The harbor town on the backdrop of Lake Michigan is a perfect vacation spot. Far from the hullabaloo of city life, the family-friendly vibe is hard to miss. Whether you are traveling solo or looking for entertainment for the whole family, Ludington offers plentiful outdoor adventures, a state park with dunes, and miles of sandy beaches. The warm summer attracts golfers as the city hosts a couple of large events. The winter is cold and snowy but not unbearable as Lake Michigan moderates the weather. Fishing in Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake along with camping and hunting facilities nearby are some of the best attractions.
1. S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry
© S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry
Named after the Wisconsin Badgers, the athletic teams representing the University of Wisconsin, S.S. Badger is the largest car and passenger ferry to sail the Great Lakes. It runs daily from mid-May to mid-October from its home port Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The 410-foot ship can accommodate 600 passengers and 180 different types of vehicles.
The onboard entertainment options are a mix of fun and reminiscent of its maritime heritage. You can play Badger Bingo, watch movies, or have a meal in any of the two restaurants. When it arrives at the port, watching it from the North Breakwater Lighthouse on the backdrop of a beautiful sunset is a favorite local pastime.
700 S. Williams Street, Ludington, Michigan, Phone: 800-841-4243
2. Ludington State Park
© Paul Lemke/stock.adobe.com
Encompassing an enormous 5,300 acres area and seven miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, Ludington State Park sits between two great lakes—Lake Michigan and Hamlin Lake. Housing a Great Lake, sand dunes, a river, a dam, and forests, the park is practically the ecosystem nucleus of the area.
The lakeside park offers boating, fishing and swimming opportunities. If you want to stay the night, cabins and RV sites are available for rent. The place also has ski, bicycle, hiking, and canoe trails with excellent wildlife viewing. The renovated Big Sable Point Lighthouse is another popular spot where you can get an intimate experience by working as a volunteer lighthouse keeper.
Lower Peninsula, Mason County, Michigan, Phone: 231-843-2423
3. Big Sable Point Lighthouse
This beautiful and historic lighthouse is an integral part of the Ludington community. Being one of the tallest lighthouses in Michigan, it offers spectacular views of the surroundings. You can visit there between 10 am and 5 pm daily, from May to October, but be prepared to hike 1.8 miles and climb 130 steps. There is a gift shop in the original Keeper's Quarters selling mementos.
To reach the lighthouse, follow the M-116 route to the north up to the Ludington State Park and then take a hike from the parking lot to the beach where the black-and-white lighthouse is standing.
5611 N Lighthouse, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-845-7417
4. Ludington North Breakwater Light
If the Big Sable Point Lighthouse is a historic attraction, the North Breakwater Light is the focal point of Ludington. Located on the north breakwater pier in the meeting point of Lake Michigan and Pere Marquette River, it offers a great vantage point for watching the S.S. Badger carferry on Lake Michigan or the sunset. People love to take a walk on the mile-long route from the breakwall to the light, which is also a popular fishing venue.
The pyramid-shaped tower has three decks, lantern rooms, several windows, and plenty of pictures for visitors to explore. Reaching to the top requires climbing 53 steps, and the reward is spectacular views of Ludington harbor.
Stearns Park Beach, Stearns Park Outer Drive, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-845-7417
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5. Sandcastles Children’s Museum
Starting its journey as a ‘summer sampler museum’ in 2006, Sandcastles Children’s Museum has evolved into a great learning and play center. Over 20,000 annual visitors are a sign of that growing popularity. With regular donations from many organizations and voluntary labor, it arranges many workshops and projects for children. Kids can enjoy interesting events like Stop Motion Animation, Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles, Mud Painting, Campfire Stu, Puppet Show, and more.
There are various stations for different activities such as pretend play, dress up, crafting, and more. The kids will definitely like the mini pizzeria, Play-Doh table, and the grocery store.
129 E. Ludington Avenue, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-233-9326
6. Historic White Pine Village
Encompassing an area of 13 acres overlooking Lake Michigan, the Historic White Pine Village is an outdoor museum whose premises contain more than 30 museums featuring artifacts and historical items.
Bookworms and history buffs can head to the research library in the Admission Building to dig out interesting facts on Mason County. It has old photographs, obituaries, newspapers, and other historical materials. There is a gift shop where you can purchase locally made products like wooden toys, jam, and maple syrup. If you are hungry, and Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor in the Town Hall is there to entertain with ice creams and snacks.
1687 S Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-843-4808
7. Pere Marquette River
© Sergey Nivens/stock.adobe.com
The river spans across a sixty-six miles stretch from the junction of the Middle and Little South Branches to the mouth of Pere Marquette Lake. The designated ‘National Wild and Scenic River’ is safe for all kinds of water sports and activities because it is only two to four feet deep.
The river is a popular year-round fishing spot due to the abundance of rainbow trout, steelhead, and salmon. You can go camping, hiking, or paddling by renting a canoe or kayak. Even amateur paddlers can venture a trip because of the steady waves and clear water. Wildlife viewing is another in-demand activity. The Bowman Lake Area and Jorgenson Angler Trail are great for watching wildflowers, plants, and small game.
1755 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, MI 49601, Phone: 231-775-2421
8. Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
© Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
The museum is a portal to dive back into the past and learn about the maritime history of Ludington. Located in a landmark historic building— a former US Coast Guard Station—the museum teaches in an entertaining way. The three main attractions are a scale model diorama of the Elberta railyard, a 110-foot panorama painting of Pere Marquette Lake in the 1800s, and the pilothouse of the Pere Marquette 22 carferry.
Visitors will also enjoy watching various interactive exhibits and holograms of captains Andy Van Dyke and Nels Palmer. The best part is the opportunity to pilot the Pere Marquette 22 carferry into Ludington’s harbor.
217 South Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-843-4808
9. Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
© Martins Vanags/stock.adobe.com
Spanning across an area of 3,450 acres in the Manistee National Forest, the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness is not exactly a pristine setting. But, it still boasts of having a 4-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline and the largest set of freshwater dunes in the world.
Paralleling the shoreline are open dunes and forested bluffs; skirting the edge of these is a footpath that at one time was called the Michigan Trail. If you want to camp in this charming wilderness, the Lake Michigan Recreation Area hosts 99 campsites with with hand pumps for water, fire pits, and vault restroom facilities. If you decide to camp in the hardwoods, carry your trash when leaving.
8191 Morton Rd, Free Soil, MI 49411, Phone: 231-775-2421
10. Father Marquette National Memorial
© Father Marquette National Memorial
The memorial pays tribute to the 17th-century French priest and explorer Jacques Marquette. He introduced the French culture to Native Americans in the wilderness of North America. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has the ownership and administrative rights of the 52-acre memorial—a significant part of Michigan’s historical profile.
The memorial is open to visitors for the period between April 1 and November 30. Unless the weather is severe, you can visit there daily from 8 am to 10 pm. The entire premises house the memorial, a 15-station outdoor trail, and breathtaking views of the Mackinac Bridge.
720 Church Street, St Ignace, MI 49781, Phone: 906-643-8620
11. Jamesport Brewing Company
© Jamesport Brewing Company
The Jamesport Center is the place to visit if you want to taste the best beer in town. The late Victorian six storefront complex now hosts a restaurant and a bar. A trip there will be exciting for beer lovers as they can watch and learn about brewing techniques. Lucky visitors may catch a glimpse of Head Brewer Pat Saxton crafting beers. Before him, the award-winning brewer Tom Buchanan was in charge of brewing.
The restaurant serves mouthwatering pretzel-crusted whitefish, pasta items, chicken pot pie, and sandwiches that you can wash down with strong ales and German-style beers. If the weather is nice, sit at a table on the outdoor deck to relish the beautiful outdoor scenes.
410 S James St., Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-845-2522
12. Old Hamlin Restaurant
© Old Hamlin Restaurant
The restaurant presents a fusion of Greek-style cooking with American cuisine and has been an icon for good home cooking in Ludington since 1942. The menu features delectable American food with a few items from Mexican, Italian, and Greek cuisines. If you are hungry after all of your adventures in downtown Ludington, regain your energy with homemade bread, pies, and daily specials served in this restaurant. They serve breakfast all day with daily breakfast specials. There is a range of drinks including wine, cocktails, and beers. The family-friendly eatery has a kid’s menu and offers discounts for senior citizens.
122 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431, Phone: 231-843-4251