15 Things We Love About Ludington As We Celebrate Its 150th Anniversary
Ludington will celebrate a milestone anniversary in 2023 and there are plenty of events planned to help make sure this sesquicentennial is a year to remember! To help celebrate Ludington’s 150th anniversary, we put together a list of 15 things we love about Ludington. This awesome beach town that grew up around the lumber and maritime industries has something for everyone, including history, dining and drinking, outdoor recreation, beautiful scenery, and museums. We find ourselves heading back to visit every year, and there’s always somewhere new to explore that we haven’t been to. You can stay up to date on all of this year’s special events at the Ludington 150 website or at VisitLudington.com. Here’s our 15 things we love about Ludington:
Lake Michigan Beach – Miles of clean, sandy beaches make Ludington a perfect summer spot for swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, volleyball, and more. Whether you find your spot at Stearns Park just west of downtown or at Ludington State Park to the north, if you like fun in the sun then this is the place to be. Make sure you stick around later in the day too as the sunsets here are amazing!
Ludington North Breakwater Light – Our first visit to Ludington was to visit the lighthouses. The North Breakwater Light, which will celebrate a big anniversary of its own next year, can be reached after a half mile walk on the breakwater. This unique square pyramidal steel tower is open to guests during the summer months as a Sable Points Lightkeepers Association site. This is a great place to catch the SS Badger car ferry as it returns to port.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse – In Ludington State Park you will find another SPLKA lighthouse that is open to the public – the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. This tall lighthouse tower is covered in black and white steel plates and is reached after a 1.5 mile hike from the campground or a longer hike along the beach. The tower is attached to a two-story keeper’s dwelling, and those who climb to the top of the tower are treated to some amazing views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding dunes.
Museums – Ludington is home to three different museums, each of which offers a different amazing experience for visitors. The Sandcastles Children’s Museum offers a wide variety of hands-0n displays and interactive exhibits. The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum (located in the former Coast Guard building near Lake Michigan) “brings history to life with digital storytelling, authentic images and artifacts, and engaging interactive exhibits that entertain, enlighten, and inspire a deeper appreciation for the region’s maritime history.” Finally, the Historic White Pine Village offers a glimpse at what a pioneer village looked like in the late 19th century/early 20th century. “The Village boasts 30 historic exhibit buildings, including the original 1849 Mason County Courthouse (on the State Register of Historic Places) and an authentic turn-of-the-century steam locomotive, tender car, and the flat car loaded with logs and headed toward the Village’s working sawmill. The buildings contain thousands of authentic artifacts and archives depicting the rich lumbering and agricultural history of its area.”
Dining and Drinking – Ludington’s downtown is filled with options for dining out: Jamesport Brewing and Ludington Bay Brewing are our go-tos for craft beer and tasty food, House of Flavors is a summer favorite for ice cream, and we can’t forget the Mitten Bar and the Old Hamlin Restaurant either. Pure Ludington offers a great list of food and drink options, there’s something for everyone!
Ludington Pumped Storage Plant – Not every visitor to Ludington takes the chance to check out an engineering marvel that was the largest of its kind in the world when it went into operation in 1972. From Consumers Energy: “Ludington Pumped Storage is a hydroelectric power plant that uses stored water at elevation to function like a battery. When electricity prices are low, the large reservoir above Lake Michigan is filled with water from through six large pipes 28 feet in diameter, called penstocks, each equipped with a reversable pump turbine. It takes about nine hours to move enough water from Lake Michigan to fill the reservoir. When demand for electricity rises, the plant is dispatched and water produces power like a river hydro dam turning turbines as it is released 363 feet back into Lake Michigan. With a 2,292-megawatt capacity, the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant can power a city with a population of approximately 1.4 million people for about eight hours.”
Ludington State Park – This is the most camped state park in Michigan for a reason. With more than 300 sites spread through three campgrounds you would think it would be easy to get a site here for the summer, but if you haven’t planned ahead and booked way in advance you will probably find the park full. What else is there to love here? How about 21 miles of trails and seven miles of sandy Lake Michigan beach? You’ll also find the historic Big Sable Point Lighthouse here. Kayak Hamlin Lake or fish the Big Sable River to get even more in tune with nature during your stay! Wildlife is abundant in the park, keep your eyes open for sightings of whitetail deer, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles, lots of birds, and pike, bass, walleye and more in the park’s waters.
SS Badger – The last coal-powered passenger steamship still in operation in the country, the Badger has helped millions passengers and their vehicles make the trip across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin since 1992. It had a long career before that as a railroad car ferry, and in 2023 it celebrates 70 years of service. A trip on the Badger is a summer experience that will leave a lasting memory. If you don’t take the trip across, you can still watch from the north breakwater lighthouse as it returns to port in the evening and wave to all the passengers. Find out more at www.ssbadger.com and look for special anniversary fare rates this year!
Mason County Sculpture Trail – Nine of the sculptures on this county-wide trail featuring more than 20 works can be found at Ludington’s Waterfront Park. We had the chance to see 20 of these sculptures in 2021 as we toured the city’s parks and other sites where they are located.
Mason County Lumber Heritage Trail – See the large mansions built by the lumber barons that helped grow Ludington, and learn about their lives through interactive QR codes at each site. You can follow our 2021 journey to these homes, cemeteries, and historic sites for more information.
Mason County Quilt Barn Trail – More than 10 stops on this tour highlight the rural art form of adding decorative quilt squares to large barns. Find out about the significance of each one in our 2021 post about the Mason County Quilt Barn Trail.
History – In addition to all of the history found on the Lumber Heritage Trail, other sites in Ludington include the Mason County Courthouse, the Swedish Lutheran Church, and the possible death site of explore Father Jacques Marquette.
Trails – In addition to the more than 21 miles that can be found at Ludington State Park, hikers can also get out and enjoy Nordhouse Dunes, the Cartier Park Nature Trail (also home to 3 miles of mountain bike trails), and the Ludington School Forest trails. Biking trails can be found throughtout the area, and winter fat tire biking continues to grow in popularity. Follow Shoreline Cycling Club for the later news in the area.
Fishing – Ludington is one of the best places on Lake Michigan for fishing. From Pure Ludington: “Mason County sports nearly 2,000 miles of trout streams and over 40 inland lakes that are available for fishing. So whether you are fishing from the pier, on Lake Michigan on a charter boat or fly-fishing in the stream, you are bound to catch a big one while in Pure Ludington!” Find a list of charter boat captains here, or start on the shore by fishing at Hamlin Dam (above) or at the Pere Marquette River.
Water Recreation – With all the rivers and lake in the Ludington area the water recreation opportunities are plentiful. Kayaking, paddleboarding, and tubing are great ways to get in the water this summer. Rentals are available at several locations, and a new universally accessible water trail launches at Ludington State Park this summer.