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Whitefish Point: What to See (Lake Superior, Shipwreck Museum)

whitefish point light station

Visit Whitefish Point Michigan and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Whitefish Point, home to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, a bird observatory, an underwater preserve and Michigan’s oldest still operating light station on Lake Superior, should be at the top of your Michigan travel bucket list.

This pretty, unspoiled spot, set on a windswept, Whitefish Bay cape jutting into Lake Superior is not only picturesque, it’s also historically significant.

Interwoven with the stunning natural beauty of the area is the dramatic history of the Great Lakes shipping industry along Michigan’s Shipwreck Coast, where evidence still remains of the fierce capabilities of Lake Superior.

It’s here where you’ll learn the facts of the tragic Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck, where 29 crew members lost their lives, and see artifacts from the ship, too.

In addition, Whitefish Point is a designated Globally Important Birding Area, where more than 300 different species of migratory bird visit annually.

Read on to learn more about Whitefish Point, and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise, Michigan.

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Visiting Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Whitefish Point, MI – 18335 N Whitefish Point Rd, Paradise, MI 49768

You can tour both the Whitefish Point Light station and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum with the same admission. The museum tour is a great opportunity to learn a little about Michiagn’s maritime history in an enjoyable and interesting way, suitable for children and adults alike.

The tour of the shipwreck museum campus includes a self-guided tour of the Shipwreck Museum building and exhibits, a 20-minute video presentation, a self-guided tour of 1861 lightkeeper’s quarters, and a self-guided tour of 1923 Surfboat House. You’ll also find hiking trails on the grounds, and a museum store.

Be sure to stop by the Visitor Information Center for detailed information about the area.

  • Museum Admission Prices are available on the website with special deals for families and members.
  • Museum Hours: May 1 to October 31, 10 am to 6 pm
  • Drones use is strictly prohibited.
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Getting to Whitefish Point

Located in the eastern part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this remote area of Chippewa County can be reached by following Whitefish Point Rd. north from Paradise. It’s whether you’re making a day trip from your vacation at Tahquamenon Falls or Mackinac Island. It’s also just under two hours from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore if you’re vacationing there.
By Car:
From Traverse City: 3.5 hours
From Grand Rapids: 5 hours
From Detroit: 5.5 hours
From Marquette: 3 hours
From Mackinaw City

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About Whitefish Point

One of the most popular historical sites in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Whitefish Point is an iconic must-see for any resident or visitor of the Great Lake State. Home of a former United States Coast Guard station, this point along Lake Superior is filled with powerful history.

Whitefish Point Light

The light station at Whitefish Point was established in 1849 and is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. The area was an early stopping place for Native Americans, Voyageurs, Coureur des bois and Jesuit missionaries as they navigated the wild Great Lakes coasts.

The lighthouse itself was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and again as a Michigan State Historic Site in 1974.

The standing structure was constructed in 1861 and stands on the eastern edge of the largest Great Lake.

At 80 feet tall with a bright white facade capped by a bright red roof, it’s very picturesque: you’ll want to bring your camera to capture some photos.

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Restoration of the Whitefish Point Light Station

Operating for almost 175 years, the Whitefish Point lighthouse was in need of additional repairs.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society, after receiving a license from the U.S. Coast Guard, has been raising money to restore each of the nine historical buildings at Whitefish Point.

Seven of the structures have been fully restored while two, the light tower and the U.S. Navy Radio Station Barrack Building, remain in progress. The lighthouse is being restored to replace the original tower that fell to severe winds in 1860.

While the original structure was made of stone, the restored tower is made from iron and copper.
Michigan’s Shipwreck Coast

The “Shipwreck Coast” is the stretch of Lake Superior between Grand Marais and Whitefish Point. Of the 550 major shipwrecks of Lake Superior, 200 of them are along this 80-mile coast. The clear and cold water has preserved these shipwrecks, making the area a popular destination for divers and underwater explorers in the Great Lakes region.

whitefish point

Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve

The Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve, established in 1987, protects and conserves shipwrecks and historical resources in the area around Whitefish Bay and around Whitefish Point.

guide to the wreck of the edmund fitzgerald

The Edmund Fitzgerald Shipwreck

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum emphasizes the history of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes freighter that fell victim to Lake Superior’s “Shipwreck Coast” only seventeen miles from Whitefish Point where the museum now stands. The 29-member crew was lost on November 10th, 1975.

Aboard the vessel was a 200-pound bell, which now sits in the museum to honor her crewmembers. The bell initially fell along with the vessel but in seeking closure in 1995, the families of the crew suggested that a significant artifact be recovered from the shipwreck site.

Divers recovered the bell and replaced it with a replica bell that has the names of the lost crewmembers engraved on it. The original bell was cleaned and restored to be displayed in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

With over 75,000 visitors every season, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum helps to honor and remember the crew members that lost their lives aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald. Whitefish Point continues to host the nine historical structures for visitors to explore.

Guided and self-guided tours are offered both in the museum and throughout the exhibits. With over a century of history, a visit to Whitefish Point is an emotional and life-changing experience.

whitefish point

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory

You can’t visit Whitefish Point without making a stop at the Whitefish Point Bird Observatory, 16914 N Whitefish Point Rd, Paradise, MI 49768. Located adjacent to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, it is part of the Michigan Audubon Society and is a bird migration hot-spot in Michigan.

Home to many rare birds, more than 340 different pieces of bird have been recorded here. Known as a birder’s paradise, the observatory works to increase knowledge about migratory birds and the environment.

This unique spot provides a quiet to learn about the beautiful birds and capture some great photos, if you are lucky. As a lifelong Michigan traveler, this is one of my favorite spots in the state for viewing birds in their natural habitats.

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More Activities in Paradise MI

Visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park, home to the largest waterfalls on this side of the Mississippi. A set of two falls, the Upper and Lower Falls, both are ADA accessible, and one of the most popular travel destinations in Michigan. You might also want to stop by the Tahquamenon Falls brewery, one of Michigan’s top breweries.

Whitefish Point Beach

Walk past the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum toward Lake Superior to the beach. It’s a sandy and rocky beach and a good place to search for Yooperlites, a glow-in-the-dark rock found along these shores.

Where to Stay If You Go

IF YOU GO: The Paradise Cottage with Lake and Trail Access Onsite is a perfect spot to stay any time of the year. We’ve stayed there in summer, fall and winter, and have been very happy with this clean, comfortable and charming three-bedroom cottage. You’ll find a fully equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and microwave, too. It’s really a prime location for exploring the Tahquamenon Falls area.

What is the Most Famous Shipwreck in the Great Lakes?

The most famous shipwreck in the Great Lakes is the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, the largest freighter to ever sink on the Great Lakes. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a Great Lakes Freighter that tragically sank into Lake Superior, near Whitefish Point, on November 10, 1975, carrying 29 crew men to their death after encountering a freak storm.

What is Whitefish Point known for?

Whitefish Point is known for the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, a bird observatory, an underwater preserve and Michigan’s oldest still operating light station on Lake Superior.

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About The Author
Content Writer Anna is currently a fourth-year student at Grand Valley State University studying Writing and Psychology. She has been writing for years and hopes to continue writing for many years as a creative outlet and potential career. Currently, she is working on finishing her Bachelor of Arts degree and figuring out what career field she wants to enter after graduation in the spring of 2023.