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Photo by: Todd & Brad Reed Photography 

West Michigan Lighthouses

Lighthouses symbolize safety, a fascinating maritime history — and have a romantic nature about them. Our area of West Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline has its share of these wonderful structures, from Manistee’s North Pierhead Lighthouse down to Little Sable Point Lighthouse at Silver Lake.

Most were constructed in the late 1800s, when the lumber industry was at its peak. The lighthouses were especially useful in the mid-1900s, when Ludington’s Lake Michigan harbor was home to a large carferry fleet.

Today, thanks to organizations that are dedicated to preserving these lighthouses, they proudly stand on the shores of a sometimes turbulent Lake Michigan, opening their doors to visitors, and continue to guide vessels into port.

On This Page

Ludington's North Breakwater Light

The S.S. Badger carferry travels out to Lake Michigan passing the Ludington North Breakwater Light. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

Ludington’s North Breakwater Light has been ranked as the #1 lighthouse to visit in Michigan. This iconic lighthouse, located at the end of Ludington Avenue, is accessible from the Stearns Park. It’s a focal point within the community, and a great place to watch the sunset! Visitors and locals enjoy walking the long outer break wall (a mile-long round trip) leading out to the light. This location provides a close look at the S.S. Badger carferry as it cruises from its home port to cross Lake Michigan, from Ludington to Manitowoc, and back. During open hours, visitors can climb the 53 steps to the top of the North Breakwater Light. 

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm May 23-September 3, 2023.

Read more about Ludington’s North Breakwater Light.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Ice crystals form along the shore of Lake Michigan in front of Big Sable Point Lighthouse. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

The black-and-white striped, 112 foot Big Sable Point Lighthouse at the Ludington State Park stands proudly on the shores of Lake Michigan and remains a testament to lighthouse keepers of the past. The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is listed on both the state and national registers of historic places. From May-October, visitors can hike the 1.5 miles from the parking lot to the beach and climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower, which offers a spectacular view of the Lake Michigan waters. The original keeper’s quarters houses a gift shop, where you can pick up a memento of your visit.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm May 9-October 22, 2023.

Read more about Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Aurora at Point Betsie as part of the Northern Lights.
Nestled in a dune just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Point Betsie Lighthouse tower stands 39 feet tall, but with the height of the dune it towers 52 feet above the water line. Point Betsie was the last lighthouse on the Great Lakes to be manually serviced, and was fully automated in 1983. The light could originally be spotted as far away as 27.5 miles with the Fourth Order Fresnel Lens it came equipped with. Upon automation the Fresnel Lens was replaced with a Vega VRB-25 system, which has a range of 15-22 miles. Today Point Betsie stands in quiet testimony to the many keepers who maintained the light while their wives maintained the household, tended gardens, and watched their children playfully explore the dunes. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and manned for 106 years, Point Betsie offers a fascinating visit for history buffs and those who just want to relax. Sporting the same paint scheme the lighthouse had in the 1940s, it has been preserved and is cared for by “The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse”. If visiting Frankfort, or Sleeping Bear Dunes in Benzie County, make sure to visit this historic lighthouse. Wander the grounds, explore the accompanying fog station stroll the beach, or have a family picnic. Read more about Point Betsie Lighthouse in Frankfort.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

The Grand Traverse Lighthouse is situated at the end of the Leelanau Peninsula within the Leelanau State Park, about eight miles north of the town of Northport. It’s one of the oldest lighthouses on the Great Lakes, and has guided ships in the Manitou Passage of Lake Michigan for close to 150 years. This lighthouse is sponsored by the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Foundation and you may tour the historic and educational museum, which depicts a lighthouse keeper’s dwelling from the early 1900s. You will find a variety of exhibits depicting a broad spectrum of maritime and local history. Inside the lighthouse you can view various exhibits, including shipwrecks, foghorns, and other area lighthouses. Demonstrations on the foghorn take place throughout the year, and a small admission fee lets you climb the tower where you are treated to fantastic views of Lake Michigan. Read more about Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Leelanau State Park.

Frankfort North Breakwater Light

A visit to the charming city of Frankfort in Benzie County wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Frankfort North Breakwater Light. The current light was constructed in 1912 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Standing 44 feet tall, the light is placed on top of a 25-foot tall square steel base. The cast iron lantern room, which is surrounded by a gallery, originally contained a fifth order Fresnel lens that was upgraded to a fourth order Fresnel lens. Located on the west side of downtown Frankfort, you can walk the breakwater out to the lighthouse, and fish off the pier. To reach the Frankfort North Breakwater Light, take Main Street to the beach where there is public parking, a playground, and benches for relaxing and enjoying a spectacular Lake Michigan sunset!

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

Little Sable Point Lighthouse sits at its home in Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Silver Lake Park. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography
About 30 miles south of Big Sable Point Lighthouse brings you to the other “point” that juts out into Lake Michigan. Located in the Silver Lake Sand Dunes and the Silver Lake State Park, Little Sable Point Lighthouse is a 107′ brick structure constructed in 1874. The Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association took over the maintenance of the lighthouse in 2005. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm May 23-September 10, 2023. Read more about Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

Pentwater's Pierhead Lights

Several people admire a sunset near one of Pentwater's Pierhead Lights. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

The Pierhead Lights of Pentwater serve as beacons to guide pleasure boats into Pentwater’s Lake Michigan harbor during the busy summer season. Pentwater’s Pierhead Lights aren’t technically lighthouses, but rather two lights. The current South Pierhead Light stands 25 feet tall, with the North Pierhead Light at 17 feet tall. Each is considered one of the few remaining pier range light systems located on the Great Lakes.

Read more about Pentwater’s Pierhead Lights.

Manistee's North Pierhead Lighthouse

A catwalk creates a path up to Manistee's North Pierhead Lighthouse. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

The most symbolic icon of the Victorian Port City is the North Pierhead Lighthouse, located between the 1st Street and 5th Avenue beaches of Manistee. Many Michigan lighthouses demolished their catwalks when the lights became electrified, so Manistee’s catwalk is a rare sight. In the late 1920s, after extensive pier renovations, the old fog signal building was replaced by the present structure. Standing watch over Lake Michigan waters, Manistee’s North Pierhead Lighthouse welcomes boaters into its harbor, and is a reminder of Manistee’s great maritime history.

Read more about Manistee’s North Pierhead Lighthouse.

White River Light Station

The White River Light State lies in Whitehall and now sits as a museum for touring. | Marion Riedl

Built in 1875, the White River Light Station is one of four lights operated by Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association. Located in Whitehall, Michigan (about 40 minutes south of Ludington), the Light Station is situated between Lake Michigan and White Lake. The light station was decommissioned in 1960 and became a museum in 1970. Here, you can climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower or view the original Fourth Order Fresnel lens. There is a $8 donation for adults and $5 for youth 17 & under to climb the tower.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, May 19-September 30, 2023; AND October 1-29 from 11am-4pm.

Read more about White River Light Station.

Grand Haven Lighthouse & Pier

The Grand Haven Lighthouse & Piers' lights begin to come on as the sun sets on Lake Michigan. | Craig Sterken

A series of lights draped like holiday lights run along the pier, only broken in the middle by the sight of the Grand Haven Lighthouse. This inner lighthouse, built in 1905, has a round tower looks elegant in its vivid red with lights stringing out on either side. As we follow the lights towards the lake we come to the breakwater’s second lighthouse. This outer light, built in 1875, has its own charm and resembles a small barn in appearance. At one time the outer light was equipped with a fog horn which could warn ships in harm’s way when the light could not be seen. The west side of the light sports a structure similar to the bow of a ship. This protects the light from the heavy swells so common on Lake Michigan.

Read more about Grand Haven Lighthouse & Pier.

Scroll below for more articles about Activities & Attractions in the West Michigan area.

West Michigan Activities & Attractions

M-22 Manistee County

Take one of the most scenic drives in the nation as you travel across M-22 in West Michigan. A long winding road of adventure awaits!

M-22 Benzie County

Take one of the most scenic drives in the nation as you travel across M-22 in West Michigan. A long winding road of adventure awaits!

Manistee Fall Color Tour

Beautiful color emerges come Fall. Take it all in with an afternoon drive, or stroll, through the many forests of West Michigan.