Nestled halfway up Michigan’s west coast on Lake Michigan, Ludington is a place to get off the grid on a trail or kayak yet have a gourmet meal and Michigan-made craft beer. This city of 8,500 has a quaint, laid-back atmosphere that visitors and locals alike crave – providing a perfect combination of northern Michigan natural beauty with small-town charm. And its roots as a lumber town are evident by the Victorian mansions lining Ludington Avenue, many of which are bed and breakfasts.
Here is a flavor of Ludington’s offerings.
Ludington is a beach-goer’s dream. Rated one of the Midwest’s top beaches, Stearns Beach is a half-mile of Lake Michigan shoreline walking distance to downtown – with a bathhouse/concession, volleyball courts, and picnic area – plus adjacent shuffleboard, mini golf and skate park. Visitors also can walk the pier to Ludington North Breakwater Light. Nature lovers enjoy Ludington State Park with seven miles of undeveloped coastline bordered by dunes or the designated beach area with historic beach house. Buttersville Beach south of town is popular with locals and dog owners. For calmer and warmer waters, inland Hamlin Lake Beach in Ludington State Park fits the bill.
Another way to enjoy the water is from a fishing boat on Lake Michigan (Ludington is Michigan’s #1 salmon fishing port, with 45 licensed charters) or a canoe or kayak on the 66-mile Pere Marquette River, legendary for steelhead and salmon. River guides are available through the Ludington Charter Boat Association. Or rent a tube for a lazy float down the Big Sable River in the state park.
Ludington has trails for every mode of transportation. Mountain bikers can ride 10 miles of singletrack in the city plus the Big M, a 38-mile trail system north in the Huron-Manistee National Forests. Hikers can explore 25 miles of trails in 5,300-acre Ludington State Park, including a trail to Big Sable Point Lighthouse only accessible on foot or bike except select weekends. In town is Cartier Park, a paved one-mile loop, plus the downtown waterfront loop for watching boats sail in and out of port.
Ludington has three golf courses (Hemlock Golf Club, Lakeside Links and semi-private Lincoln Hills Golf Club) and more in the area. It also is a disc golf mecca, with six courses in Ludington and the surrounding area, including Mason County Park’s 8,160-foot Goliath course – the third largest and one of the best in the country. Ludington also is home to one of Michigan’s only exclusive disc golf pro shops, Grip ‘N’ Rip.
Culture & History
Ludington offers an array of cultural treasures. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum showcases the region’s rich maritime heritage rooted in salt mining, commercial fishing, car ferries and the U.S. Coast Guard (it is housed in a restored 1934 U.S. Coast Guard Station). Historic White Pine Village is a walkable “village” of 29 historic buildings from Mason County’s past. Children love visiting Sandcastles Children’s Museum, a hands-on discovery center. And six self-guided Mason County Cultural Trails offer themes from Lumber Heritage to Agriculture. For hands-on history, climb the tower at one of Ludington’s lighthouses, Ludington North Breakwater Light or Big Sable Point Light; or ride the S.S. Badger, the last U.S. coal-fired steamship, crossing Lake Michigan daily to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Food & Drink
Ludington boasts a variety of eateries, from mom-and-pop diners like Café 106, to upscale restaurants like Table 14 and the new Crown & Cork, to craft breweries with extensive menus like Jamesport and Ludington Bay Brewing. Or grab takeout from Q Smokehouse or a hand-dipped ice cream cone from House of Flavors.