Where to Find the Most Picturesque Lighthouses in the Midwest
Think idyllic lighthouse silhouettes are relegated to the East or West coast? Think again. With shorelines pressed up against the Great Lakes, the Midwest has more than its fair share of historic beacons repelling shipwrecks and drawing in curious visitors. Here are eight gorgeous lighthouses across the region.
Marblehead Lighthouse, Marblehead, Ohio
Perched on the rocky shore of Lake Erie since 1822, Marblehead is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes. (The first keeper was a Revolutionary War veteran!) Climb 77 steps to the top for views of the water and, on a clear day, the distant Cleveland shoreline. The museum in the keeper's house is handicap accessible and houses artifacts and historic photos of the area (think: local fossils and shipwrecks).
Split Rock Lighthouse, Two Harbors, Minnesota
Minnesota's North Shore is a necklace of natural and man-made marvels. Standing atop a 130-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior, Split Rock's brick and black facade looks like something out of a movie (and, to be fair, it was featured in Baz Luhrmann's 2013 film, The Great Gatsby). The elegant octagonal structure is no longer an active lighthouse but is still open for visitors. Climb to the top to see the light beacon eye-to-eye, then descend the nearly 200 stairs from the lighthouse down to the water.
Holland Harbor Lighthouse, Holland, Michigan
Known affectionately as "Big Red," Holland Harbor is Michigan's most photographed lighthouse. The cherry-red tower stands watch at the channel between Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa. For the best view, take a stroll down the boardwalk on the north pier or climb the dune staircase at Mount Pisgah, 157 feet above sea level. Planning a trip soon? Check out the top things to do in Holland, Michigan.
Toledo Harbor Lighthouse, Lucas County, Ohio
Lighthouse or haunted house? Toledo Harbor Lighthouse manages to fit both vibes into one maritime package. Overlooking Lake Erie, this structure is over a century old and still acts as an active lighthouse safeguarding the entrance to Maumee Bay. While visitors are not allowed inside, boat tours are available; plus, the original Fresnel lens can be viewed at the Quilter Lodge at Maumee Bay State Park. Keep watch for the spooky "phantom lightkeeper" who is said to beckon sailors from an upper-story window.
Cana Island Light Station, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin
One of the most traditional-looking lighthouses on our list, Cana Island Light Station stands 89 feet tall overlooking Baileys Harbor in Wisconsin's famously picturesque Door County. While the view from the top is amazing, the best part of the experience might be boarding a hay wagon pulled by a tractor to get to the tower.
White Shoal Lighthouse, Emmet County, Michigan
White Shoal's red and white candy cane stripes stand 121 feet tall overlooking Lake Michigan, about 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge. Easily the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes, it's also instantly recognizable from the display on Michigan's "Save Our Lights" license plate. This light is visible only from the water, which means to view you'll need to hop on a boat tour to see this one up close.
Sturgeon Bay Pierhead Light, Door County, Wisconsin
A bright red, Cape Cod-style lighthouse, Sturgeon Bay Pierhead Light is begging to be photographed. While the inside is closed to the public, the long pier that leads up to the light is a perfect photo op and perch to watch boats pass by.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Ludington, Michigan
Big Sable Point Lighthouse on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan looks like a real-life postcard. The 112-foot-tall tower is made of Milwaukee "Cream City" brick with a bold black stripe around its belly. It was built in the 1860s and is still an active aid to navigation. Visitors can climb 130 steps to the top of its tower for views of the rugged coast. Afterward, sprawl out on the beach for a picnic lunch.