International Dark Sky Park


The Headlands, a beautiful 550-acre park just west of Mackinaw City, is one of six International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. and one of nine in the world. Named a Dark Sky Park in May 2011, this designation means that The Headlands is a spectacular place for sky and star gazing.

A Dark Sky Park has minimal light interruption from nearby cities or places making it a perfect place to view the skies at night. The approval required a lengthy process by Emmet County, who owns and operates the park. As an official Dark Sky Park, the only one in Michigan, The Headlands must be open at all times and include an educational component about astronomy and maintain park lighting that is minimizes interference with star gazing.

The nation's other Dark Sky Parks are in Utah, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, and New Mexico.

The Headlands contains two miles of pristine Lake Michigan beaches, rare and endangered plant life, and wild life including bald eagles and osprey. Trails through the park offer the opportunity to view the plant and wild life.

Throughout the year, the Headlands Dark Sky Park hosts night time events such as a Halloween event as well as those to celebrate a lunar eclipse or meteor shower. The Headlands Dark Sky Park already is drawing visitors from around the U.S. who travel to Northern Michigan to observe the sky in such a perfect setting.

2015 Programs

April 11-12, 8:10pm Waning Moon Stargaze and Aurora Talk. Each year, the Headlands Dark Sky Park partners with the Straits Area Audubon Society for an evening of learning about the rare and wonderful saw whet owl, an entirely nocturnal creature that migrates through our region along the edge of the receding snow line. Due to the nature of habitat and weather, event is by reservation only, 231-348-1713.

April 21, 12pm Outdoor Lighting Forum Annual Luncheon. Mitigating light pollution is the work of many, and every year during our entertaining awards luncheon to celebrate businesses, institutions, and individuals throughout Northern Michigan who practice conscientious outdoor lighting choices, Guest speaker Jerry Dobek, NASA JP, City Park Grill, Petoskey.

May 9, 7pm Great Lakes Dark Skies. Come celebrate with the 4th anniversary of Headlands International Dark Sky Park Designation. The program will include panel discussion by scientific, industry, and humanities experts in honor of 2015: the International Year of Light and Lighting.

May 23-24, 12am Camelopardalis and Meteor Shower Mysteries. Gather at midnight for the story and the science of meteor showers, and take in the darkening sky between moonset (at 1am Sunday). A Headlands Dark Sky Park program, at Heritage Village.

June 20, 8pm The Storytellers' Guide to the Night Sky. With Summer officially under way, there is no better time to get out the picnic basket and head outside under a glorious night sky. Engaging and interactive tales of the night, to sweetly set us into the season of summer’s warmth under the starry skies.

July 18, 8:30pm A Little Night Music. Climb the silver ladder of the Moon to the land of the singing sky with live music tuned to the stars. Bring camp chairs and picnic blankets to enjoy the stage of the Earth, and catch the beautiful dance of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon.

July 22, 8pm The Allure of Night Sky Photography. Space is limited and tickets are required for this event with one of the Upper Peninsula’s most extraordinarily talented photographers, Shawn Stockman-Malone of Lake Superior Photo in Marquette. Information for reservations: 231-348-1713.

July 31, 8:30pm Blue Moon Picnic. Just before the summer Sun sets low over the western edge of the world at 9:15pm, this month’s second Full Moon will rise up in the East at 9:07pm, a new school Blue Moon that promises rare encounters. Telescopes provided. A Headlands Dark Sky Park program in conjunction with Heritage Festival at Heritage Village.

August 11-12 Lights Out and the Perseids Picnic. Dim your lights for the Headlands Dark Sky Park, Mackinaw City. Lights Out Challenge 10:30-11:30pm, Tuesday, Aug. 11, Perseid Picnic and formal program 9-11pm, Aug. 11, Meteor shower viewing (informal) overnight Aug. 11-12.

September 27-28 Harvest Moon Total Eclipse. 10-11:30pm program during eclipse totality; 7pm-2am informal viewing of partial, total and waning eclipse phases. This year’s Harvest Moon arrives under the spell of Earth’s shadow and will appear totally eclipsed everywhere East of the Rocky Mountains, including here at Headlands Dark Sky Park.

October 24, 8pm Headlands Challenge. Set the imaginations on fire with a one-mile candlelit walk.

November 17, 6pm The Arts Inspired by the Cosmos Under Cover of the Leonid Meteor Showers. Humanity’s striving to understand its place in the stars has led to the highest achievements in literature, architecture, science, and the arts. At Headlands, there is no better time to take a journey through the wonder and inspiration of it all than during the peak of the Leonid Meteor Show.

December 12-13, 13-14 Catch a Falling Star with the Geminds. One of the most prolific meteor showers of the year, with a good amount of shooting star activity as early as 10pm when the constellation of the mighty Gemini Twins arcs up over the eastern horizon. Since the Geminids peak throughout this time, and especially overnight Sunday to Monday, two programs are scheduled that will include refreshments and bonfire, with both indoor and outdoor access.


Hop aboard for a wonderful night out under the stars and experience the beautiful Straits area while enjoying an entertaining evening listening to Mary Stewart Adams, Program
Director of the Dark Sky Park at the Headlands, discuss sky lore and celestial events in our night sky. It’s a wonderful way to spend time star gazing out on the water!

June 19, 9pm Crescent Moon Cruise
July 15, 9pm New Moon Cruise
July 31, 8:30pm Blue Moon Cruise
August 11, 11pm Perseid Meteor Shower Cruise
August 12, 11pm Perseid Meteor Shower Cruise
September 26, 7pm Harvest Moon Cruise

For more information:
Headlands Dark Sky Park
7725 E Wilderness Park Dr
Mackinaw City, MI 49701
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For more activities & attractions, check out these additional links for Things to Do in Northern Michigan:

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Lots of Activities in Mackinaw City, Michigan -- Explore Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan for history, the International Dark Sky Park, and outdoor activities.
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Last Updated: 06-16-2015 02:57 PM ID: 857