Since the summer of 2000, my wife and I have been Lighthouse Hunters. We have visited over 150 lighthouses in that time. Primarily we have visited Lights in Michigan, but also in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California and Ontario. We live in Michigan, which happens to be the state with the most Lighthouses, so we have a target rich environment. Many of the lights in our state are accessible by car, while others require a boat.
If you have never visited a Lighthouse, then you don’t know the magic that awaits. A trip to a lighthouse is a step back to a place in time before GPS and cell phones. In many cases it is a step back to a time before there were any telephones at all, and when the roads to the lights were little more than muddy ruts.
In this post I am going to give you five tips on how to get started as a Lighthouse Hunter. Later I will be adding a page of Lighthouse Links, and also one with reviews of Lighthouse Books.
Here are my 5 tips to having a fun-filled, successful, memorable trip to a Lighthouse
Do a little research. If you live in one of the Great Lakes states, or along the East or West Coast, then there are lighthouses in your state. Find out a bit about which are the most popular. The easiest way to get started is with a simple Google search like “lighthouses in <my state>”. From there you can find out which are most popular, and which may have special events upcoming.
A great site for beginners (or for experienced hunters for that matter), is www.lighthousefriends.com There you can search for lights by state or by map. Also, you’ll be able to see just how many there are in your state.
Once you have chosen a light to visit…
Make a plan. Remember that many lighthouses, especially the more picturesque ones, are located in remote areas. It will take a bit of planning to make a visit. While you are on the site for the lighthouse, you will want to note what else is in the area. The sites will have some driving directions, and may even include a small map. If you want to avoid a lot of hassle and frustration…
Bring along printed instructions. In fact, I find it a good idea to print and bring instructions from a couple of sources. Although sites like lighthousefriends will try to keep up with their directions, things can change. I recall a time when I was visiting a light in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The book I was using at the time advised that I would need to park my car and walk a mile from a gate to the light. My wife and I drove, and drove looking for the gate. We never found the gate, but we did park about 100 feet from the light. The road had been improved since the printing of the book.
Enjoy your time at the lighthouse. If you are like me and enjoy taking photos, take pictures at the lighthouse. Even if you are not a shutterbug, you will want to capture the moment with some pictures. Part of the fun for me is to walk the grounds around the light, taking pictures from many angles (my wife was very thankful when we bought our first digital camera, because it save a LOT of money in development costs).
For you, it may be different. My wife isn’t into photography, but she enjoys scanning the area for interesting rocks to remind her of the visit.
If the lighthouse is open to the public, go inside and have a look around. You will be amazed at what the Lightkeepers and their families endured to have their jobs. Most lights will have volunteers who will be happy to tell you the story of “their” light.
The point is to enjoy your time there. If you like a good picnic lunch, bring it along. You will be near water, and there are always picnic tables, or grassy areas to spread out and enjoy the day.
Record your visit. This is a piece of advice that no one gave me when I started, and I wish I had thought about. Buy a notebook and write down what you did, what you saw, and how much you enjoyed your time. If you decide to buy one of the books on my reviews page, you can use it to make notes. I have a friend who has one of the Michigan Lighthouse books. Each time he visits a new light, he makes a notation in the book. It’s his way of “collecting” the lights.
If you follow these 5 tips, you are sure to have a great time as you hunt and explore the Lights.