“Within the boundaries of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is the largest and finest single collection of lighthouses in the country.” F. Ross Holland, Jr., Great American Lighthouses, 1994
Highest Concentration of Lighthouses in North America
Since the mid-1800s, the navigational beacons have guided boats around the islands. Six of the lighthouses were listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 under the name Apostle Islands Lighthouses. While the National Park Service offers tours of some of the structures, people often enjoy the views best by water and aboard an Apostle Islands Cruises tour.
What are the Apostle Islands?
Twenty-one beautiful islands, cliffs, sea caves, old lighthouses, and 12 miles of shoreline make up the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Peppered along Lake Superior just off the Bayfield County shoreline, the “Apostles” have been formed and carved out over time by the big lake.
1. The “Showplace of the Apostle Islands”: Raspberry Island Lighthouse
Considered the “showplace of the Apostle Islands,” the Raspberry Island Lighthouse was built in 1862 after Henry Rice, an influential St. Paul politician who founded the city of Bayfield, advocated for its construction. The majestic views from the top of the tower on a guided tour are only matched by its beautiful grounds and rich history.
Brief History & Stories of Raspberry Island Lighthouse
2. The Icon: Devils Island Light
First lit in 1891, the Devils Island Light eventually became the last manned station in the Apostle Islands. It sits atop Devils Island, arguably the most gorgeous Apostle Island, due to its intricate sea caves. It has become iconic, featured in countless images. The lighthouse was automated in 1978, marking the end of over a century of lightkeepers tending lights.
3. The Italian: Outer Island Light
The Outer Island Lighthouse stands ninety-feet-high on a tall bluff and was built in 1874. The design of the structure was influenced by the Italianate architectural style popular during that time frame. A gorgeous cast iron staircase spirals up the inside of the tower to the keeper’s watch room.
4-5. The Twins: Michigan Island Light Station
There are technically two lighthouses on Michigan Island that make up the “light station”. However, one was supposed to be built on Long Island and the second was first located elsewhere. On a National Park Service guided tour, you can explore the original lighthouse and museum. You can also climb up the new tower to see incredible views from 120 feet off the ground!
Old Michigan Island Lighthouse
New Michigan Island Lighthouse
6. The Elegant: Sand Island Lighthouse
Built in 1881, the Sand Island Lighthouse is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful lighthouses on Lake Superior. Unlike the other remote lighthouses, the island supported a small, year-round community of farmers and fishermen when the lighthouse was staffed. In fact, more than 100 people lived on Sand Island by 1918, with the bulk of them being immigrants from Norway.
7-8. The Worst Job: The Long Island Light Station
Given its extended, winding appearance, it’s no mystery how Long Island got its name. It also became quite clear that multiple lighthouses were necessary on the quasi-peninsula and it had as many as three at one time. However, only one lightkeeper was tasked with lighting the two lighthouses that remain today on the 4-mile long “island”.
The Chequamegon Point Light, a 42-foot tower at the western tip of the island, was also erected in 1897. The LaPointe keeper had to operate both lights. Thankfully, the Lighthouse Service finally constructed a concrete walkway to connect the two towers, saving the wearisome keepers from having to slog through loose sand.