Make Ludington MI your Next Getaway
Looking for an up north beach town that doesn’t take all day in the car to reach? Ludington is the ticket.
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.
A few years ago, our family had a pit stop stay in Ludington MI and I remember thinking at the time – we need to return for a true visit and exploration of this charming town.
We barely had time to scratch the surface of what this town had to offer. And, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit we never even made it to the #1 one spot locals recommend for a tasty treat..more on that.
Where is Ludington, Michigan?
Ludington is easy to get to. Located on the western side of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Ludington is south of Manistee but north of Muskegon.
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.
Fast forward a few years and our family taking in the beauty of this picturesque town. A self-described planner, I mapped out our weekend itinerary with help from the Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. A handy resource loaded with events, festivals, and a breakdown of things to do in Ludington by season.
Discover all the ways to pack in family fun with a visit to Ludington.
Things to Do in Ludington MI – Downtown Area
Enjoy Stearns Park – a Lake Michigan Beach!
420 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
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 it’s so popular.
Families love the amenities – skate park, mini-golf, concessions, and ample free parking.
Photo Op: Capture the kids with the Ludington North Breakwater Light in the background.
Climb to the Top of the Lighthouse
Stearns Park Beach, Stearns Park Outer Drive, Ludington, MI 49431
Near Stearns Beach is the Ludington North Breakwater Light.
For a nominal donation, climb the 53 lighthouse steps to the top and treat yourself to a view of the Ludington harbor.
Lighthouse tour hours are available May 28-September 6, 2021, Tuesday-Sunday. ($8 adults, $5 children.)
Call (231) 845-7417 to check operational status before heading out – tours are held when weather cooperates and staff is in place.
Waterfront Sculpture Park: Take Sculpture Selfies, Watch the SS Badger & Conquer the Playground
Waterfront Sculpture Park
391 S William St, Ludington, MI 49431
While downtown, don’t miss Waterfront Sculpture Park near the Badger docks.
Home to nine bronze historical sculptures, a walking loop, green space, and an extensive playground, this place is a natural draw for families.
Photo Op: You’ll have lots of chances to grab a great photo on this awesome playground, or with the nine sculptures depicting the history of Ludington.
Watching the Badger
Ludington is a Lake Michigan port for a 1950s-era steamship the S.S. Badger. The Badger is the last coal-fired car ferry steamship in the United States.
From Waterfront Sculpture Park, you can watch the ship make its way from Ludington to Manitowoc, WI twice daily.
Photo Op: Catch a pic of the kids waving as the steamship makes its way in or out of port.
701 Maritime Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
Stop into Sandcastle’s Children’s Museum
129 E Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
Open 7 days a week.
Daily admission: $8
children under 1: free
Get Sea Legs at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
217 South Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
Cool off at the Ludington Splash Pad at Peter Copeyon Park
900-998 S Washington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
Things to Do in Ludington MI – Beyond Downtown
Tour Historic White Pine Village
1687 S Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
Tour Historic White Pine Village where you’ll find a cluster of replica historic buildings that show what life was like in the 1900s. They offer a living-history, family-friendly, fun-filled tour of a late 19th – early 20th-century pioneer village.
Think Greenfield Village on a small-scale. The kids will love exploring the historic buildings on the grounds and interacting with pioneer characters.
Historic White Pine Village is open early May through October and takes around 2 hours to visit.
Ludington State Park & Big Sable Point Lighthouse
8800 M-116, Ludington, MI 49431
Head just outside of town to Ludington State Park. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at hiking the dunes, or plenty of other water sport activities – including big wave fun on Lake Michigan.
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.
(1) Walk the Skyline Trail for sweepinbg dune and lake views.
(2) Don’t miss the distinctive black and white tower of this historic beacon as a backdrop (it’s worth the 2-mile walk, if little feet can handle it)
Amber Elk Ranch
2688 W Conrad Rd, Ludington, MI 49431
Things to Do in Ludington MI Area – Oceana County
3724 S 80th Ave, New Era, MI 49446
Save time as you’re heading home for a stop at Country Dairy, located in New Era (30 minutes south of Ludington). Take a guided tour of the working farm. Grab lunch at the deli and enjoy bottomless glasses of chocolate milk
Stony Lake Stables
4345 S 44th Ave, New Era, MI 49446
Fox Barn Market & Winery
500 18th Ave, Shelby, MI 49455
Lewis Adventure Farm & Zoo
4180 M-20, New Era, MI 49446
Also in New Era, you’ll find Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo offering acres of activities for the kids. All ages will catch air on the giant jumping pillow or take a ride in the BumpAlong Barrel Train. Purchase a cup of food and the animals will come flocking to you.
Where to Eat in Ludington
Jamesport Brewing Company
410 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
Fish Keeper’s Shack
Ludington Bay Brewing Company
515 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431
106 N Rath Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
Old Hamlin Restaurant
122 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
225 S James St, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
House of Flavors
402 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
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 to Stay in Ludington
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.
Find Ludington-area accommodation options that best fit your family’s needs and budget.
Ludington Beach House
120 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
About Ludington Beach House: A local developer purchased the former Lakeside Inn of Ludington and remodeled the entire hotel with all-new rooms and queen beds and unique, cottage-chic decor (no two rooms are alike).
As one the closest lodging to Stearns Park Beach and Ludington North Breakwater Light, the rooms feature refrigerators, flat screen televisions and microwaves. Outdoor heated pool and free high-speed Wi-Fi. Studio,1- and 3-bedroom units.
The Ludington Beach House has a walkable downtown Ludington location. Remote keyless access and individual entry (motel-style) allows for minimal contact.
Nader’s Motel & Suites
612 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI 49431
The family-owned Nader’s Motel & Suites, located on Route 116, is another popular option – offering spacious rooms and an outdoor heated pool.
In-town resort atmosphere in-town with the perfect location across from Lake Michigan.
Updated motel with lots of amenities. Walk to downtown, restaurants, marinas, shopping, parks and the car ferry. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers in every room. Full kitchen suites available.
Outdoor heated salt-water pool, picnic area, free bike rental, shuffleboard, etc.
Ludington Pier House Motel
805 W Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
Clean, family-friendly motel, with an indoor heated pool. Walking distance to the beach, parks, lighthouse, marina, downtown restaurants and shopping. Family-size rooms. Free wireless internet/ Cable TV Online Specials.
Ludington Comfort Inn
5323 US-10, Ludington, MI 49431
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.
It’s hard to know where to point the camera because Ludington is bursting with beautiful backgrounds.
In the end, Ludington is fantastic and deserves a visit.
Do you have any places that you keep going back to? What about some activities that are a must for your family while on a beach vacation in Michigan?
Thanks to Ludington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for hosting our visit.
All opinions are my own.