In comparison with the lighthouse on the tip of Old Mission, both take a fair amount of time to drive out from Traverse City. The drive to Old Mission is far more scenic all the way from Traverse City to Old Mission, with many views of the east and west arms of Grand Traverse Bay, while the drive once you go north out of Northport to the lighthouse is mostly a straight line through woods & fields with few views of the bay. There is no charge to enter the Old MIssion park, whereas there is at Grand Traverse Light, which is inside a State Park, therefore the state gets to charge visitors one way or the other. Anyone visiting this part of Michigan for a week would be better off buying a seasonal pass so they can get into any of the several local state-run parks.
I do recommend that anyone visiting Leelanau County for the first time drive the M22 loop from Traverse City up to Northport, around to Leland and all along the shoreline to Empire, this is a must excursion. For visitors to this lighthouse, the extra mileage is 16.6 miles, round trip from main intersection in Northport to the lighthouse visitor parking lot. There is a branch off this route to Peterson Park, a free county/township park on the Lake Michigan shoreline, this is not far off the route & should be checked out by anyone who likes to see beachs and beautiful lake front.
This summer I bought the $29 State Park season pass sticker for my car & can enter any state park for the rest of 2012 without paying anything more. I have used this pass well over a dozen times during the 18 days I have been in northern Michigan so far. Plus I camped several different nights for an extra $12 a night in the campground at Leelanau State Park, which is adjacent to the lighthouse. I always walk around the beautifully landscaped grounds of the lighthouse whenever I have spent the night at the campground.
I did enjoy visiting this lighthouse, climbing the tower and looking all around. There are some exhibits on local history, previous versions of the light and the history of light house keeping on Lake Michigan, plus there is an extra building with slightly more modern equipment that powers a fog horn.
Usually the air is fresh & cool even when it's hot in other parts of the Grand Traverse area, with one exception. When a steady wind from due south is blowing, the air at the lighthouse becomes very still (since it is both downwind and downhill at this time), and the entire tip of the Leelanau Peninsula gets very hot & humid while other areas are cooled by the wind. I once spent a miserable night camping there due to that, while the rest of Leelanau County was much nicer due to the steady breeze. This seldom happens.
The western half of this park has minimal to no cell phone coverage, since there are no cell phone antenna towers to the west. However, the eastern loops of the campground have excellent cell phone coverage since they face the eastern shore of Grand Traverse Bay, with many more residents and cell phone towers.
There is a nice picnic area / parking lot for day visitors to the lighthouse &/or the state park with a shaded pavilion for picnicking in case it has been sprinkling. You need a state parks admission pass to use this. There is a vending machine for soft drinks. I don't recall if the gift shop (a separate building 135 feet due east of the lighthouse entrance) sells anything edible, although it sells many souvenirs, calendars, patches, etc., when it is open. This picnic area is surrounded by trees, an important consideration since the exposed beachfront tends to be very windy, to the point of having plates of food or cups of liquid tip over. If you want to eat a snack here, bring something with you from Northport on your way to the park, there are restaurants & a grocery store there. GPS coordinates for the day visitor parking lot are 45.209606, -85.548421
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.