lighthouse at porphyry point in Thunder Bay Ontario, at sunset

The lighthouse beacon has guided mariners for over a century from this island formed by molten rock.

You wouldn’t expect to find a volcanic island nestled within the cold, crystal clear waters of Lake Superior, yet there it is. In geological terms, porphyry is a variety of igneous rock, which is what forms when magma or molten rock cools and becomes solid. A billion years ago that magma shot up through a crack in the bottom of the lake, and formed Porphyry Island.

The Porphyry Island Lighthouse is a part of Thunder Bay’s rich maritime history. The lighthouse beacon has guided mariners for over a century. Today, it offers visitors a glimpse into the past and an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of this remote location.

A Beacon Through Time

 

porphyry point island lighthouse from an aerial view

The original lighthouse was a square wooden structure with a fixed white light that could be seen at a distance of 16 miles

The Porphyry Point Lighthouse was the second to be commissioned on Lake Superior’s Canadian shores. It became operational in 1873 to aid ships navigating the treacherous waters of Lake Superior. The original lighthouse was a square wooden structure with a fixed white light that could be seen at a distance of 16 miles. The current 36 foot (10.9 meters) lighthouse was built in 1960 and was made fully automated in 1979 after the last lightkeeper, Clifford McKay retired.

Throughout its history, the lighthouse was staffed by dedicated keepers and their families who maintained the light and ensured safe passage for vessels. This year, 2023, marks the 150th anniversary for the lighthouse.

How to Get There: Reaching Porphyry Island is an adventure in itself. The island is about 28 miles (40 kilometers) east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, making it accessible by boat. Visitors can charter a boat from Thunder Bay Marina to the island through Sail Superior, or from Silver Islet Harbor.. Experienced kayakers can paddle there from Silver Islet. Your reward is stunning views of Lake Superior’s rugged coastline.

What to do on Porphyry Island

porphyry point island lighthouse trees on the beaches

The island offers several hiking trails that wind through lush forests and rocky shores.

Visitors to Porphyry Island will find plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy:

  1. Lighthouse Exploration: Explore the historic lighthouse and its surrounding buildings, including an old car graveyard, and the actual graveyard. Learn about the light keeper’s daily life and family in the small museum and art gallery. Tours may be available.
  2. Hiking Trails: The island offers several hiking trails that wind through lush forests and rocky shores. Watch for wildlife, look for sea glass formed from bits of glass thrown off the lighthouse and worn smooth by the Lake’s waves over time, and enjoy panoramic views of Lake Superior.
  3. Wildlife Watching: Porphyry Island is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and various species of waterfowl. Birdwatchers are in for a treat!
  4. Camping: Porphyry Island offers rustic campsites for those seeking a unique camping experience. Campers can fall asleep to the soothing sounds of Lake Superior’s waves and wake up to stunning sunrises.Or, stay in the lighthouse keeper’s former house for an authentic experience.  link-https://clls.ca/visit/
  5. Photography: The island’s rugged landscapes, black sand beach, historic buildings, and lighthouse provide excellent photographic opportunities. Capture the natural beauty and historical charm of this remote destination.
  6. Relax: Take a seat on Parks Canada Red Chair.

Porphyry Island Lighthouse is a historic maritime treasure and a natural haven waiting to be explored. Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, add this to your bucket list of things to do in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Looking for more things to do in Thunder Bay? Check out our Three Perfect Days In Thunder Bay Itinerary and the Guided Journal and Destination Guide.