As much as I enjoy living in Chicago, there are some times when I just need a break. I’ll escape to DuPage County for outdoor recreation, a delicious lunch under $10, and some quality time with my mom. It’s lovely that there are so many things to do near my hometown, but sometimes, a girl just needs a beach!
When I was researching where I could go for a beach weekend, I learned about the S.S. Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan. With a route between Manitowoc, WI and Ludington, MI, the S.S. Badger is a leisurely four-hour cruise that includes games, movies, and the ability to rent individual cabins for sleep and private restrooms. Since I don’t like embarking on road trips at night by myself, or Friday night Chicago traffic, I was all in. I decided I would drive just past The Immigrant Room, hand my car keys over to an attendant, and take the S.S. Badger from Manitowoc across the lake to Ludington. I booked my transportation, but then I realized, I had to to figure out things to do in Ludington Mi.
1) Things to do in Ludington MI: Visit Ludington State Park
I think this was my favorite part of my trip. If I could do it over, I would have allotted more time to spend exploring Ludington State Park. Visiting the state park was my favorite things to do in Ludington. A day pass to the park for out of state residents was $9. I stopped in at the Beach House and Welcome of the park where I read about some of the history of the park as well as the wildlife. From there, I took the walking trail to Big Sable Lighthouse. It is about a one-hour flat hike from the parking lot furthest East in the park. From there, you must walk through RV campgrounds to get to the trailhead. While the entire trail is flat, there are dunes on the west side of the trail to scale in order to view the crags of the Lake Michigan shore. I chose to scale the dunes at the suggestion of signage marking a shipwreck. Unfortunately, it was incredibly cloudy the day of my visit so I wasn’t able to see anything of significance, but I bet it was a sight to see.
2) Things to do in Ludington, MI: Visit the Lighthouses
There are a couple of lighthouses in and around Ludington MI. First, the lighthouse welcoming you into port when you are traveling on the S.S. Badger. The featured photo of this post shows that lighthouse more clearly. The iconic lighthouse of the area is Big Sable, whose black and white striped stack marks the south end of Ludington State Park. There is also Little Sable lighthouse just over 35 miles south of Big Sable lighthouse.
3) Things to do in Ludington MI: Fishing
I grew up on a pond, so I happen to really enjoy fishing. Fishing on Lake Michigan is quite a different beast. Using a charter fishing company for private or group fishing on Lake Michigan not only is recreational, but provides some gorgeous views of the shoreline. Hiatus Charters is a local company that offers customized fishing outings on the lake. Did you know you can catch salmon, steelhead, and trout in Lake Michigan?
4) Things to do in Ludington, MI: Discover the Murals
There are a bunch of brightly colored murals in Ludington, Mi. Just one drive down Ludington Avenue, and you can’t miss them. If you happen to like street art, you won’t be disappointed. This is a great spot to check out the work of local artists, and grab some instagram worthy photos for yourself!
5) Things to do in Ludington Mi: Brewery Crawl
There are great breweries in and around Ludington, Michigan. Not only do they have affordable and interesting brews, they also have tasty food to match. Sometimes there are brewery tours and often, live music. While I am not much of a beer drinker, the breweries that were recommended to me by locals were:
–Starving Artist (only open 12-5PM, Fridays and Saturdays)
6) Things to do in Ludington Mi: Visit a Winery or Orchard
As a Chicagoan, I’ve heard about how great Michigan wineries are. There are the southwestern Michigan wine tours that are so popular, and the wineries throughout Traverse City, but I had never heard of the wineries in Western Michigan. Luckily, a quick search online revealed Douglas Valley Winery. While it is technically in Manistee, it is just a short drive up the road from Ludington Mi. I visited on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, where I had an opportunity not only to try some delicious and unique wines, but also to listen to live music. Every Sunday, from Memorial Day through the end of September, Douglas Valley Winery hosts rotating musicians on their beautiful wrap-around porch. How great it was to try their fruit wines, vanilla and mildly oaky chardonnay, and my favorite, Red Cohodas.
Not only did I get to try their wines, I also got to visit more of their property. I saw some of the vines, apple orchards, and even baby calves who had just been born! What a treat it was to visit Douglas Valley Winery. It was definitely one of my favorite things to do in Ludington.
If you get a chance to visit in the fall, one of the best things to do in Ludington is to go apple picking! I love visiting Kistlercrest Farms, a family owned farm since 1895 that specializes in Maple Syrup and apples!
Interested in trying more Michigan wines closer to home? Check out the Southwest Michigan Wineries near Chicago.
7) Things to do in Ludington Mi: Tour a Retired Steam Ship and Ice Cutter
One of the more unique things to do in Ludington Mi is to tour the S.S. City of Milwaukee ship. Similar to the S.S. Badger, this 360 foot long and 10.5 story high boat from 1930, last carried passengers as a car ferry in 1981. Of the Great Lake car ferries, only three remain: the S.S. City of Milwaukee, the S.S. Badger, and the S.S. Spartan. The S.S. City of Milwaukee is a museum with a bed and breakfast, the S.S. Badger is still in operation, and the S.S. Spartan is used for parts when the Badger needs them.
The tour of the S.S. City of Milwaukee takes about an hour. You explore every nook and cranny of the ship, from the engine room to the Captain’s quarters. As a steam ship, the boilers and condensers were recycling water at all times to power the ship. This ship was all about renewable energy, even in the 1930s! Walking on the main deck, you can see the rooms of the officers, which today are available as a bed and breakfast. All of the wood and furniture in the parlor of the main room is original, currently 87 years old! When you are done with your walking tour of the City of Milwaukee, you can take a self guided tour next door of U.S. Coast Guard Ice Breaker the Acacia.
8) Things to do in Ludington Mi: Stay at a Bed and Breakfast
When visiting Ludington Mi, you could stay in one of the chain hotels that pepper town, or you could stay in an historic bed and breakfast. There are numerous bed and breakfasts in Ludington, but I am particular to the gorgeous Lamplighter Bed and Breakfast.
There were so many wonderful things to do in Ludington, Michigan. Without knowing about this town, I adored that the crowds were slim, the activities were plentiful, and the views were breathtaking. I highly recommend you consider a visit to Ludington, Michigan the next time you are planning a Lake Michigan vacation.
Many thanks to Douglas Valley Winery, S.S. City of Milwaukee, the Lamplighter, and the Western Michigan Tourism Association for arranging the details of my trip.
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