Mitten List: South Haven Lighthouse

March 1, 2014


Michigan is more than a bit obsessed with their lighthouses.

They have more lighthouses than any other state in the country, and they don’t really let you forget it.

You can buy lighthouse postcards and put a lighthouse license plate on your car. It’s not uncommon to find entire racks full of lighthouse brochures at your local visitor’s information office. I’ve even heard of people taking lighthouse tours of Michigan.

When I first moved here, I was kind of surprised by Michigan’s obsession with lighthouses. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love a good lighthouse as much as the next girl. But probably not as much as the next girl if she happens to be a Michigander.

A lighthouse to me was always part of a destination — not a destination in itself.

Until last weekend, when I found myself in South Haven for the express purpose of visiting its lighthouse.


Welcome to South Haven! Care to see our lighthouse?

You see, South Haven’s lighthouse was featured in this series of photos of frozen lighthouses on Lake Michigan that went crazy viral a month or so ago. (Full disclosure: those photos were actually taken a year ago. But, whatevs. Winter in Michigan is winter in Michigan.)

I’m sure when most people saw those photos they instantly decided they would never, ever go anywhere near Lake Michigan in the winter. Or possibly ever.

I, on the other hand, thought to myself, “I want to go to there.”

I suspect this is a sign that my transformation to true Michigander is finally complete.

South Haven is a ridiculously adorable resort town about an hour away from Kalamazoo. It’s so ridiculously adorable that it was even adorable while under construction.

Downtown South Haven. See? Adorable! Even with orange plastic fencing and dump trucks.

The lighthouse is a short walk from the downtown area. Or, if it’s the middle of winter and it’s twenty-five degrees with freezing winds, you should probably drive there. I chose to walk because, apparently, I like to regularly lose feeling in my face.

The first thing that greets you when you arrive at the lighthouse is a big yellow sign telling you that you should probably stay away from the lighthouse if you value your life and you don’t want to die an icy, watery death.


Don’t go to there!

This, of course, wasn’t stopping anyone. Neither was the super thick, slippery layer of ice on the pier.


Ooo, slippery!

Because, hey, we’re Michiganders!

Ice is our playground!


While still impressive in person , the lighthouse wasn’t nearly as ice-covered as it was in the Internet photos. The lighthouse was pretty much ice-free, except for one little patch on the side that was facing the water.


Not so frozen

By the time I’d made my way out to the lighthouse and snapped a few photos, I’m pretty sure my face was more frozen over than that lighthouse.

In fact, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if pictures of my numb, red, frozen face start to go viral on the Internets real soon. Surely, the fact that I was still smiling despite not having been able to feel my face for a full thirty minutes is worth a little Internet fame-dom, no?


Can. Not. Feel. My. Face.

Are you lighthouse-obsessed? What lighthouse have you visited and loved?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm AkwaabaGolden said:

    Never knew lighthouses could be this interesting! 🙂 Your writing is fun to read.

    There’s actually a walking tour on Saturdays here in Accra that goes to a lighthouse, but so far, I have not managed to do it. I guess I should now, so that I’d also get to write about a lighthouse 😉
    AkwaabaGolden recently posted..How do you know if you have Malaria?

  2. On March 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm Isabelle said:

    Certainly not obsessed. But one lighthouse was my destination once. It’s on an island in the middle of the St-Lawrence river, and it’s been transformed into a bed and breakfast so you actually stay in the former lighthouse keeper’s house. It was an idyllic place…
    There is a bird colony… and you and 7 other people. That’s it!!

  3. On March 1, 2014 at 5:47 pm Priya said:

    I’m not lighthouse-obsessed but after reading this post, I just might be 🙂
    Priya recently posted..On Justin Timberlake, Going Alone, & Bringing Sexy Back In The VIP Section

  4. On March 1, 2014 at 6:13 pm Erika said:

    Haha, this post makes me feel like a true Michigander myself, especially considering that I forgot that lighthouses weren’t an every-state-loves-them kind of thing. Guess those little Michigan quirks are now becoming my own! 🙂
    Erika recently posted..She’s Back.

    • On March 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm Sally said:

      It’s funny because I grew up on Lake Erie, but I hardly ever went there as a kid (probably because it’s kind of toxic). And, we have a lighthouse on the harbor in Buffalo, I don’t remember ever really paying attention to them much… aside from taking the random picture of it. So it’s been really fun to be in a state that really, really LOVES and appreciates its Great Lakes. I can’t wait for summer. I may actually become a beach person!

  5. On March 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm Leslie in Portland, Oregon said:

    Living near the coast of Oregon, I grew up with, and love, lighthouses. Those on our coast don’t usually get icy, but they are at some of the windiest places in the state. And invariably they are in gorgeous settings. I think I’ve loved every lighthouse I’ve visited, anywhere, but the three I remember most are the ones at Heceta Head, in Oregon; on the Atlantic Coast near Portland, Maine; and in Accra. Even if they are no longer working as lighthouses, it is wonderful to examine their glass lens and hear their foghorns, if any. Like so many others, I have been taken with the South Haven Lighthouse ever since I saw the ice photos (posted as if they had been taken this winter), so thank you for the on-the-spot report and accuracy check. Did your face tingle as it thawed? You should be very proud that you have become a true Michigander. And your report makes me determined to visit Michigan in the winter!

    • On March 2, 2014 at 5:57 pm Sally said:

      I actually ended up visiting the St. Joseph lighthouse too (also featured in the pictures and also not nearly as ice-covered… although I didn’t get as up-close as I ended up parking in the wrong spot, so just had to look at it from the beach). So, basically, I spent almost a whole day out in the cold. My face was definitely numb when I finished. And by the time I got home at 5 PM, I was ready to go to bed. Who knew wandering around looking at frozen lighthouses could be so exhausting!
      And, yes, please come visit Michigan! I can be your tour guide when you get to Kalamazoo. (Sadly, we have no lighthouses. But we do have BEER.)

  6. On March 1, 2014 at 8:17 pm Anika said:

    I love lighthouses!

    When I was a kid, I actually dreamed of living in one when I was grown up 😀

    The pictures are so pretty, I want to go there now… we have that kind of weather here, too, and I do own some super warm pullovers and stuff, so I’d be fine, right? 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • On March 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm Sally said:

      Yep, you’ll be just fine. Just be sure to wrap a scarf around your face and wear warm boots! Or possibly ice skates if you’re feeling daring…

  7. On March 2, 2014 at 8:49 am Tom @ Waegook Tom said:

    My only experience with a lighthouse was in Jeju Island, South Korea. It involved heights and two staircases of death. I mean the staircases had handrails and nobody else was scared, but they were totally out to get me.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..7 Lovely Libations From Around The World

    • On March 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm Sally said:

      Well, of course they were out to get you. Stairs always are. Just like the death-stairs of Himeji castle. Those things totally wanted to KILL me.

  8. On March 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm Naomi said:

    After those ice pictures I totally wanted to go visit too, so you are not alone.

    I think Australians also have a thing for lighthouses, especially over on the West Coast where we’ve had so many ship wrecks. My home town has an iconic lighthouse and is on all the branding for the town, I take all my visitors to see it.
    Naomi recently posted..Just because it’s social media doesn’t make it OK

  9. On March 3, 2014 at 7:37 pm Patty said:

    Hi Sally!
    I went out to the light house at Grand Haven last month and it was so ice covered it was crazy. What was more crazy is that I slipped and fell and thought I was going in the water. Not sure if the ice would have held and glad I didn’t have to find out. You can see my pictures at
    Hopefully we will cross paths as we criss cross “The Mitten”
    Patty recently posted..Wow, Wow and Wow

    • On March 4, 2014 at 8:49 am Sally said:

      I was really bummed I couldn’t make it to the lighthouse earlier this winter because my car was not functioning for about a month. But after reading your comment, I’m not so bummed. That sounds terrifying! I’m glad you didn’t end up in the water! That would have been horrible.

  10. On March 5, 2014 at 11:05 pm choi kum fook said:

    Actually what is the functioning of a lighthouse? Just indicate the place of danger nearby or other purposes ? Why are there so many lighthouses in Michigan? It is quite obsessed me. Miss Sally, give me some points, thanks!

    • On March 7, 2014 at 2:36 pm Sally said:

      Good questions, Mr. Choi. The lighthouse shines a really powerful light so that ships and boats can see the shoreline & don’t get in a wreck. I think they also help warn people about storms, too, using special signals — but I’m not entirely sure how that works. As for the reason why Michigan has so many lighthouses, it’s because Michigan is surrounded by water — the Great Lakes. Nowadays, the Great Lakes are mostly used for recreation, but back in the day there were lots of barges and other large boats used to ship things like grain from the Midwest to the East Coast.

  11. On March 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm Ceri said:

    I don’t think I’ve ever visited a lighthouse before. I feel so sheltered.

    Also, that snow! Wow! You guys are brave.
    Ceri recently posted..9 Ways You Can Afford to Travel

    • On March 16, 2014 at 12:38 pm Sally said:

      Never visited a lighthouse? Girl, you don’t know what you’re missing! (Okay, you can probably guess. Basically: lots of cold. And pretty pictures. But also lots of cold.)

  12. On March 23, 2014 at 6:23 pm mike said:

    just started a travel blog and will be making an article on south haven too! although mine will be in relation to gingerman raceway, one of the easiest race tracks to get on in the country and one that is just outside of town.

  13. On April 9, 2014 at 11:02 am escapehunter said:

    I always loved lighthouses. They inspire peace and tranquility… they’re also symbols of loneliness.
    Some of them are true works of art… like the red on on your photo!


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