Volunteer as a Lighthouse Keeper this Summer

Live history. Vacation cheaply. Or simply be a part of a grand Great Lakes tradition: live and work as a lighthouse keeper in Northern Michigan this summer.

The Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association is accepting applications from anyone interesting in a volunteer vacation at two lighthouses located in northern 

St. Helena Island Lighthouse

Located 8 miles west of the Mackinaw Bridge, the St. Helena Island Lighthouse offers positions to singles, couples and families—however, any children must be at least 8 years of age to participate. Volunteers will be transported by boat from Mackinaw City to St. Helena Island and will spend their entire tour of duty on the island before being returned to Mackinaw City. Duties run the gamut from painting, sanding, cooking, washing dishes, dusting, hand-pumping and carrying water, serving as a tour guide, and clearing brush and weeds.

Volunteer keeper openings are available from mid-June through mid-August, with tours of duty ranging from a minimum of 5 days through the entire two-month period, based on the volunteer’s availability. The fee for this great opportunity is $75.00 per person to cover transportation to and from the island, and $12.00 per day for food and incidentals.

Housing opportunities are varied and dependent on any groups which may be scheduled on the island during the volunteer’s stay. An experienced volunteer keeper will be in residence at the lighthouse to provide training and direction throughout the volunteer’s stay.

According to Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association Executive Director and lighthouse historian Terry Pepper, “While there are a number of lighthouses which offer volunteer keeper programs elsewhere around the Great Lakes, St. Helena offers the only opportunity to experience life on a pristine undeveloped island living life exactly as it was live at the end of the nineteenth century. No electricity, Internet or television, water pumped from a well by hand—nothing but nature’s glory and star-filled skies.”

Cheboygan River Front Range Lighthouse

Located right in downtown Cheboygan, the Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse offers a unique combination of staying in a historic riverfront lighthouse while enjoying all the amenities of a bustling downtown area. While a small kitchenette is available for the keeper’s use, Pepper says most of volunteers end up eating their meals at some of the area’s restaurants, a number of which are within easy walking distance of the lighthouse.

Two volunteers (couples or good friends) will share a bedroom at the lighthouse at no charge while providing an enjoyable and hospitable environment for visitors between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Since volunteer keepers will work in pairs, they will be free to swap between gift shop and tour duties. Keepers will also be responsible for building and grounds maintenance throughout the day. This may include sweeping down buildings, mowing the lawn, trimming grass, changing light bulbs, etc. There will also be special projects from time to time— ranging from carpentry, light demolition, painting, etc., depending on the individual keeper’s skills and abilities. There is no charge for volunteering at the Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse, however volunteers must be GLLKA members in order to participate.

Learn More

For additional information on volunteer opportunities at either the St. Helena Island lighthouse or the Cheboygan River Front Range lighthouse, call the Association between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, or send an email to [email protected].

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Article Comments

  • jgardn50

    want to create an account.