There are so many lighthouses throughout the great state of Michigan–129 (remaining), to be exact, and each one has something special to offer. There are grand lighthouses, like The Rock of Ages Light in Eagle Harbor, and stunningly unassuming ones, such as the all-wooden Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse. Some are new, but many are old, and my favorites are the ones with history.
Sturgeon Point Lighthouse sits five miles north of Harrisville, situated on a long, rocky shoal that goes out to a point. It’s the perfect spot for rock hounding, especially if you’re on the hunt for Petoskey stones. The tower stands 70 feet 9 inches tall and was built in 1870, though the Alcona Historical Society still maintains the light.
Memorial Day through mid-September, take a step back in time and tour the Keeper’s House, imagining how it must have been to operate the light alone on a secluded point through November’s rough squalls and the summer’s fiercest storms. You can even climb the lighthouse tower to survey Lake Huron from a higher vantage point.
But the lighthouse isn’t the only thing the picturesque property has to offer. There’s much more to do! Growing up in the area, my family has been visiting since I was a child, and now I regularly take my three kids when we head Up North for a visit.
Sample Itinerary for Sturgeon Point Lighthouse
10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m. | Sturgeon Point Lighthouse | 6071 E. Point Rd. Harrisville, MI 48740
The Light and Keeper’s House don’t begin tours until 11:00 a.m., so take some time to explore the property and enjoy the beach. You’ll find maritime relics from when fishing was booming in the area. There are rudders, anchors, and the Bernice-D, a wooden fishing vessel built in 1915 that braved and fought the rocky shoals throughout the area’s “Shipwreck Alley.”
The locale also holds the Old Bailey Schoolhouse circa 1907. Though this isn’t its original location, the school remains one of the few remaining one-room Norway Pine log school houses still standing in the state. When open, you can enter the building–it boasts a recreation of a typical school room from the period.
There is also a quaint gift shop near the lighthouse offering cute gifts and souvenirs, and often a very friendly staff member who can tell you all about the lighthouse.
11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. | Sturgeon Point Lighthouse
When the tours begin, you can walk through the rooms of the lighthouse keeper’s quarters, which are furnished to appear as they would have in the late 1800s and early 1900s. For a nominal fee, you can climb the many steps to the top of the tower and view the original Fresnel lens made in Paris, France. Children must be at least 48″ tall to make the climb.
From the top, you might be able to see the shoals the tower is positioned on. How far out the rocky point extends can change dramatically from year to year. When it isn’t too rough, you can walk out on the point between the waves breaking on both sides, making for a pretty unique experience.
12:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. | Alcona Brew Haus | 676 N U.S. 23, Harrisville, MI 48740
After your lighthouse tour, grab lunch at the Alcona Brew Haus, a lovely restaurant that serves excellent comfort food (that’s incredibly allergy-friendly) and brews its own craft beers in-house. The building has a long heritage, starting as the Alcona Beach Resort in the 1930s before becoming the popular Muehlbeck’s Biergarten in the 1970s, and all of its vintage beauty has been carefully preserved or recreated.
1:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m. | Country Cone & Fudge Shoppe | 308 N U.S. 23, Harrisville, MI 48740
Make sure to stop for a mid-day dessert after lunch! The Country Cone & Fudge Shoppe is friendly, quaint, and the perfect stop for a sweet treat. They serves up delicious hand-dipped ice cream, homemade fudge, and roasted nuts. They’re right across from the Harrisville State Park, so if you’re looking for camping in the area or more beach time, just head across US 23.
Just a heads up, the Country Cone & Fudge Shoppe only takes cash!
1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. | Harrisville Harbor | 1 E Harbor Ln, Harrisville, MI 48740
Before you wrap up your adventure to the hidden gem of Harrisville, Michigan, make a stop in Harrisville Harbor. There’s a great playground that’s perfect for kids of all ages. If it’s a summer evening, chances are an evening concert might be taking place under the pavilion. You can also walk the harbor docks and check out various boats in the slips, from larger yachts coming all the way from Florida to vintage sailboats.
Favorite Spots Nearby
Whether you’re heading north or south from Harrisville, there is plenty to see and do!
Spots to the North (Alpena + Ossineke)
Alpena Proper | Alpena, MI 49707
The city of Alpena is located on Thunder Bay, whose waters hold a collection of nearly 100 historic shipwrecks, so expect a lot of maritime-based activities. An entire post could be written on Alpena, but here are a few of my family’s favorite things to do:
- Alpena Shipwreck Tours: a glass-bottom boat tour
- Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center: a fun museum with interactive elements for kids
- Island Park: a unique natural preserve on an island with walking trails accessible via a charming covered bridge
- Starlite Beach: another sandy Lake Huron beach with a splash pad
Connie’s Café | 11585 US-23, Ossineke, MI 49766
Connie’s Café specializes in breakfast, religiously closing at 2:00 p.m. daily. Their gigantic cinnamon rolls are a must-order if you make it in time. Much bigger than a dinner plate, these behemoths are covered in frosting and are a mouthwatering treat.
Dinosaur Gardens | 11160 US Highway 23 S, Ossineke, MI 49766
A true Up North oddity, Dinosaur Gardens is a prehistoric park started by folk artist Paul N. Domke in 1935. It’s quite entertaining to walk through the lifesize (though less-than-realistic) dinosaur park. They also offer putt-putt golf, a fossil dig, and sluicing for precious stones.
Spots to the South (Oscoda + Tawas)
Iargo Springs + Lumberman’s Monument | River Road, Oscoda
These are two very scenic locales along the River Road National Scenic Byway, each overlooking the Au Sable River. Climb the 206 steps to the bottom of Lumberman’s Monument and learn about the area’s logging days. Or, take the 294 steps down to Iargo Springs to view the mystical underground springs forming clear streams that flow to the Au Sable.
Mainstreet Shopping | Newman St, Tawas City, MI 48763
Whether looking for lake-themed souvenirs, fine jewelry, or clothing, the small shops on the main street through downtown Tawas City have much to offer. There is also a family theater and a handful of restaurants. The popular East Tawas City Parks & Rec is on the water at the end of Newman St., so things can get quite busy during the summer season.
Parkside Dairy Shoppe | 106 E Dwight Ave, Oscoda, MI 48750
So many options packed into a small-town shop! Plus, there are lots of allergy-friendly choices (including lactose-free)!
Shoreline Park | 501 W Lake St #341, Tawas City, MI 48763
Take a quick play break at this cute playground. You can also walk the shoreline, go for a swim, or take a stroll out on the boardwalk to get a better view of Tawas Bay.
The Village Chocolatier | 104 Newman St., East Tawas, MI 48730
Some of the most exquisite gourmet chocolates with one-of-a-kind seasonal options. They also have coffee and standard candy (including a huge assortment of Jelly Belly flavors).
Bonus Tips to Sturgeon Point Lighthouse
- Sturgeon Point Lighthouse grounds are open year-round, so you can visit whenever you pass by. However, the gift shop, Old Bailey Schoolhouse, keeper’s quarters, and lighthouse tower are only open seasonally. Because a small historical society runs it, calling ahead to ensure they’re open can be helpful.
- There are a few picnic tables and benches at the lighthouse. Feel free to pack a lunch or snacks to enjoy while you bask in the “Sunrise Side” scenery.
- The shore of Sturgeon Point is usually quite rocky, making it a fabulous place to look for rocks. You can find Petoskey stones, horned coral, and pudding stones.