek across some low-lying dunes to get to the lighthouse, and once you’re there, you’ll be so glad you made the trip. 

Located just inside Ludington State Park (one of the state’s most-visited spots), the Big Sable Point Light is active and still operational.

Visitors can climb the lighthouse tower and visit the gift shop to find something to commemorate the trip to this iconic Michigan lighthouse.

Little Sable Point Light 

Pink-bricked Little Sable Point Light, just south of Silver Lake Sand Dunes, is one of our favorite lighthouses in all of Michigan for a very simple reason: we love the way the pretty color of this lighthouse looks standing tall against a blue sky, an aqua Lake Michigan and the silvery sand beach. 

The last time we were there, we discovered we were not alone: a pair of doves snuggled up close in one of the window ledges, watching the waves landing on the shore. They were in love with it, too. 

The surrounding beach is pristine here too, and you’ll find little dunes and trails to explore.  

If You Go: Both of these lighthouses are minutes away from downtown Ludington, a popular vacation spot for visitors drawn to the beautiful beaches, rivers, and forests found here. 

You’ll find many options for camping as well as some hotels bot china and local in the area.

Be sure and visit Stearns Park, a well-appointed beachfront park where you can catch a glimpse of yet another lighthouse: the Ludington North Breakwater Light. 

Lake Michigan can get rough here, so be sure you’re knowledgeable about water safety if you decide to hit the water. 

If you venture into to downtown Ludington, you won’t want to miss House of Flavors, which once tried to break a record for creating the world’s largest sundae. 

Ludington Travel Guide

Muskegon South Pierhead Lighthouse & South Breakwater Light

Muskegon is home to two lighthouses, the South Pierhead Lighthouse and the South Breakwater Light.

Both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, these picturesque lighthouses are popular tourist attractions in Michigan. 

The South Pierhead Lighthouse is 48 feet tall and is located in the harbor, accessible by a pedestrian walkway.

If you’re up to it, you can climb the 48-step spiral staircase to the top of this red tower and peer out at some pretty spectacular views of Lake Michigan. 

The South Breakwater Light is located at the end of the breakwater surrounding the mouth of the Muskegon channel.

Standing at 63-feet tall, this lighthouse was built in 1931 and is about a half-mile from shore.

Open for tours, you can access the light by walking the paved path atop the rocky breakwater. 

Despite their proximity, these lighthouses stand out against one another; the boxy geometric shape of the lonely and eerie Breakwater Light contrasts the traditional shape and bright red of the inviting Pierhead Lighthouse. 

If You Go: Access to the Muskegon Lighthouses is adjacent to Pere Marquette, a gorgeous beachfront park.

This park is one of the nicest beachfront parks along Lake Michigan and offers so many amenities, including a restaurant, snack bar, playground area, restrooms, handicapped walkway, picnic tables, sand volleyball courts, kite-boarding rentals/lessons, paddle-board, and jet-ski rentals, and more.

Pack a picnic and plan to spend a day here. 

White River Light Station
White River Light Station

White River Light Station

When it comes to historic lighthouses on the Great Lakes, THIS is what we’re talking about.

During the 1860s, a Whitehall local decided the White River Light Station was necessary for ships traversing in and out of the White River – and so the White River Light Station was built.

The light-colored bricks used in its construction create a homey atmosphere and the trees all around make this isolated beacon a must-see destination without the crowds that other lighthouses can draw in.

Allegedly haunted by the original keeper and his family, make this a destination during the Halloween season. 

Almost 150 years old, this decommissioned lighthouse now serves as a museum celebrating Michigan’s rich nautical history.

Open to the public, visitors can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse and check out some of the neat artifacts included in the museum exhibits. 

During the 1860s, a Whitehall local decided the White River Light Station was necessary for ships traversing in and out of the White River – and so the White River Light Station was built.

The light-colored bricks used in its construction create a homey atmosphere and the trees all around make this isolated beacon a must-see destination without the crowds that other lighthouses can draw in.

Allegedly haunted by the original keeper and his family, make this a destination during the Halloween season. 

If You Go: If you love outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and kayaking, Whitehall is a spot you might want to linger a bit.

Along with its sister city, Montague, these quaint, small towns are very charming. You’ll find some chain hotels alongside some tried-and-true Inns and Bed and Breakfasts, too.    

Point Betsie Lighthouse
Point Betsie Lighthouse

Point Betsie Lighthouse

In Frankfort, the Point Betsie Lighthouse delivers an unrivaled charm.

This northwest Michigan lighthouse is situated on the shore and the tower itself is connected to a cozy white house where the lighthouse keeper would reside.

The quaint keeper’s quarters are available to the public for rent, offering an opportunity for a stay in Frankfort like no other all year round.

Summer sunsets cast the grounds in the glow of the golden hour, but winter snowfall seems to engulf the whole house, and ice coats the landscape, camouflaging the house, except for its bright red roof. 

The picturesque Point Betsie Light may be one of the most photographed lighthouses in Michigan.

No matter the season, the pretty white house with a red roof is captivating. Catch a shot as the fierce, dark blue waves of Lake Michigan pound the shore and you’ll have a picture worth framing. 

If You Go: Plan to spend some time exploring downtown Frankfort, MI.

It’s a charming small town with a definite Cape Cod-esque feel. Amid the Tee-shirt and gift shops, you’ll find some great food and drink.

We (along with most others who visit) are big fans of Stormcloud Brewing and  L’Chayim Delicatessen. We also like Papano’s Pizza, local chain that serves up some pretty good pies.

Try to stay at the Hotel Frankfort, which is just steps from a beautiful Lake Michigan public beach, or Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Crystal Mountain is about 15 minutes from Frankfort but the accommodations and grounds are lovely. 

Frankfort Michigan travel Guide
Guide to the Leelanau peninsula

South Manitou Island Lighthouse

The only lighthouse on this list found on an island, the South Manitou Island Lighthouse is a unique Lake Michigan Lighthouse. 

Located within the boundaries of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County, it’s one of northern Michigan’s most remote lights.

The island light is visible from the mainland, some 20 miles away. 

This most identifiable landmark on the island is over 100 feet tall, and visiting the island for a closer look is well worth it.

From the dock, a half-mile walk through the village and to the boardwalk will take you over the dunes to the lighthouse where you can get a tour and see the breathtaking view from the top. 

If You Go: You can get to South Manitou by private boat or passenger ferry. It’s a 90-minute trip by ferry to South Manitou Island; service is provided by Manitou Island Transit.

Catch the ferry at the dock in Leland, MI.  Ferry service is seasonal, be sure and check their website for more information on planning your trip.

You can camp on the island (it’s primitive) or you can find accommodations in nearby Leland or Glen Arbor. We love staying at The Homestead, a beachfront resort in the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. They offer a wide range of accommodations at different price points, and it’s pet-friendly, too.

Plan on extending your stay a bit if you visit, you’ll want to be sure to take some time to explore the stunning national lakeshore and the surrounding towns of Empire, Glen Arbor, and Leland.

Schedule a time to watch the sunset at the public beach in Empire; grab a burger at the infamous Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor; visit the Cherry Republic and then head over to Fishtown in Leland.

Old Mission Lighthouse
Old Mission Lighthouse

Old Mission Point Lighthouse

If the sheer natural beauty of Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula isn’t enough, drive to the tip of this scenic peninsula.

Here, jutting out proudly into Grand Traverse Bay, you’ll find a popular Great Lakes lighthouse. 

The lighthouse at the end of Old Mission Point was built in 1870 as a replica of the Mama Juda Light, originally built on the Detroit River in 1866, but today it stands on its own as an iconic light on the northern Lake Michigan shore.

The drive to the light through seemingly endless cherry orchards and vineyards leads to a cute little house with a light on top which offers picturesque views of Lake Michigan.

Though it’s no longer active, visitors can still peer into the life of those who kept the light during its heyday. 

If You Go: This is another spot where you’ll want to stay at least one night.

There’s simply so much to do in the area from exploring the local wineries and breweries to hiking the trails abundant in the area to exploring downtown Traverse City.

You can stay on the peninsula, many of the local Traverse City wineries also offer accommodations. You can also opt to stay at a hotel or Bed and Breakfast in Traverse City.

Be sure and visit the Old Mission General Store and the Lavender Farm for some handmade soaps and oils.

We’re also fans of Chateau Chantal and Blackstar Farms wineries.  

Seul Choix Lighthouse
Seul Choix Lighthouse

Seul Choix Point Lighthouse

Built in 1892 and still operational, this 77-foot tall lighthouse guards a very treacherous stretch of Lake Michigan coastline.

This area was once used by French traders and Native Americans as a harbor of refuge.

Located along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, the lighthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Seul Choix Point Lighthouse guards the southern Lake Michigan coast of the Upper Peninsula in Gulliver.

Much like the White River Light Station, stories of unexplainable occurrences and spooky happenings make their way out of this destination, making it a favorite for those who take interest in the paranormal.

However, even those uninterested in ghost stories can appreciate the classic nautical style of the stark white light tower, and the lovely little brick home attached is where the keepers lived.

If You Go: This is a beautiful and quiet area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but don’t be fooled: there is a lot to be seen here. Kitch-Iti-Kipi (or the Big Spring) is Michigan’s largest freshwater spring.

You can take a ride across this 40-foot deep, clear, emerald-green spring on a hand-pulled raft, where you can gaze down at the fishing swimming below.

It’s a must-see for anyone visiting the area so don’t miss it.  

You can read more about Kitch-Iti-Kipi here.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse on lake Michigan
Grand Traverse Lighthouse on lake Michigan

More Lake Michigan Lighthouses to See

Manistee’s North Pierhead Light
Grand Traverse Light
Pentwater Pierhead Lights
Charlevoix South Pier Light Station

About the Author
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland and later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school and she is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds,