Lake Superior Lighthouse Weekender: Travel by Zephyr to Scenic Porphyry Island
Your paradise is secluded from city sounds and lights. Your sleep is that of pure tranquility. As the sun rises over the horizon, you are slowly awakened by the sounds of gentle rolling waves and birds beginning their morning songs. These are the sounds of Lake Superior. You brew a fresh cup of coffee and step out the front door. Like a book waiting to be read, a magical landscape greets you and is waiting to be explored. You are at Point Porphyry Island Lighthouse on Lake Superior, in Ontario’s Superior Country.
Nestled on a craggy black volcanic island, capped with boreal forest, the Point Porphyry Island Lighthouse Station is part of the new Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, opened up for you to discover an experience of a lifetime. And now travellers can visit the lighthouse on guided tours from Silver Islet and Thunder Bay.
What is the Point Porphyry Island Lighthouse Tour?
- Leaves from: Thunder Bay Marina and Silver Islet
Destination: Point Porphyry Island Lighthouse Station
Length of time on the water: 1 hour each way from Thunder Bay, 30 minutes each way from Silver Islet
Overnight stay: Both day trips and overnight stays are available
Things to do: swim, hike, sauna, learn Indigenous history, visit the lighthouse museum and art gallery
Getting to Porphyry Island
As you set sail from the Thunder Bay Marina, aboard the 12-passenger Superior Rocket, Lake Superior opens up as your new highway to adventure. After an exhilarating hour on the crystal clear waters of the largest freshwater lake, you reach your destination at the lighthouse harbour.
Fully protected from the elements, you arrive in your bright orange survival suits and unzip to the calming embrace of Porphyry Island Cove.
What Is There to See on Porphyry Island?
Surrounded by whispering pines, spruce, and birch, you are introduced to the island’s access road that leads you to the lighthouse on Porphyry’s Point. As you walk through the forest to the lighthouse dwellings, you can’t help but feel at peace as you arrive at the keeper’s homestead, high on the cliff.
The diversity of the lighthouse experience is all around you, from the fantastic panoramic vistas of Lake Superior to the lighthouse keeper’s story of survival. As a lightkeeper, you will learn about the light keeper’s families who came before, and about the days of resource extractions of silver and copper. You will learn how the First Nations people helped the settler light keepers survive on the summer harvest of fish and plant life. The small museum and art gallery offer a glimpse into the past and help you appreciate the challenges of operating a lighthouse in this remote setting. One of the experiences is to “walk the walk” of the keeper, checking on the locations they would tend to daily, from the light tower, to the fog alarm building and the charting of daily observations.
Saxifrage clutches the black barren volcanic rocks originating from the last ice age. This robust succulent is not the only vegetation you will discover; there’s a plethora of unique island plant life that you will come across while you explore the island.
Exploring Porphyry Island Lighthouse
The 1940s-era light keeper’s dwelling is painted with a characteristic red and white exterior. Once inside, you immediately feel at home with the rustic wooden floors and gabled ceilings. This three-bedroom dwelling was government issue years ago, and no shortcuts were taken in its construction. Water, power, and indoor plumbing provide you with all the comforts you’d expect.
Cooking over the propane stove, you remain engaged with the settler’s lifestyle as you peer out the window to see a flock of blue jays fly by. Your view is filled with blue turquoise waters, remote islands, sailing and fishing boats motoring by, taking in their own incredible views. After finishing your meal, you take a 15-minute stroll to explore the black sands beach.
The black sand that makes up the beach is a result of the black volcanic rock that has been ground down over time to make this beautiful shore. You decide to go for a swim and find that you dance a little on the hot sand till you reach the shoreline and a refreshing wave rolls over your feet. After an invigorating swim, you walk to the sauna building and stock up the fire to unwind in the steam bath on the lake.
After the sun sets beyond the horizon, you are granted with a clear night sky bursting with stars, marking a stunning conclusion to your day as a lighthouse keeper on Porphyry Island.
Porphyry gives way to an unfettered view of the inland sea, a connection to the land, and to the many stories of the past waiting to be explored further. Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Porphyry Island light keeper’s experience is waiting for you. For further information, visit superiorcountry.ca.