7 Hidden Gems: Lake Erie Lighthouses To Visit

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Headed to the Erie Shores? Be sure to visit some of the Lake Erie Lighthouses!

The historic Lake Erie Lighthouses that dot the shores of this Great Lake are more than just navigational aids—they're brimming with tales of the past.

From Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in continuous service on the Great Lakes, to the picturesque Presque Isle Light Station, each holds a unique charm and historical significance.

Whether you're a history guru or a lighthouse lover, this journey through the lighthouses of Lake Erie promises intriguing stories and spectacular views.

Lighthouses make a great bucket list adventure! If you are spending time in Ohio exploring these beacons, consider some of the other great things the Lake Erie area of Ohio has to offer!

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Presque Isle Lighthouse

The Presque Isle Lighthouse is a gem along the shoreline of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania. This historic icon has guided ships since 1873 and is in scenic Presque Isle State Park.

Visiting Presque Isle Lighthouse

What can you do at Presque Isle Lighthouse?

Tours

A visit to the Presque Isle Lighthouse isn't complete without taking a tour. Tours are available from May through October. While on a tour, you will learn about the history and stories of this maritime site.

Here's what you can expect:

  • Guided Tours: For $15 (free for members), you can join a 40-minute guided tour of the house and grounds, ending with an optional climb to the top of the tower.
  • Self-Guided Tours: Self-guided tours allow you to wander through the lighthouse and its surroundings with detailed informational plaques.
Presque Isle Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse with a tall white tower and red brick base, surrounded by greenery and an American flag on a sunny day. Visitors are seen exploring the area.

Outdoor Activities

The surroundings of the Presque Isle Lighthouse are just as fun as the lighthouse itself. Here's a list of what you can do outside:

  • Walking Trails: Enjoy a stroll through the trails that offer stunning views of Lake Erie.
  • Picnicking: Bring a picnic and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. There are designated picnic areas perfect for a family outing.
  • Beach Access: After your tour, why not hit the beach? The lighthouse is a stone's throw away from Presque Isle State Park's sandy shores.

Whether climbing to the top of the tower, learning about its history, or enjoying the beautiful surroundings, Presque Isle Lighthouse offers a memorable experience for everyone.

Greetings from Presque Isle, a colorful illustrated map highlighting various attractions and activities around the island, with whimsical drawings of people fishing, swimming, and enjoying the scenery.

Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse

The historic Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse has been guiding vessels safely since 1836.  

Fun Fact: This was the last lighthouse on Lake Erie to be manned by Lighthouse Keepers/Coast Guard (1973).

View of Ashtabula Lighthouse in Ohio, with boats navigating a channel towards the open water. Several power lines and poles are visible in the foreground.

Visiting Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse

There isn't a lot to do at this lighthouse. You can hike the breakwater to the lighthouse, but use caution as the access isn't smooth sailing. The tower isn't open for climbing.

Stop by the Ashtabula Maritime Museum and Surface Transportation Museum for a distant view of Ashtabula Lighthouse. The museum is home to the fourth-order Fresnel lens that was used in the Lighthouse.

The museum charges a fee, but it is less than $10. Check the museum website for fess and seasonal dates.

Generally, the museum will be open June through August, Fridays through Mondays, noon to 4 p.m., and September, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday through Monday.

Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum, featuring a red anchor displayed on the lawn and a sign indicating the museum's name. The building is light gray with a traditional design.

Lorain Lighthouse

Nestled on the waters of Lake Erie, the Lorain Lighthouse is known as the “Jewel of the Port.”

Visiting Lorain Lighthouse

There are many things to do and see when visiting Lorain Lighthouse. From tours to events, there's something for everyone.

Tours

Curious about what goes on inside this beacon of history? Here's what you can look forward to:

  • Interior Tours: Public tours allow you to enter the lighthouse and discover its history. As you walk through, you'll find exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the lighthouse and its keepers.
  • Climbing the Tower: For adventurous souls, climbing to the top provides a rewarding view of the surrounding lake and city. It's a bit of a climb, but the panorama is well worth the effort.
Lorain Lighthouse, known as the "Jewel of the Port," stands on a pier extending into Lake Erie, with its distinctive white structure and red roof. The surrounding water is calm, and a red navigational marker is visible in the foreground.

Events

The Lorain Lighthouse is not just a daytime activity. It hosts special events that turn ordinary visits into extraordinary experiences.

  • Sunset Wine Dinners: These tours occur every Tuesday from June through September. Imagine enjoying a gourmet dinner with wine while watching the sunset over Lake Erie.
  • Fireworks Picnic: Celebrate the Fourth of July with a picnic at the lighthouse with an unbeatable view of the fireworks display.

What to Expect

Your visit to Lorain Lighthouse can be both educational and fun! You will need to book tickets in advance on the lighthouse website.

Expect to pay about $25/person for the boat ride to the lighthouse, which is about 1/2 mile from shore. The tour lasts about 45 minutes.

Whether boating to the lighthouse, climbing up the tower or enjoying a sunset dinner cruise, the Lorain Lighthouse promises a unique experience.

Vermilion Lighthouse

The Vermilion Lighthouse is a relatively young lighthouse that was dedicated in 1992. It replicates the original structure from 1877.

Visiting Vermilion Lighthouse

When visiting Vermilion Lighthouse, here's what you can expect:

Scenic Location

The lighthouse is situated next to the Main Street Beach in downtown Vermilion. This location lets you enjoy Lake Erie's picturesque views and stroll along the beach. Here are a few highlights:

  • Beach Access: Enjoy a perfect beach day with swimming, sunbathing, or a relaxing picnic by the shore.
  • River Views: Vermilion straddles the Vermilion River as it empties into Lake Erie, offering stunning riverside views.
Vermilion Lighthouse, a white tower with a black lantern and a red base, stands on a grassy area near the edge of Lake Erie. The sky is overcast, and a few boats are visible on the water in the background.

Historical Significance

While Vermilion's original lighthouse operated until 1929, the current structure, built in 1992, carries the legacy of the 1877 lighthouse. History buffs will appreciate the following:

  • Historical Markers: Information plaques around the lighthouse provide insights into its rich history and significance.
  • Town of Sea Captains: Vermilion's historical reputation as the “Town of Sea Captains” adds a fascinating layer to your visit. During Prohibition, it was a popular drop-off point for illegal liquor from Canada.

Note that you can't tour the inside of the lighthouse. The town surrounding the lighthouse is very scenic, so spend some time exploring before venturing to the next lighthouse.

South Bass Island Lighthouse

South Bass Island Lighthouse is on the southern tip of South Bass Island. It dates back to 1897 and holds stories of the lighthouse keepers who once safeguarded the sailors navigating the surrounding waters.

Visiting South Bass Island Lighthouse

Are you thinking of visiting the South Bass Island Lighthouse? You're in for a treat! Here are some tips and information to make your trip memorable.

Getting There

The lighthouse is on South Bass Island, which is more commonly known as Put-In-Bay. Here's how you can get there:

  • Ferry Ride: Take a ferry from Port Clinton, Sandusky, or Catawba Island. The boat ride adds a touch of adventure right from the start.
  • Golf Cart Rentals: Once on the island, renting a golf cart is a fun and easy way to explore and reach the lighthouse. It's also the island's preferred mode of transportation!
A large brick lighthouse building with a white lantern sits on South Bass Island, surrounded by trees and rocky shoreline, with calm water in the foreground and a clear blue sky above.
South Bass Island lighthouse.” by ronnie44052 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

What to Do

A visit to the South Bass Island Lighthouse is an experience with historical and scenic activities. Here's what you can expect:

Tours

  • Guided Tours: Offered seasonally, these tours provide detailed insights into the lighthouse's history. You'll learn about its construction, the life of the keepers, and its importance to Lake Erie's navigation.
  • Tower Climb: Don't miss the chance to climb the staircase to the top of the tower. The panoramic view of Lake Erie is well worth the climb.

Outdoor Fun

  • Picnic Area: Bring a picnic and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Plenty of spots with stunning lake views allow you to relax and have lunch.
  • Bird Watching: The area around the lighthouse is known for its bird-watching opportunities. Bring your binoculars and spot some local wildlife.

Note that the tour season is rather short – Fridays and Saturdays in June and July, but the tours are free!

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

Located in the quaint village of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, Fairport Harbor Lighthouse stands as a beacon of maritime history.

This lighthouse has guided sailors since the early 19th century and offers visitors a peek into the past and some spectacular views.

Visiting Fairport Harbor Lighthouse

Were you planning a visit to Fairport Harbor Lighthouse? Here are some tips and information to make the most of your trip. The United States' first Great Lakes Lighthouse Marine Museum is located here!

Getting There

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse is easily accessible by car, and a short, easy walk will lead you right to this gem.

Climbing the Lighthouse

Climbing the 69 steps to the top of the lighthouse is a must. Here's what you can look forward to:

  • Breathtaking Views: At the top, you'll be rewarded with panoramic views of Lake Erie and the surrounding area. It's a perfect spot for some Instagram-worthy photos.
  • Friday Night Lights: Climbing to the top can be a workout but worth the effort. Plus, for a unique experience, climb to the top as the skies darken!
A tall, cylindrical stone lighthouse stands in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, with an American flag flying prominently in the foreground against a partly cloudy sky. Surrounding the lighthouse are various buildings, tents, and more flags, indicating a festive atmosphere.

Visiting the Museum

Inside the lighthouse, you'll find a museum brimming with maritime memorabilia. This is a place where history comes alive through fascinating exhibits:

  • Nautical Artifacts: The museum features artifacts from the lighthouse's operational days, including original lenses, keeper's equipment, and maritime tools.
  • Photo Exhibits: Photo exhibits document the rich history of Fairport Harbor and the lives of the lighthouse keepers who once maintained the light.
  • Educational Displays: Plenty of educational displays explain the significance of lighthouses on the Great Lakes and their role in maritime safety for those interested in learning more.

Special Events and Features

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse is not just about history—it's also a venue for special events and unique experiences:

  • Ghost Cat Legend: Have you ever heard of a ghost cat? The lighthouse is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a cat, adding a quirky touch to your visit. Keep an eye out for mysterious feline appearances!
  • The Lighthouse Concert Series: The Lighthouse Grounds hosts the Saturday Summer Concert Series, which features an array of musical selections.

Note that the lighthouse and museum are open in the summer on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. You will need to pay $10 to enter.

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Marblehead Lighthouse

Marblehead Lighthouse, standing proudly on the Marblehead Peninsula in Ohio, is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

This historic landmark has been guiding sailors since 1822 and offers a blend of history, natural beauty, and breathtaking views.

The lighthouse is open daily from 12-4 between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Note that the last tower tour is at 3:40. Expect a $3/person fee to climb the lighthouse.

A picturesque view of Marblehead Lighthouse with a white tower and red top, surrounded by green trees and a sign indicating its historical significance since 1821. Visitors can be seen in the background near the entrance.

Visiting Marblehead Lighthouse

If you plan to visit Marblehead Lighthouse, here’s what you can expect:

  • Climb the Tower: Climb the 77 steps to the top of the lighthouse. The panoramic view of Lake Erie and the surrounding area offers excellent photo opportunities.
  • Picnicking: Picnic areas with tables and grills are perfect for a family outing.
  • Walking Trails: Enjoy a walk along the trails that wind through the park, offering stunning views of the lake and the lighthouse.
  • Lighthouse Museum: Located in the former keeper’s house, the museum features exhibits on the lighthouse's history, maritime navigation, and the local area.

Special Events

The lighthouse hosts several events throughout June, July, and August, including walking tours, story time, painting, and musical performances.

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Final Thoughts: Lighthouses of Lake Erie

Exploring the historic lighthouses of Lake Erie is like stepping into a living museum where the past meets the present.

These iconic beacons are more than just relics; they are vibrant parts of local culture and history.

Visiting them offers a chance to appreciate the engineering marvels of the past while enjoying breathtaking views and unique experiences.

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