Make Ludington your Next Family Vacation Getaway
Are we there yet? Far enough, but not too far
A trek to upper Michigan is something our family tries to plan every year. With work schedules and kids’ activities, that isn’t always in the cards and we found only a few weekends available to travel.
Looking for an up north beach town that doesn’t take all day in the car to reach? Ludington is the ticket.
A smidge over two hours from Kalamazoo (or Lansing) and less if traveling from Grand Rapids we (and by we, I mean me) had the car loaded by mid-morning and were soaking our toes in the sandy beach by lunchtime.
There’s nothing like arriving at a vacation destination, only to find your wallet continuing to take a deep hit. Ludington offers a number of free or affordable activities – many centrally located.
Lake Michigan Stearns Park Beach is a must-visit gem with FREE admission and parking!
After a day spent at this beach, we can see why. Families will love the accessible amenities – skate park, mini-golf, concessions, and ample free parking.
Located at the southern part of Stearns Park Beach is the Ludington North Breakwater Light. Make the half-mile trek. For a nominal donation, climb the lighthouse and treat yourself to a view of the Ludington harbor.
Within walking distance of Stearns Park Beach is the shopping district offering a medley of quaint shops. While downtown, don’t miss Waterfront Sculpture Park and playground near the Badger docks.
Ludington is a port for a 1950s-era steamship the S.S. Badger, the last coal-fired steamship in the United States. You can watch it make its way from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI twice daily.
Are the crystal blue waters of Lake Michigan still beckoning?
Head three miles to Ludington State Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at hiking the dunes, or plenty of other water sport activities.
Or, if calmer waters are more your style, take a dip at nearby Hamlin Lake. We spent all afternoon at this beach location – with shallow water and minimal waves – it’s perfect for smaller children.
Weather not playing nice? No worries.
Learn about Ludington with a stop at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. Home to a former coastguard station, this museum is rich with history and interactive exhibits.
- Make sure to climb up a replica of the North Breakwater Lighthouse
- Our entire family took the wheel to experience what it was like to pilot the carferry Pere Marquette 22
Tour Historic White Pine Village where you’ll find a cluster of replica historic buildings that show what life was like in the 1900s. Think Greenfield Village on a small-scale. The kids will love exploring the grounds.
The kids can pack a ton of fun into an afternoon at Sandcastles Children’s Museum with three full floors of interactive play. My kids are older and I still had to drag them out of the museum for lunch. Kids can climb through the S.S. Badger playship or give the climbing wall a try. Don’t miss the third floor with the cool Sound Stage.
Our entire family loved Jamesport Brewing Company. Offering a well-rounded menu, try the Bavarian Pretzels – served with house-made beer cheese dipping sauce – for a savory treat. The burgers and fries are also top-notch. Ask to sit outside on the deck for great views.
Take a nibble at the Q Smokehouse offering slow-smoked barbecue plates with homestyle sides. We ordered the BBQ Pork sandwiches (with the Q’s special pork rub) and the Shells & Cheese side. With easy online ordering, you can enjoy the feast at the beach.
Save room for dessert at the iconic House of Flavors, with its catchy 50s diner décor. As I said, we missed this stop on our first stay in Ludington and boy do I regret it! This time, our family went all-in with the Little Piggy dessert – served in a mini trough. Delicious.
While you wait in line for ice cream (yes, plan on a wait during peak times), check out the paper straw casings stuck in the ceiling and ask a server the reason.
Where Should We Stay?
Finding a place to stay isn’t hard and Ludington offers a variety of accommodations from boutique cottages to spacious resorts. You’ll want to book early though.
The Ludington Pier House Motel has one of the best locations in town – a short walk to Stearns Park Beach. We stayed here during our first visit. It’s also within walking distance to downtown. You need only walk a bit to capture a Lake Michigan sunset.
For those of you who prefer hotel life, the Comfort Inn gets a big thumbs-up from families (it’s about a 5-minute drive to downtown). The hotel has a large indoor heated pool, free breakfast, a playground, and picnic area. Consider booking a family suite, offering extra space. Kids will dig their colorful bunk-beds. Oh, and it’s pet-friendly.
The family-owned Nader’s Motel & Suites, located on Route 116, is another popular option – offering spacious rooms and an outdoor heated pool.
Find Ludington-area accommodation options that best fit your family needs and budget.