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Work and Live in a Great Lakes Lighthouse on Vacation

Thelma Raker Coffone is an award-winning writer who enjoys writing on a variety of topics, especially lighthouses.

Watercolor of Grand Traverse Lighthouse by Jamie Weil

Watercolor of Grand Traverse Lighthouse by Jamie Weil

Lighthouse Keeper Program in the Great Lakes

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live in a lighthouse by the sea? Well, thanks to the Lighthouse Keeper Program, that dream can become a reality. The program offers the opportunity to live for a week in a participating Great Lakes lighthouse and perform duties such as welcoming visitors, sharing the history of the station with them and working in the gift shop.

You must think of your participation in the program as an educational experience and not a vacation . . . or as some prefer to call it, a working vacation.

Most of the accommodations include a fully equipped kitchen (you provide your own food), bedrooms, baths and a common living area. The price for this "pay to play" experience is very reasonable, and the money collected goes directly to benefit the lighthouse's restoration and preservation.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

Built in 1870, the Grand Traverse Lighthouse is located on the shores of Lake Michigan in LeeLanau State Park in Northport, Michigan. Locally known as "Cat's Head Point Light", it is open for program participants from April through December each year. The cost per person is $195 per week, and you are required to become a member of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum for a $15 dues fee. Gift certificates are also available for purchase for the lighthouse enthusiast on your list. What a unique gift idea!

An application for the Keepers Program at this lighthouse and a calendar with available weeks can be found on the Grand Traverse Lighthouse website.

Tawas Point Lighthouse on Lake Huron, Michigan

Tawas Point Lighthouse on Lake Huron, Michigan

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Tawas Point Lighthouse on Lake Huron

Another participant in the Keepers Program is northern Michigan's Tawas Point Lighthouse located on Lake Huron in Tawas Point State Park. There is a 2-week minimum stay requirement and the program operates between mid-May and mid-October. You must agree to conduct lighthouse tours and other duties as assigned.

The minimum age requirement is 18 years and above. There is room for 3 people to stay and applicants are encouraged to apply as a group so you will not be staying with strangers. An application and additional information are available here.

TV Program Featuring Tawas Point Lighthouse

Tawas Point Light was featured in the Great Getaways TV travel series, which is broadcast in the Midwest US and Canada. Below is a video clip from that program.

Additional Locations Offer Keeper Programs

Several other stations on the Great Lakes are joining in on offering this opportunity for the public to learn about our maritime heritage and to experience "lighthouse living". Information about other participating facilities is available here. The website also gives details about lighthouse bed-and-breakfasts in the Great Lakes region.

Though the tasks that are expected of you during your stay may not be exactly like the chores of the original lighthouse keepers and their families, you can imagine what their lives were like by staying in their former homes and soaking up the history of the area. What better way to spend a "working vacation"?

Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City participates in the Lighthouse Keepers Program.

Mission Point Lighthouse in Traverse City participates in the Lighthouse Keepers Program.

For our week as keepers at Mission Point Light, we had visitors from 43 states and 14 countries, we spent the evenings visiting wineries and enjoying guitar and jazz music. Sunsets here are just priceless! (July 2018)

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The weather was cool in the evening but we got in some bike riding to the General Store and beyond. (June 2018)

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We met lots of happy visitors today from all over the US, Canada, Israel, Italy, UK and more foreign countries. (June 2018)

— Quotes left by Keepers in the journal at Mission Point Lighthouse

If you have participated in the Lighthouse Keeper Program, how do you rate it?

© 2011 Thelma Raker Coffone

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