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With an unrivaled maritime heritage, Michigan’s northern lower peninsula is home to one of the most historic and diverse collections of lighthouses to be found anywhere in the country. For either the casual or fanatic lighthouse aficionado, your home base at Hearthside Grove affords innumerable opportunities to experience the majesty and history of these Great Lakes maritime treasures.

A 45 minute drive north on Highway 31 will take you to Mackinaw City, one of the nation’s premier maritime destinations. Here, you can tour and climb the towers of both the 1869 McGulpin Point and 1892 Old Mackinac Point lighthouses, both of which served to guide mariners through the treacherous narrows of the Straits of Mackinac. Mackinaw City also serves as the departure point for unique three-to-four-hour lighthouse cruises offered by Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry throughout the summer sea- son. With expert narration by members of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, you will learn of the perils that served as the catalyst for building these offshore sentinels, the incredible stories of their construction, and the hardships endured by the valiant keepers who served them. No trip to Mackinaw City would be complete without a tour of the retired Coast Guard icebreaker MACKINAW, which now serves her second life as a maritime museum. In addition to keeping the shipping lanes open long into the icy winter season since her commissioning in 1944, the “Queen of the Lakes” also served to take the light- house keepers to and from their lonely posts at offshore lighthouses throughout the western Great Lakes.

A two-hour run east across Michigan Highway 68 will bring you to Presque Isle on Lake Huron, where a trip north along the shores of Lake Huron to Cheboygan will provide an experience that should not be missed. The Presque Isle peninsula offers a rare opportunity to climb two towers – the 1840 “old light,” with its hand-hewn stone stairs being one of the oldest standing towers, and the 1871 “new light,” being one of the tallest on the western lakes. In Rogers City, you can obtain an eagle’s eye view into the world’s largest open pit lime- stone quarry, where huge trucks look like children’s toys as they work below in the depths of the quarry. A brief side trip to Port Calcite can afford the opportunity to watch huge freighters as they are loaded with stone from the quarry. Just north of Rogers City, you can climb the tower of the 1897 Forty Mile Point lighthouse and obtain a close-up view of its intricate Fresnel lens, which throws prismatic colors throughout the lantern on a sunny day. In the Cheboygan State Park just south of the city from which it takes its name, an enjoyable half hour hike through the woods will take you to “Lighthouse Point,” where you can view the ruins of the 1851 Cheboygan lighthouse and enjoy a magnificent view of the Straits of Mackinac and the mighty Mackinac Bridge in the distance. Finally, if you are in Cheboygan on a weekend or holiday, be sure to visit the 1880 Cheboygan River Front Range light in the heart of the city, where volunteers will be happy to show you through the lighthouse and take you out to the river mouth, where they will also take you on a tour of the 1884 Cheboygan Crib light, which originally sat out in the lake and was relocated to shore in 1984.

Tours and tower climbs; Arriving in Traverse City, an 18-mile drive north up the Old Mission Peninsula through its rolling vineyards and orchards will take you to the 1870 Mission Point lighthouse, where you can climb the tower for a view of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan beyond. A 40-minute drive north into the Leelanau Peninsula through the arts and crafts communities of Suttons Bay and Northport will bring you to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, where you can tour one of the preeminent lighthouse museums in the country. Be sure to time your return trip home to Hearthside Grove so that you pass through Charlevoix as the sun begins to set, where a walk out to the 1948 Charlevoix Pierhead Light will place you in one of the most impressive sunset viewing spots in the state. From Charlevoix, it is but a short 20-minute drive back to Hearthside Grove.

An hour-and-a-half drive south down Highway 31 provides the opportunity to view three more lighthouses, two of which are open to the public for tours and tower climbs. Arriving in Traverse City, an 18-mile drive north up the Old Mission Peninsula through its rolling vineyards and orchards will take you to the 1870 Mission Point lighthouse, where you can climb the tower for a view of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan beyond. A 40-minute drive north into the Leelanau Peninsula through the arts and crafts communities of Suttons Bay and Northport will bring you to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, where you can tour one of the preeminent lighthouse museums in the country. Be sure to time your return trip home to Hearthside Grove so that you pass through Charlevoix as the sun begins to set, where a walk out to the 1948 Charlevoix Pierhead Light will place you in one of the most impressive sunset viewing spots in the state. From Charlevoix, it is but a short 20-minute drive back to Hearthside Grove.

These are but three potential lighthouse-related day trip opportunities from your home at Hearthside Grove. Just be sure to bring your camera so you can capture the incredible sights you will see, or your family and friends will never believe you!

For additional information about Great Lakes lighthouses and what is being done to save and preserve them, visit the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association website at www.gllka.com, or call their office at 231-436-5580. Terry Pepper is the lighthouse historian, photographer and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to lighthouse preservation and education.

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