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19 Charming Lighthouses to Visit in Northern Ontario: You Can Even Stay Overnight in #11 and #16!

Located at the entrance to the Thunder Bay Marina, Thunder Bay's Main lighthouse is a welcome sight for boaters.
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19 Charming Lighthouses to Visit in Northern Ontario: You Can Even Stay Overnight in #11 and #16!

Ever wanted to live like a lighthouse keeper? Now's your chance!

Stay overnight, cruise past on a Zodiac tour, visit on a kayak, or climb to the top...here's a lighthouse lover's guide to visiting every single lighthouse in Northern Ontario!



Northern Ontario’s many lakes and waterways are a lighthouse lover's dream come true. From the shores of the world's largest freshwater island to the vast waters of Lake Superior, our region is dotted with quaint, historic (and often still functioning!) structures that are easy to visit today.

These lighthouses reflect the region’s settlement history as well as acting as guiding lights for the many ships—from freighters to pleasurecraft—that navigate the region’s lakes and bays.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture fan, or simply looking to get some postcard-perfect shots of Northern Ontario’s pristine waters, a visit to one (or many) of the region’s lighthouses is worthy of a slight detour. Ever dreamed of staying overnight in a lighthouse? You can do that too! 

Here are all the best lighthouses to visit in Northern Ontario.

Northeastern Ontario

1. Janet Head Lighthouse

Where is it: Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: This classic white-and-red lighthouse overlooking the North Channel in Gore Bay was constructed in 1879, making Janet Head Lighthouse the second-oldest standing lighthouse on Manitoulin Island. Over its more than 140 years, the lighthouse has been used as a store, art gallery, and even a vacation home. Janet Head is open to the public four days a week, and is free to visit. If you happen to visit it at night, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the solar-powered LED light that runs from the tower 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2. Little Current Lighthouse

Where is it: Little Current, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: The Little Current Lighthouse is a replica of the original Birdcage Lighthouse that was built at the same location in 1866. There were six lighthouses of the same design built in Ontario: they’re notable for the domed, wire-and-glass-framed spire structure that houses their beacons, which resemble — you guessed it — a birdhouse. The Little Current Lighthouse was constructed in 2012. 

Why visit: This lighthouse was originally erected to guide ships through Manitoulin’s rocky Mississagi Strait — and its beacon shines on across the Straight and to Manitoulin’s North Channel to this day. The lighthouse has also been remodelled as a museum, which hosts a number of artifacts from the area’s past, including historical items and documents about the lighthouse’s more than 100-year history. Visitors to the museum may also wish to camp at the popular campground nearby.

Please note there is no land access to the lighthouse and the campground is currently closed. Contact the campground for information on the 2022 season. 

4. South Baymouth Range Lighthouses

Where is it: South Baymouth, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: The lights from South Baymouth’s two lighthouses welcome thousands of visitors to Manitoulin each year, as this is where the famed Chi-Cheemaun arrives, en route from Tobermory. These lighthouses were erected in 1989 and, while they’re not open to the public, you’re welcome to view them from the outside and snap a few photos on your arrival to Manitoulin. 

5. Manitowaning Lighthouse

Where is it: Manitowaning, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: The 34-foot-tall lighthouse in the historic planned community of Manitowaning was completed in 1885, and is a recognized Federal Heritage Building. The lighthouse still directs boats from Manitowaning Bay to the village docks using a fully automated light. Visitors to the lighthouse will appreciate its classic 19th-century architecture, as well as nearby St. Paul’s Church, the oldest church in the Manitoulin area.

6. Kagawong Lighthouse

Where is it: Kagawong, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: Most of the boats currently visiting Kagawong, known as “Ontario’s Prettiest Village” are pleasure craft, and not the steamers that once docked at its shores. The Kagawong Lighthouse is still fully functional however, and, while visitors can’t enter the lighthouse, it’s well-maintained and picturesque, and located right in town, with easy access to scenic Bridal Falls and the museum located inside the Old Mill Heritage Centre. Consider visiting at night, when its beacon glows bright red. 

7. Strawberry Island Lighthouse

Where is it: Little Current, Manitoulin Island

Why visit: This lighthouse is on an island and can only be viewed from the waters of Georgian Bay—it is not open to the public, as it is currently used as a residence by a local family (who also maintains the lighthouse during navigation season). Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for it—or plan your boat trip to pass by it—as you cruise past Strawberry Island. 

8. Killarney Northwest Lighthouse

Where is it: Killarney

Why visit: Like its eastern counterpart, this is one of two lighthouses built to ensure safe passage to Killarney before the completion of Highway 637. Accessible by boat, the rocky shores at the foot of this island lighthouse make for some excellent photo ops, whether you’re taking photos of the lighthouse itself, or looking out onto the picturesque water at sunset. 

9. Killarney East Lighthouse

Where is it: Killarney

Why visit: Originally known as the Red Rock Lighthouse, the Killarney East Lighthouse — and its northwest counterpart, both of which were built in 1867 — ensured safe passage to Killarney for decades, since the municipality was only accessible by boat until the completion of Highway 637 in 1962. Today, the Killarney East Lighthouse is a stunning historical landmark on the edge of Georgian Bay accessible by boat or on foot. Killarney's Lighthouse Trail near Killarney Mountain Lodge culminates at the Killarney East Lighthouse. 

ALGOMA

10. Pointe Aux Pins Range Lighthouse

Where is it: Sault Ste Marie

Why visit: This lighthouse, which was constructed to guide ships sailing through the Soo Locks, is not publicly accessible — it sits on a private island — so it is best enjoyed from the water and some points on shore. Architecture buffs may enjoy its unconventional shape, while history fans might enjoy knowing that, in 1960, the lighthouse made the local news after five Sault Ste Marie kids stole the brass warning bell from the tower — and dumped it upstream. 

Why visit: This lighthouse is located on a private island and is not open to the public —unless you want to spend a night there! The McKay Island Lighthouse can accommodate six guests and comes fully equipped with a full kitchen, bonfire pit, and a beautiful water’s-edge dock, where you can spend restful nights gazing out over stunning Bruce Bay. Learn more about what it’s like to sleep in the lighthouse and book your own visit today. 

12. Coppermine Point Lighthouse

Where is it: Batchawana Bay

Why visit: The Coppermine Point Lighthouse is actually no longer at the shoreline of Lake Superior — in its place, today, a cylindrical mast displays a white flash every four seconds. The original Coppermine Point Lighthouse, meanwhile, lives three kilometres north, at Hibbard Bay, where in 1970 it became part of a now-defunct restaurant complex. Today, the lighthouse is no longer serviced or maintained, but can still be seen from the road. 

13. Shoal Island Lighthouse

Where is it: Shoal Island, near Richards Landing

Why visit: After the original Shoal Island Lighthouse burned down, in 1909, the current structure — which is a square dwelling with a small lighthouse tower rising from the centre of its roof — was built just off the shores of St. Joseph's Island. Today, the lighthouse is not open to the public, but its unconventional shape and structure make it an interesting sight for boaters and well worth a look as you cruise past.

Superior Country

14. Terrace Bay Lighthouse

Where is it: Terrace Bay

Why visit: Like the Little Current Lighthouse, the lighthouse in the scenic town of Terrace Bay s a replica: this one, built in 2011, is modelled after a lighthouse in Slate Islands Provincial Park. During the warmer months, from May to October, visitors to the Terrace Bay Lighthouse can climb to the top of the 50-foot structure to look out over Lake Superior (and the nearby Slate Islands) from the lighthouse’s observation deck. Lucky visitors might even be able to spot caribou on the Slate Islands by using the lighthouse’s Loonie-operated telescope! 

Why visit: This picturesque island lighthouse built in 1911 is accessible by boat, charters (like this sailboat tour from Sail Superior), or kayak tours. While the lighthouse itself is closed, the grounds are accessible. Learn more about the wild history of Battle Island Lighthouse, and its keepers, here

Why visit: Getting here is half the fun: the closest boat launch is the historic town of Silver Islet (check out the best things to do here) or via a tour from the Thunder Bay Marina. Climb to the top of the 36-foot tall light tower, check out the museum and art gallery, and enjoy an interpretive tour offering visitors the history of this historic structure. The more adventurous travellers can book the Weekender—a 3-night stay in the 3-bedroom guest house with 260-degree views of Lake Superior. The package includes your entrance fee, return charter, and accommodation.

Learn more about what it's like to visit the lighthouse here or read the Canadian bestseller The Light Keeper’s Daughters which is set on the island. 

Why visit: Shaganash Island Lighthouse—also referred to as Number 10 Lighthouse—is located 15 km east of Porphyry Island Lighthouse on the North Channel. The island has no amenities but visitors will find a ThunderBox and picnic table. Camping areas are located on the beach or on the higher ground near the lighthouse. The lighthouse is not open for public viewing but could be opened upon request.

18. Trowbridge Island Lighthouse

Where is it: Trowbridge Island, South of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Why visit: Trowbridge Island Lighthouse is located near the feet of the majestic Sleeping Giant formation and is part of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.

Why visit: Thunder Bay's iconic Main Lighthouse is perched on the breakwater at the entrance to the harbour, but not connected to the mainland. The square dwelling with a white clapboard exterior is closed to the public but visible from the water as well as Marina Park.

Lighthouse Resources in Ontario

Learn more about the conservation work being done to conserve and protect the lighthouses in this region by visiting Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior.


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