It would be easy to pass the Presque Isle peninsula and never know it was there. Easy, but a mistake. This almost completely undiscovered resort area off the beaten path between Rogers City  and Alpena  features two of the jewels in the region’s crown. Both are well worth driving out of the way to see.
On a map, the peninsula looks like a beckoning finger (presqu’île means “peninsula”—“almost an island”—in French). Two classic lighthouses perch at the tip of the strangely shaped peninsula, including the tallest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.
Inside the Old Presque Isle Lighthouse Park, exhibits and displays relate the history of Great Lakes shipping and light keeping, with artifacts and antiques that range from wooden doors from a shipwreck to an old pump organ that visitors can play. Built in 1840, the lighthouse was used for 30 years until it was replaced by a new light a mile north. But no automatic light can provide the view you’ll get from the parapet surrounding the lantern room, reached by a trip up the two-story tower’s winding steps.
The New Presque Isle Lighthouse and Museum (4500 E. Grand Lake Rd., 989/595-9917, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily May–Oct., free) dates to 1871. Trees had grown to obscure the older, shorter lighthouse; the “new” one stretches to 113 feet, the tallest on all the Great Lakes. Situated in the middle of 100-acre Presque Isle Lighthouse Park, the tower and restored light keeper’s house look much as they did more than a century ago. Inside, a caretaker—a descendant of generations of Great Lakes sailors—plays the part of turn-of-the-20th-century light keeper on special occasions.
The park’s fine nature trails begin at the lighthouse and circle the peninsula’s tip. The trails border rugged shoreline, then weave in and out of evergreens and hardwoods, before reaching the peninsula’s tip and a sweeping view of Lake Huron from a rocky beach.
Presque Isle’s Besser-Bell Natural Area offers an intriguing mix of attractions: nearly a mile of wild, undeveloped Lake Huron shoreline, a ghost town, a sunken ship, and one of the few remaining stands of virgin white pine left in the state. Reach the 137-acre preserve from U.S. 23 south of Grand Lake.
The boom-and-bust logging industry both created and destroyed the ghost town of Bell, which once included a school, a sawmill, a store, a saloon, and several houses during the 1880s. A one-mile self-guided trail leads through a magnificent stand of virgin white pine and passes the ghost town and a tiny inland lagoon, the graveyard for an unnamed small vessel. Halfway along the trail, a plaque honors Jesse Besser, who donated this land to the state in 1966 as a memorial to Michigan’s lumbermen. The trail continues through a dark cedar forest before emerging on Lake Huron’s shore.