Michigan Part 2: On the Road to Traverse City

Where: Frankfort, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Traverse City, Michigan

Trip Date: 6/18-6/20/17

Traverse City Map

We are (were) approximately here.

The Michigan adventure continues. Last week’s post covered the first few stops along Lake Michigan. If you’d like to catch up you can find the article HERE.

Frankfort North Breakwater Light

After departing Manistee we headed to Traverse City, a bit farther north on Lake Michigan. But we had some time to kill, so we decided to take the M-22 along the coast and stop at every lighthouse we had time for.

The first one we came to was the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse. Like the Ludington Breakwater Light, this too stood isolated in the harbor at the end of a long concrete walkway. The 44-foot pyramidal upper portion of the tower was constructed in 1912. When the breakwater was extended in the 1930s the tower was relocated to the end and placed atop a new steel base, raising the height of the tower to about 67 feet.

Frankfort Light

Frankfort North Breakwater Light in the rain.

The lake was very rough, and walking down the very narrow, crumbling breakwater as the waves threatened to crash over the side gave me a my first glimpse into the harrowing duties of a light keeper. Once I reached the tower, the waves were even more vigorous, several large waves crashed over the far side of the tower base as I was trying to photograph it. Seeing as it was only mildly windy and overcast, I can’t even imagine what it would be like during an actual storm.

Point Betsie Light

A few minutes north we stopped at Point Betsie Lighthouse. While the weather had cleared up a bit since Frankfort, the wind was still blowing forcefully, and one of the lighthouse greeters assured us that it almost never stopped. Sitting on the dunes looking out over Lake Michigan, Point Betsie is one of the most picturesque lights I have seen on this trip so far.

A quick sketch of Point Betsie Light from the beach.

Point Betsie color

This lighthouse was just too pretty to work in black and white, so I added some color.

It was constructed in around 1858 near a previously established Life Saving Station to mark the entrance to the Manitou Passage. Although the tower itself is only 37 feet in height, its position on the dunes raises it over 50 feet above the lake.

Glen Haven

Next, we headed even farther north along the coast towards Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park to find the 1850s era town of Glen Haven. The bayside town was originally established around the sawmill that operated in the area. The Park Service has preserved the remaining buildings as museums in an effort to maintain the heritage of coastal Michigan life.

Of particular interest to me was the maritime museum (obviously) housed in the old Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Service building. The structure was built in 1901 to house the crew and equipment of the Life Saving Service, a predecessor of the Coast Guard charged with conducting rescues from shore.

Sleeping Bear Point

Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station.

Grand Traverse Light

After that full day of exploring we turned inland and finally reached Traverse City in the evening. But of course, the next morning we were out searching for more lighthouses again. Just north of Traverse City at the northernmost point of the Leelanau Peninsula we came across Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Constructed in the 1850s, this 40-foot structure was a design I had not seen in most lighthouses (but would soon see frequently). Unlike the tall towers (or even short towers) that I am used to, this was basically a house with a lantern room built onto the roof.

Grand Traverse Light

Grand Traverse Lighthouse on a day when I apparently left my drawing ability and sense of perspective in the hotel room.

Grand Traverse Light better

An alternate, better view of Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

Mission Point Light

Not too much farther away, at the tip of Old Mission Peninsula in Grand Traverse Bay, is Mission Point Lighthouse. After a ship struck a shallow reef near the point in the 1860’s, a lighthouse was deemed necessary and construction began. However, due to an annoying little interruption—the Civil War—the lighthouse was not completed until 1870.

Mission Point

Mission Point Lighthouse

Fun fact: This lighthouse sits on the 45th parallel, exactly half way between the North Pole and the Equator.

Manitou, Traverse City

Back in Traverse City later we spent a relaxing evening in Grand Traverse Bay aboard the Tall Ship Manitou—an old sailing schooner—enjoying dinner and watching the sun sink lower in the sky before preparing for the next leg of our adventure.

The Tall Ship Manitou, a quick sketch.

Fortunately we didn’t have to use this.

Traverse City seemed like it had a lot to offer, but unfortunately we only had a limited time to stay. Still, there is much left to see.


Next Week:

Slightly fewer lighthouses, and a few days on Mackinac Island.

By | 2017-06-30T00:26:47+00:00 June 30th, 2017|History, Michigan, Travel|2 Comments

About the Author:

James is an artist and illustrator currently working in Georgia.


  1. Morton McInvale June 30, 2017 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Melding sketches and words into meaning — well done!

  2. Margaret Rahn June 30, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    Glad horn mom told me about the web sight . Love all the art work, I’ll be following the trip now ! Thanks

Leave A Comment