Visit West Michigan Lighthouses

Photo by: Todd & Brad Reed Photography 

Incredible Structures With a Rich History

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.

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

You’ve seen it in numerous photographs, and it is now ranked #1 in Michigan lights to visit. Ludington’s North Breakwater Light is a focal point within the community, and a great place to watch the sunset or wave at the S.S. Badger (Lake Michigan Carferry) as it cruises from its dock in Ludington out onto Lake Michigan. During open hours, visitors can climb the 53 steps to the top. The breakwall leading out to the light is a popular venue for fishermen and those who enjoy walking the mile-long round trip.

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm May 28-September 6, 2021.

Read more about Ludington’s North Breakwater Light.

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

Big Sable Point Lighthouse

The black-and-white striped, 112 foot 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 daily May 10-October 24, 2021.

Read more about Big Sable Point Lighthouse.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse sits at its home in Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Silver Lake Park. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

Little Sable Point Lighthouse

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 daily May 28-September 19, 2021.

Read more about Little Sable Point Lighthouse.

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

Pentwater’s Pierhead Lights

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.

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

Manistee’s North Pierhead Lighthouse

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.

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

White River Light Station

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, late May-late October. May 21, 2021-Oct. 25, 2021. October hours are 11am-4pm.

Read more about White River Light Station.

The Grand Haven Lighthouse & Piers' lights begin to come on as the sun sets on Lake Michigan. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography

Grand Haven Lighthouse & Pier

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.