Dark Sky

in Northern Michigan

Starlight, star bright, the first star you see tonight

There's something awe-inspiring about the majesty of the nighttime sky and Northern Michigan is one of the best places to enjoy the dark sky. Because the numerous nature preserves offering wide-open expanses, Lake Michigan as far as the eye can see and low levels of light pollution, the Charlevoix area has lots of great places to watch the stars, Northern Lights, Milky Way, and meteor showers.

Depending on when you visit, you may encounter the Northern Lights or a meteor shower. If you happen to be visiting in mid-August, you have a good chance to see the Perseid Meteor Shower. During this annual meteor shower, Earth passes through debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle which passed by Earth in 1992. The meteors we see are pieces of burning debris falling through Earth’s atmosphere.

Words truly cannot describe the stirring beauty of the Northern Lights. While they can be hard to view, if you ever get the chance to see this celestial phenomenon, the dancing lights are unforgettable. One of the best times to view the Northern Lights is during the winter when cold weather and longer nights create optimal conditions. Occasionally, when conditions are perfect, the Northern Lights are also visible during warm summer nights. You never know when you may see the aurora!

Stargazing in Charlevoix is second to none. Here are several great places to view the nighttime heavens.

  • Mt. McSauba
    Minutes from downtown Charlevoix, the Mt. McSauba Recreation Area offers a unique mixture of wooded trails and outlooks, beach views, and sand dunes to watch the stars. Dark skies are guaranteed here!
  • Fisherman's Island State Park
    One of Michigan’s best-kept secrets, Fisherman’s Island State Park, has plenty of room to view the starry skies. Whether you pick a wooded spot or a sandy beach location, you can’t go wrong with this beautiful state park. If you visit during winter months, the park does not have snow removal. Make sure to bring your snowshoes so you can easily traverse the park. Certain times of the year, you must be a registered camper to get into the camping area of the park (during camping season we suggest viewing the sky near the entrance of the park at the end of Bells Bay Rd).
  • Jordan River
    Located near East Jordan, the Jordan River winds its way through sweeping countryside and wooded terrain. Choose one of the river’s access points such as Graves Crossing or Webster Bridge

Beaver Island
Located thirty-two miles from the mainland shoreline, Beaver Island, is a remote island with little to no light pollution. This island is one of the best places to view the nighttime wonders. Fun fact: Beaver Island is working toward becoming a Dark Sky Park!

Charlevoix South Pier
If you’re looking for a cool nighttime photo, head to the Charlevoix South Pier. Not only will you get a photo of the Lighthouse, but you may also even catch the Northern Lights dancing around the lighthouse.

Charles Ransom Nature Preserve
Sitting atop of Charlevoix’s highest point, the Charles Ransom Nature Preserve has fabulous views day or night. The high point of this nature preserve makes it the perfect place to watch the stars, Northern Lights, and meteor showers.

Worth the Drive
If you haven’t heard about the Headlands International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, you need to visit. This park is one of Michigan’s six state-designated dark sky parks as well as being recognized as an international dark sky park. The Headlands has 600 acres of woods and two miles of undeveloped shoreline just waiting to be explored. The observatory is a perfect place to observe the stars.