When you think Labor Day in Pure Michigan, what comes to mind? A fabulous Bed and Breakfast Inn goes without saying. But where? The sugar sand beaches of Lake Michigan? The majestic Lake Superior coastline in the U.P.?
Think about what some call Michigan’s “Forgotten Coast” — the brilliant blue waters of Lake Huron along Michigan’s Thumb. Not long ago, a Pure Michigan blog suggested a lighthouse driving tour of the The Thumb. Author Jerry Roach pointed out the “sunrise side” of the Lower Peninsula has the second most lights of any coastal region of the state, coming in with a grand total of 34. What better way to herald the beginning of Pure Michigan Fall than to take a lighthouse tour over Summer’s last long weekend?
Make Lexington a stop on your shoreline drive along M-25. It’s just north of Port Huron, site of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse — the first lighthouse built in Michigan. Port Huron is also home to the expertly-restored Huron Lightship, now a National Historic Landmark dry docked just south of the lighthouse in Pine Grove Park. Built in 1920, it’s the only lightship in the U.S. that remained on post during WWII. Both lights can be toured daily through Labor Day.
Here’s an added bonus: On Saturday, September 1, Lexington’s Bluewater Folk Society presents Thumbfest 2012, a free day-long music festival with multiple stages spread throughout the quaint, shop-filled downtown. Thumbfest spotlights acoustic music from traditions as diverse as New Orleans brass to Celtic, Pan World, blues and Eastern European to Americana. With workshops, jam sites, song circles and a Hootenanny at night’s end, it promises fun for the whole family. Bring your instrument and your lawn chair. Listen to the music or help make it.
Lexington also features outstanding B&Bs in which to lay your head between forrays to lighthouses and Thumbfest. When those get full, head a bit north to B&Bs in and around Port Sanilac, home of a privately-owned lighthouse you can view from the road. The next stop featuring both a lighthouse and a charming B&B is Harbor Beach, a harbor of refuge. Pre-register on the lighthouse’s website for tours, or view it from many of the parks in town.
Staying on M-25, Port Hope is about 13 miles north and nearby Pt. Aux Barques Lighthouse. It is unique in that it signals the point where boats either begin their turns toward the St. Clair River or to navigate the top of The Thumb to continue their voyage through Lake Huron. Tours are available. A little further north, Port Austin’s reef light can be viewed from the shore.
The beauty of a lighthouse is that it’s a sight to behold any time of year — against the blue waters of summer, the stormy grays of autumn and the stark white ice floes of winter. The beauties of touring lighthouses along Michigan’s Thumb are its welcoming year-around bed and breakfast inns, its uncrowded character and its wide open, wild and scenic spaces. Enjoy.