RV Road Trip to Lake Michigan Lighthouses Near Chicago

Without ever leaving the Chicago area, it’s possible to visit, photograph and learn more about four historic lighthouses. Your first order of business, before starting your road trip along the Lake Michigan shoreline, is to find comfortable RV camping. Staying in one of the many suburbs of Chicago is a great option; you’re outside the busy city but close enough to see all the attractions. Here are a few suggestions for RV camping within about an hour of the Chicago shoreline:

  1. Empress Casino/Hotel/RV Resort: Joliet, IL
  2. Jellystone Park/Resort Chicago: Millbrook, IL
  3. Chicago Northwest KOA – Union, IL

Chicagoland Lake Michigan Lighthouses
Now, to the Chicago area lighthouse itinerary – start by driving to Navy Pier in Chicago and getting a good look at the Chicago Harbor Light. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see it easily from the pier; you might also consider a cruise with one of the charter services that operates in the area.

Look south from the same pier and you’ll be able to see a good example of a “structural light,” the Chicago Harbor Southeast Guidewall Light. The still-functional light sits atop a metal structure on one of the breakwaters in Chicago Harbor. It is also visible either from the pier or by boat tour.

To experience picturesque Grosse Point Lighthouse, travel north from Chicago to the city of Evanston, IL. Near the campus of Northwestern University stands this tower built in 1873, as well as the keepers’ dwelling, in a beautifully-landscaped park operated by the city. Arrive for one of the summer-only tours and you’ll be challenged to climb the 141 steps to the top of the light!

One more Lake Michigan lighthouse on the western shore near Chicago can be found at the end of Government Pier in Waukegan, IL. According to Terry Pepper’s comprehensive Seeing the Light – Lighthouses of the Western Great Lakes, the original lighthouse installation included a keepers’ dwelling, but a fire in the 1960s destroyed much of the structure. What remains is a white iron tower topped with an acrylic lens, which can be reached by walking out onto the pier.

That covers the four lights found in Chicago Harbor and north to the Illinois/Wisconsin border. Immediately south across the Indiana border, you can easily visit a half dozen lights, from Calumet Lighthouse to the nicely-restored Old Michigan City Lighthouse, by adding just a couple more days to your Chicago-area RV trip. If you’re interested in ranging farther north, there are more than a dozen lighthouses along Lake Michigan’s western shore within Wisconsin’s borders.

You may soon start to see RV camping in Chicago in a whole new light, thanks to the abundance of lighthouses illuminating Lake Michigan. Use these tips to start planning your next RV camping vacation to Chicago; it just might be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Lake Michigan’s historic lights.

Photo credits: The picture of the Chicago Harbor Light is by Richard C. Drew from the Wikimedia Commons. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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RV Vacation to Visit Lake Superior Lighthouses

Did you know that Lake Superior, largest of the five Great Lakes, is home to nearly three dozen lighthouses? That should be enough to get your RV out of storage and headed north to explore beauty and maritime history on an RV vacation to visit Lake Superior lighthouses!

Michigan Upper Peninsula Lighthouses
One of the most scenic spots on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is also the place to see a well-restored lighthouse built in 1871. Point Iroquois Light near Brimley features the original lighthouse tower and a picturesque two-story keeper’s dwelling. Just west down the shoreline, you can visit the site where the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald was lost. Skeleton-style Whitefish Point Lighthouse stands tall above the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum housed in the keeper’s quarters.

An additional thirteen lights have kept the shores of the Upper Peninsula safe over the years. Of special interest are Crisp Point Lighthouse, Au Sable Light Station on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Marquette Harbor Lighthouse, also home to an excellent maritime museum. When you need a rest from lighthouse viewing, Whitefish Hill RV Park near Rapid River comes well-recommended.

And we haven’t even mentioned the amazing collection of lights on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula! Many of these are on private property or in the process of restoration, and are best seen from the water via local charters. Two you can tour on land are Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and the Jacobsville/Portage River Light.

The truly intrepid RV traveler can park the RV for a bit and take a five-hour cruise from Houghton or Copper Harbor to Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park. This rugged park, known for its backcountry hiking, boating and wildlife viewing, includes views of four historic lighthouses.

Wisconsin Lake Superior Lighthouses
Where the waters of Lake Superior wash against the Wisconsin shoreline, you’ll find a collection of lighthouses standing guard over Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Nine great lights stand in varying degrees of operation, restoration or restored glory and some are open to guided tours. On shore, you can also see Ashland Breakwater Light standing out in Chequamegon Bay. An important RV camping tip: the City of Ashland offers very affordable RV camping at Kreher Park.

Minnesota Lake Superior Lighthouses
In the Duluth, Minnesota area on Superior Bay, six lighthouses are clearly visible. From Canal Park Drive in Duluth, you’ll be able to see Duluth South Breakwater Inner Light, Duluth North Inner Breakwater Light, Duluth South Breakwater Outer Lighthouse and the ruins of Minnesota Point Light on the grounds of Sky Harbor Airport. As if that weren’t enough for lighthouse lovers, a short drive north to Two Harbors yields view of two more historic lights – Two Harbors Breakwater Light and the picturesque red brick Two Harbors Lighthouse.

As you continue your lighthouse tour of Minnesota’s “North Shore,” plan time for a stay at Lamb’s Resort in Schroeder, MN, right on the shores of Lake Superior. That positions you perfectly for a visit to breathtakingly scenic Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. You can then venture a little farther north to visit Grand Marais Lighthouse before turning back for home.

Three states, three dozen lighthouses and many excellent RV camping adventures… it’s the perfect formula for some serious travel fever! An RV vacation to visit at least some of Lake Superior’s lighthouses should be on the agenda of every maritime-history-loving RV camper.

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RV Camping to California’s Bay Area Lighthouses

Fabulous San Francisco Bay is the focus of today’s RV camping exploration of America’s lighthouses. Numerous lights, both preserved and dismantled, line the rocky shores of this Bay surrounded by San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and a whole host of other scenic cities. We’d like to offer an itinerary for seeing three of the most famous lighthouses that guard San Francisco Bay.

Fort Point National Historic Site is a great place to begin your journey. Although the lighthouse here can’t be toured, you can visit the historic fort and see an excellent presentation on the three lights that have guarded this entrance to San Francisco Bay. Adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge, this site yields one photo opportunity after another.

Alcatraz Island Light is another lighthouse nestled in the midst of history. The lighthouse on Alcatraz was the first light activated on the West Coast, and served to warn ships away from the Island for more than one hundred years. The light’s remaining cement tower can be viewed as part of the tours offered by Alcatraz Cruises, the only transportation to the Island.

In case we forget to mention it later, our El Monte RV Rental office  in Dublin, California offers pickup and drop off service to the Dublin Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, making it super simple to pick up your RV!

Before we move on to one more wonderful Bay Area lighthouse, let’s talk about RV camping in the area. Two RV resorts, in particular, get great reviews. San Francisco RV Resort in Pacifica is right on the water and centrally-located for your lighthouse tour. San Francisco Candlestick RV Park is situated in front of Candlestick Stadium, home of the 49ers. Talk to the hosts at either campground for ideas for enhancing your San Francisco motorhome vacation.

Don’t leave the Bay Area without seeing Yerba Buena Lighthouse, located on an island halfway across the Bay Bridge’s span. Although this beautifully preserved lighthouse, still operating as an automated light, isn’t accessible for tours, there are several ferry tours across the Bay that offer excellent views of this lighthouse.

Several more lighthouses dot the shores of San Francisco Bay, but many are modern “skeleton” lights set on historic settings. Try sampling the three listed above to get a sense of Bay Area maritime history. It just might inspire you to head up or down the California coast for yet another California lighthouse RV journey.

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RV Camping to America’s Gulf Coast Lighthouses

America’s Gulf Coast is rich in history, fascinating cultural traditions and scenic RV campgrounds. We can’t think of a nicer motorhome tour of the Gulf Coast Region than to visit its historic lighthouses. Allow us to shed some light on the great lights of America’s Gulf Coast.

Texas Lighthouses
Although many of the lighthouses along Texas’ Gulf Coast have been destroyed by hurricanes, RV travelers can still visit a handful with fascinating pasts. A perfect photo opportunity awaits the tourist who is willing to take a ferry trip across Galveston Bay from Galveston to Point Bolivar. Bolivar Point light is not open for public tours, but dramatic photos of this pre-Civil War era lighthouse can definitely be taken from the deck of the ferry.

Port Isabel Light

Port Isabel Light

Take a trip to the entrance of Queen Isabella Causeway in Port Isabel, Texas to tour Port Isabel Light. Sitting high on a bluff, this light looks across to Padre Island. Built in 1853, it is now part of Port Isabel Lighthouse State Historic Park.

While you’re there, plan to stay at Port Isabel Park Center, where you can fish from their private dock and enjoy a picture-perfect view of the lighthouse. By the way, this website by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has detailed information on Texas lighthouses.

Mississippi Lighthouses
Another great RV road trip lighthouse lovers should take is to Biloxi, Mississippi, where they’ll find a wonderfully restored lighthouse right in the median of a four-lane highway! Biloxi Lighthouse was completely refurbished following Hurricane Katrina and is even featured on a US postage stamp. Fox’s RV Park is close to the lighthouse, and all the attractions of this Gulf Coast city.

Florida Lighthouses
A number of lighthouses dot the shoreline of Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Pensacola Lighthouse is the perfect place to travel by RV with children, because they’ll love the history exhibits, moonlight tours and ghost hunts! Park your RV at Playa del Rio RV Resort and Yacht Club, then visit the lighthouse and come back to the white sand beach adjacent to this Pensacola campground.

Boca Grande Lighthouse

Boca Grande Lighthouse

Gasparilla Island State Park, on a barrier island off Florida’s Gulf shore, is home to Boca Grande Lighthouse. This unusual “lighthouse on stilts” has been completely restored by a local historical society and offers tours and events year-round.

One more fascinating Florida Gulf Coast lighthouse to visit is on Egmont Key, accessible only by private charter boat. Having been struck by lightning, pounded by hurricanes and fought over by Union and Confederate forces, this quiet monument now stands as a reminder of Florida’s early history.

Louisiana Lighthouses
Now on the grounds of the University of New Orleans, the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse is closed for tours, but you can hike the shoreline and photograph to your heart’s content. On the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, you’ll also find historic Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, best reached by lake excursion boat. Beautiful Tchefuncte RV Campground, on the banks of the river is right in the heart of New Orleans area attractions.

Feeling enlightened? It’s never too early to start planning your next Gulf Coast lighthouse RV trip. Go to El Monte RV Rentals to find the most convenient RV rentals location. It’s time to follow America’s great lights to the perfect RV camping vacation.

To find more lightouses check out this great resource: The Lighthouse Directory.

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