Lighthouses have long been a symbol of tourism in Michigan. There are over one hundred still standing on the shores of our Great Lakes, yet barely a handful offer the chance to spend the night. While planning a road trip of the Upper Peninsula with a friend, staying overnight at Whitefish Point was high on our list of destinations.
After a day spent cruising across the UP, gazing at waterfalls and a bizarre Pickle Barrel House, we rolled up to the Whitefish Point lighthouse. It feels entirely remote, though the little town of Paradise is only a dozen miles south. Aside from the parked cars, there is nothing else to distract your imagination back into the 21st century.
While the lighthouse keeper’s home is purely on museum duty nowadays, the 1923 Coast Guard crew quarters have been renovated into accommodations. We checked in at the gift shop and were given keys to the building and for our rooms, then led over to check out our rooms. The building is divided into five rooms, each with a full or queen bed and full bathroom. There is a living room on the main floor, along with a kitchen.
There are a few restrictions for spending the night in the Coast Guard building. Guests must be age 16 or older, which theoretically keeps things quieter. No smoking or alcohol in the building. No pets, except service animals, are allowed. at the rear (kitchen) entrance.
Guest Rooms at Whitefish Point
Guest rooms are smaller than a hotel room and more typical of a bedroom at home, though the bathrooms have plenty of space. There are four rooms on the second floor, one of which only has a full size. I had booked this room since it was the only one left, but it does have the benefit of a Lake Superior view. My travel partner had the Captain’s room on the main floor, which is the only handicap accessible space.
The rooms were small and would likely feel cramped if two people were staying in there. The nearly hundred year old building has been thoroughly restored and does not feel old at all, which hasn’t been the case with most historic properties I’ve stayed. Each room has a tall chest of drawers with an amusingly small television. I believe there may have been a DVD to watch and I’m not even sure how many channels would be available, but don’t plan on lying in bed watching TV. The building also lacks air-conditioning, though there are not many days where that would be needed between the mild UP summers and constant breeze at Whitefish Point.
The price per night was $150 (no extra fees), which is in the typical range for a nice hotel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. With only a single bed in each room we had to book two, so it was our splurge for the road trip. The rate includes admission to the lighthouse and museum, which is likely the reason most guests are there. A good variety of Continental breakfast items are available in the kitchen, such as yogurt, frozen items, muffins, bagels, coffee, juice, etc.
Exploring Whitefish Point Lighthouse and Museum
After checking into our rooms, we headed out to explore the museum. The Shipwreck Museum features displays centered around several wrecks on the Great Lakes, especially around Whitefish Point. A centerpiece is the bell recovered from the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. We went to see the recovered lifeboats at the Valley Camp museum in Sault Ste. Marie the next day. Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the collection and artifacts for such a remote location.
Next, we toured the lighthouse keeper’s home. The attention to detail there matches the level of the museum. There are plenty of items to look at and the docents are very knowledgeable. One of the two former Coast Guard lifeboat houses has been moved to the site and is now open to the public for tours, though it was still under restoration when we visited.
Before it got too late, we drove down to Paradise for dinner. It was a long wait, since there are very few dining options in the area, but the food was worth it. Tip: pack snacks, drinks, etc. The Crew Quarters does have a full kitchen and refrigerator to store cold items. I made sure to bring some leftovers for later that night.
Is Whitefish Point Lighthouse Haunted?
Whether or not Whitefish point lighthouse is haunted had entered our discussions. There are stories online, an odd tale from a friend who had previously stayed there, plus a concerned look from one of the museum staff members. With all of the shipwrecks in the surrounding waters and generations of lighthouse keeper families, you’d have to assume this would be a prime location for paranormal activity. I had only seen an apparition once and am quite skeptical, so I wasn’t too worried.. However, we did have one incident early in the visit.
While checking into our rooms, a staff member had made sure our keys worked before he left us. A few minutes later, my friend came upstairs and told me his key wasn’t working. I came down, tried it, and the door unlocked without any effort. Strange, unexplainable, but who knows?
Later that night we headed out to the boardwalk to look at the stars and shot some dark sky photos. There are no staff on duty at night and the building was very quiet; though at least two couples were also spending the night. Being well away from civilization, and thankfully no lights on the boardwalk, the sky was flooded with stars. Unfortunately, the moon was already coming up, so not a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights. The peacefulness of the waves lapping on the shore was amazing. The rest of the night passed without incident. If you are interested in ghostly stories from Whitefish Point, I recommend Dianna Stampfler’s well-researched Haunted Lighthouses of Michigan book.