Ludington is a picturesque harbor town in Michigan’s Mason County on Lake Michigan. It covers 3.6 square miles of land and has a population of 8,000 people. Ludington was first settled in 1847 by a European named Burr Caswell, who moved right to the Pere Marquette River with his family.
This city is one of the most popular places to come to for outdoor recreation in the whole state, including swimming and boating on Lake Michigan as well as hunting, fishing, and camping. There are also daily ferries from Ludington to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, across Lake Michigan.
Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Ludington (MI)
1. S.S. Badger
The S.S. Badger is a ferry that has been in use since September 6, 1952. It serves as a shuttle between Ludington and Manitowac and carries both passengers and vehicles. It covers approximately 62 miles and was named as one of the National Historic Landmarks in the United States in 2016.
The ship is quite large in size, weighing just over 4,200 tons. It can carry 620 passengers at a time, along with an additional 180 vehicles. It’s powered by coal and takes approximately 4 hours one way. The boat features two dining options, TV lounges, a gift shop, multiple deck areas,and a free movie lounge, in addition to 40 staterooms.
2. Ludington State Park
Ludington State Park in Michigan’s Mason County covers 5,300 acres of land along Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan. It’s filled with sand dunes and marshlands. Around 2,800 acres of the land is sand dunes alone, which makes it unique compared to most other state parks in the United States. It’s also home to the Big Sable Lighthouse, one of the top attractions in Ludington.
The park dates back to the early 20th century after being founded by the Isaac Walton League. Today, the park is a popular spot to visit for cross-country skiing, canoeing, and walks along the sand dunes.
3. Ludington North Breakwater Light
This 57-foot high lighthouse is located right on Lake Michigan. It’s made of steel and reinforced concrete. The Ludington North Breakwater Light was built in 1871 and is built as a square pyramid tower. It’s consistently been ranked as Michigan’s #1 lighthouse to visit and is nationally ranked as one of the United States’ top ten lighthouses.
The lighthouse is still in use today and was opened to the public in 2006. It’s kept on a volunteer basis in addition to a few other lighthouses in the area. Climbing tours are available to the public if visitors wish to get one of Ludington’s greatest views.
4. Ludington State Park Beach
Ludington State Park Beach is a breathtaking waterfront located in the state park. Locals refer to it as First Curve Beach. It’s one of the most scenic beaches in the area. This is the perfect place to come and relax due to its tranquility.
There’s free parking in the area near M-116 but keep in mind that there’s a fee to enter the beach since it’s part of the state park. Along the beach is the Lake Michigan Beach House, which features a souvenir shop and concessions. There is a scenic walkway that goes along the beach, starting at the Lake Michigan Beach House.
5. Historic White Pine Village
The Historic White Pine Village is a popular 19th-century outdoor museum consisting of thirty different buildings. The museum is filled with thousands of varying artifacts covering a wide area of businesses in Ludington, including farming, sports, music, and more.
Visiting the Historic White Pine Village is like stepping back in time. Workers are dressed up historically and even speak in an old-fashioned way. The true highlight of the village is the 1849 Mason County Courthouse, which received a State Historical Marker in 2000. Plan on spending at least two hours to fully experience and walk around Historic White Pine Village.
6. Amber Elk Ranch
The Amber Elk Ranch covers 130 acres and is home to the world-renowned bull elk. These elk have consistently won International Antler Competitions since 2001, with some antlers weighing up to 35 pounds. The best way to explore the ranch is to hop on a wagon ride, which brings visitors to the many different wildlife that are inside the ranch, including calves, spikers, and of course, bull elk!
Kids will love feeding animals at the petting zoo. It’s completely free to visit and showcases some of Ludington’s local animals. The ranch is run by an elk-lover named Bob Northrup, who loves providing education on elk and his other animals to the community.
7. Mason County Park
Disc golf is the most popular recreational sport in Ludington. In fact, the city is home to the state’s disc golf championship and boasts some of the best disc golfers in the area. Those who aren’t into sports will love the multiple picnics and relaxation spots throughout the park.
The perfect place to try your hand at this sport is at Mason County Park. There are three different courses with 24 holes here, called Goliath, Beauty, and Beast. Beauty is the perfect spot to go if you are new to disc gloving.
8. Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo
The Lewis Farms and Petting Zoo dates back to the 1970s. It was founded by Winston, and Alice Lewis, though is now run by their grandson, Scott, and his wife, Cindy. What started out as just a small fruit stand soon turned into one of the best farms in this area of Michigan.
This farm covers 700 acres and is only a short distance away from Lake Michigan and the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. It consists of a corn maze, fruit farm, and petting zoo for the young children. Animals in the zoo include bunnies, donkeys, parrots, sloths, and even camels!
9. Parrot’s Landing
Parrot’s Landing is a tour company that rents out 4-door Jeep Wranglers for visitors to go out and drive across the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Dune tours are offered at different times throughout the day.
Opt to take the sunset tour for an amazing and unique view that you won’t ever forget! Anyone over the age of 16, with a driver’s license, is allowed to drive a Jeep with the tour group. No deposit or auto insurance is required to drive.
10. Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum is a museum dedicated to many ships that have graced the shores of Ludington. It’s filled with artifacts and many interactive exhibits inside an old U.S. Coast Guard Station!
The museum spans three floors and is right next to Lake Michigan. The true highlight of the museum is the exhibit featuring the Pere Marquette 22 car ferry’s pilothouse. The S.S. Badger car ferry exhibit is also a fan favorite.
11. The Jam Farm
The Jam Farm is a small shop run by Lois Gieleghem that sells the best jams in all of Ludington. She also sells homemade jelly, marmalade, butter, and more. All of her recipes were passed down to her by family members, and she only uses fresh and local ingredients.
Inside, there are more than 50 different flavors available, including Black Cherry, Bumbleberry, Chocolate Raspberry, and Lois’s favorite, Blueberry Lemonade. This is the perfect place to stop and get a quick and memorable souvenir for your trip while also supporting local sellers.
12. Ludington Waterfront Park
Ludington Waterfront Park is a coastal recreation area filled with fun activities for travelers of all ages. Children will love the playground, while adults will enjoy perusing the sculptures. There are also walking trails with breathtaking seafront views and lots of picnic spots.
The park first opened in 1999 and is most well-known for being the spot where all of the city’s festivities are held. It’s located conveniently near the port for the S.S. Badger and is a great viewpoint to see the vessel from a distance.
13. Big Sable Point Lighthouse
The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is a 19th-century 112-foot lighthouse right on Lake Michigan’s shore. It’s located directly inside Ludington State Park and is still in use today. It’s covered white and black panels. When lit up, the lighthouse helps ships see for up to 17 miles.
One of the best ways to see the lighthouse in all its glory is to climb to the top. This offers one of Ludington’s best views. There’s also a gift shop and room where visitors can see a short film about the history of the lighthouse.
14. Bortell’s Fisheries
Bortell’s Fisheries is Ludington’s most popular fish and chip restaurant. Its exterior is painted with amazing, which is the perfect photo backdrop. However, the real star of the show is the food that it serves up.
People come from all over just to try the famous fish here. All of the fish is fresh and is caught locally. Order their signature fish and chips dish for a real treat.
15. Sandcastles Children’s Museum
The Sandcastles Children’s Museum is filled with fun interactive exhibits for kids of all ages. There are over 30 different displays in total, including a music studio, baby nursery, and a grocery store. It first opened in 2006 and has been a hotspot in Ludington ever since.
Children will love coming and learning about the S.S. Badger play ship and the Egypt exhibit. Kids can even learn about how produce is grown at the Planting Gardens! The Sandcastles Children’s Museum is educational yet thrilling, so kids won’t even realize that they’re learning while playing.
16. Mason County Cultural Trails
Ludington is truly historical. The city created a trail system called the Mason County Cultural Trails. There are four different trails that make up this trail system, including the Agricultural Trail, the Sculpture Trail, the Barn Quilt Trail, and the Lumber Heritage Trail.
Each trail brings hikers through a different part of Ludington’s history and is aptly named after the history that it portrays. The Sculpture Trail tends to be the most popular among visitors and brings guests to the many bronze sculptures on display throughout Ludington near Waterfront Park. Be sure to wear a sturdy pair of shoes before you begin your hike.
17. Love Wines
Love Wines is Ludington’s most popular boutique winery. All wines are made right on site, and they serve a variety of fun flavors, including strawberry peach lemonade, razzleberry, and strawberry. All fruits are from local farmers within an hour from Ludington.
The best way to experience Love Wines is to go to a wine tasting in their tasting room. They have around 20 wine flavors available at any given time. No reservations are necessary in order to visit the tasting room. If you want more wine after traveling home, Love Wines also ships to some states in America.
18. Pere Marquette River
The Pere Marquette River runs on for 64 miles and leads into Lake Michigan. The river starts in Ludington; be sure to visit the beginning of the river or take a day trip to Scottville Riverside Park to go kayaking or relax by the water.
The Pere Marquette River is most well-known for its sport fishing. In fact, Pere Marquette River has been designated as a Blue Ribbon fishery. This river was named after Jacques Marquette, a missionary who explored this area in the 17th century.
19. Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness
The Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness covers 3,450 acres and is located inside Manistee National Forest. Four miles of the wilderness are located directly along Lake Michigan. It’s filled with a lot of unique plant life, including Pitcher’s Thistle, one of the endangered plants in the area.
One of the most popular activities here is camping. This experience is extremely unique because it’s isolated and tranquil compared to many other camping grounds in the area. The majority of visitors will spend at least two nights camping here. There are also over 10 miles of hiking trails in addition to the 4,000-year-old sand dunes, which are around 150 feet tall.
20. Jamesport Brewing Company
The Jamesport Brewing Company is a popular brewpub that has a casual and rustic atmosphere with Victorian decor. This brewery has been named as the “Best Beer in Port” for 16 years and counting. There are always at least 14 different brews on tap.
In addition to their beers, this brewpub serves up a lot of tasty meals. They serve everything from paesano cheese bread and avocado hummus to cherry bourbon sirloin.
21. Country Dairy
Country Dairy had its roots in 1907 when it was just a tiny farm. Now, it sends out over 70,000 milk gallons every week. Everything that is created here is made without GMOs and rBST.
Tours are offered for visitors to see the official process of how all Country Dairy’s products go from farm to table. Guests will also be able to see the cows and go on a wagon ride throughout the farm! There’s also a marketplace and café on site for visitors to try some of Country Dairy’s best foods firsthand.
22. Ludington Skate Plaza
Ludington Skate Plaza is Ludington’s own skate park that opened in 2008. It was built and funded completely off of donations from nearby businesses. Inside the park are lots of quarter pipes, rails, and ramps.
This is also a great area to go biking. If you bring your kids, be sure to let them check out the nearby playground as well, which has a perfect picnic spot.
23. Buttersville Park
Buttersville Park is considered to have the best viewpoint in all of Ludington. It’s located right next to both Pere Marquette Lake and Lake Michigan and is filled with a playground, pavilions, and picnic spots. It’s also filled with lots of local deer.
Explore deeper into Buttersville Park, and you’ll come across the beautiful North Breakwater Lighthouse. Climb to the top to find the best spot to watch the sunset in the evening. The easiest way to get here is from South Lakeshore Drive.
24. Memorial Tree Park
Memorial Tree Park is the perfect getaway from the city of Ludington. It’s aptly named for being surrounded by a forest. No matter the season, this area is absolutely beautiful. Flowers blossom in the spring, and you can see the changing of the leaves in the fall.
The park covers 27 acres and was officially established in 1931. One of the best attractions here is the horseshoe pit. There is also a baseball diamond for fun recreational activities, in addition to two walking/hiking trails.
25. House of Flavors
The House of Flavors dates back to the early 20th century by Bob Neal Sr. Within twenty years, it changed its name from Park Dairy to House of Flavors. Annually, this ice cream shop creates over 25 million gallons!
They serve a wide variety of interesting flavors, including Eskimo Kisses, Tennessee Toffee, Orange Pineapple, and Mackinaw Island Fudge. The House of Flavors is most well-known for breaking the Guinness World Record for Longest Ice Cream Dessert in 2016, spanning 2,970 feet.