American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
The Keeper Program at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse
Given my current focus on Moon Florida Keys, I recognize that, except for my recent Michigan dialect post, I haven't written much about the Great Lakes State lately. Since I'll be headed there in just a couple weeks, I figure it's high time that I remedy this unintended oversight.
Unlike the Florida Keys, where most attractions are available year-round, Michigan is definitely a seasonal place. So, now that spring has arrived, many locales are emerging from hibernation. One such place is the Grand Traverse Lighthouse (15500 N. Lighthouse Point Rd., Northport, 231/386-7195, noon-4 p.m. daily May and Sept.-Oct., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily June-Aug., noon-4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Nov., $4 adults, $2 children 6-18, state park motor vehicle permit required), a well-landscaped, red-and-white lighthouse situated in Leelanau State Park at the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, where it's been guiding ships through Lake Michigan since 1858.
While the lighthouse and accompanying museum are only open from May through November, there's one activity that's available even sooner – the unique Keeper Program. From April through December, lighthouse lovers can spend one or two memorable weeks as a lighthouse keeper. During your stay in the former assistant's quarters on the northern side of the lighthouse – which includes a modern kitchen, a comfortable living room, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms – you'll be responsible for certain duties. In April, November, and December, such duties will include cleaning, painting, minor repairs, inventory, and the like, while during the May-October tourism season, keepers will also be responsible for greeting visitors, providing historical information, operating the gift shop, and helping to maintain the grounds and facilities.
All keepers must be healthy, energetic, professional, well-groomed, properly attired, comfortable speaking with the public, able to climb stairs, and willing to learn basic historic information about the lighthouse. Of course, being a volunteer lighthouse keeper isn't a free enterprise. The program fee can range from $195 for one week to $440 for two weeks, depending on whether or not you're a lighthouse member. Also, although the quarters are well equipped with dishes, cooking utensils, appliances, and paper products, you'll be responsible for providing your own food, linens, pillows, blankets, and towels. Bear in mind, too, that the quarters are heated, but not air-conditioned. But, despite the cost and the hard work, it can definitely be a one-of-a-kind way to experience the Grand Traverse Lighthouse – especially for those who have ever romanticized about the possibility of being a lighthouse keeper.
No smoking, alcoholic beverages, or pets are permitted in or on the premises, and all lighthouse keepers must be 18 years of age or older. To learn more about this rare opportunity, check available dates, and apply for the program, contact the lighthouse directly.
For more information about lighthouses and other seasonal attractions in the Great Lakes State, pick up or order a copy of Moon Michigan.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me via laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.
Photo & text © 2010 Laura Martone