Photo by Todd and Brad Reed Photography
Ludington North Breakwater Light
You’ve seen it in numerous photographs, and it is now ranked the #1 lighthouse to visit in Michigan, plus The Weather Channel voted it one of the top 10 lighthouses to see in the United States!
The North Breakwater Light is Ludington’s focal point, and a great place to watch the sunset or wave at the S.S. Badger carferry as it cruises out onto Lake Michigan. The breakwall leading out to the light is a popular venue for fishermen and those who enjoy walking the mile-long round trip.
Tour the North Breakwater Light
2023 lighthouse tours are from May 23rd-September 3rd, 2023 from 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday.
The Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association maintains the North Breakwater Light, and it is open to the public for tours daily from 10am-5pm. There are 53 steps to climb to the top. There is a $8 donation fee for adults, $5 for children 17 & under.
Due to weather conditions and staffing, it may be wise to call ahead at (231) 845-7417, or visit splka.org for more information.
North Breakwater Light Facts
The white, pyramid shaped tower that is known as the Ludington North Breakwater Light (not an official lighthouse, since a house has never been attached to it) has a history that’s as fascinating as its structure. With $6,000 from Congress, the first Ludington light was constructed on the outer end of the south pier, and lit in 1871. Standing only 25 feet, the upper section housed a service room, which the light keeper could use during inclement weather. Money was no problem when it came to constructing Lake Michigan pierhead lighthouses, but Congress frequently dragged its feet in appropriating funds for the construction of keeper’s dwellings. Edwin Slyfield, light keeper in 1891, encountered dangerous conditions when he had to navigate the pier during November gales in order to service the light. It wasn’t until 1900 that a keeper’s quarters was finally constructed, and Mr. Slyfield and his family finally had a home.
The Army Corps of Engineers recommended in 1906 that a pair of timber breakwaters be constructed in an arrowhead formation to protect the entrance to the harbor. Work was completed on this project in 1914, and it became clear that the present light was not adequate for the number of carferries entering the harbor. Five years later, the timber breakwaters began to decay, and concrete structures were approved as a replacement. In 1923, it was decided that a new light should be built at the end of the North Breakwater, rather than the south side. So in 1924, the present tower began to take shape, fabricated of steel plates over a steel skeleton. This four-sided, white pyramidal tower was built with four porthole windows on each of the three decks. The unusual shape was designed to deflect the strong waves of Lake Michigan. A fourth-order Fresnel lens, manufactured in the United States rather than France, was installed in the new station’s lantern.
The North Breakwater Light was automated in 1972, and the Fresnel lens (now on display at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum) was replaced in 1995 by a Tidelands Signal 300 mm acrylic optic.
photo by Craig Sterken
Why Does the Lighthouse Tilt?
In 1994, the crib on which the light sits settled, and the tower tilted four degrees to the northeast. Cost to repair it was considered excessive, so the Army Corps of Engineers decided it was safe and to leave it as is. Looking at the North Breakwater Light today, the tilt can still be seen.
Visit Ludington's Other Lighthouse
Big Sable Point Lighthouse at the Ludington State Park. | Todd & Brad Reed Photography
Venture to the Ludington State Park to see the 112-foot black and white lighthouse known as Big Sable Point. In 1867, Big Sable Point Lighthouse was constructed, and on November 1 of that year, mariners as far as 19 miles out on the lake saw a constant white light for the first time. Read more about the Big Sable Point Lighthouse here.
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More Activities & Attractions in Ludington
Small destinations within themselves, visitors of Hamlin Lake will go on an adventure to find their perfect dune.
Within the downtown Ludington region, several murals grace the façades of local area businesses, telling stories of the area’s rich history.
The bronzed sculptures in Ludington’s 5-acre Waterfront Park sets it apart from other parks. The park is situated on the Lake Michigan inlet.
Long Skinny Park is located on Lower Hamlin Lake between the South and Middle bayous. Perfect for fishing or taking in the view.
Take a paddle down the Hamlin Lake Canoe Trail. Venture out on the trip yourself, or join a guided trip lead by Dune Grass Concessions.
Hamlin Lake is where you want to be. It offers terrific summer recreation, including swimming, boating, tubing, and more!
Both beginners and experienced cyclists will enjoy the variety of trails available to explore in Ludington!
Ludington is home to several different museums for people of all ages! Highlighting our area’s careers, businesses, history, and culture!
Just blocks from the beach is the heart of downtown Ludington, where you can shop, dine, and enjoy summertime events.
The Ludington Skate Plaza is a popular spot for kids with skateboards or in-line skates, and also draws spectators to Stearns Park.