Ludington Harbor is a popular vacation destination throughout the year. Its small-town atmosphere and friendly residents make lasting memories. Visitors to Ludington Harbor can hike or snowshoe wooded trails, dine at great restaurants, or shop local merchants offering a unique variety of wares.
In the summer, Ludington Harbor offers miles of clean beaches on both Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan. Stearns Park is the area's most popular beach, and it offers concessions, a playground, miniature golf, shuffleboard, and a skate park. Lighthouse aficionados will not be disappointed with the North Breakwater and Big Sable Point Lighthouses in the Ludington Harbor. North Pierhead Lighthouse in Manistee and Little Sable Point Lighthouse in the Silver Lake State Park are a half-hour drive north and south of Ludington Harbor.
Ludington Harbor is also the best salmon port on Lake Michigan. There are many charter captains that know Lake Michigan well who will take anglers on fishing excursions. Hamlin Lake is rich with bluegill, perch, bass, and northern pike. In the winter, ice fishing garners walleye and panfish. Pere Marquette Lake and River also offer great fishing.
Ludington Harbor has a humid continental climate with large differences in seasonal temperatures. Summers are warm and can be quite hot. Winters are cold and can be uncomfortably cold. Precipitation is greatest in August when humidity rises to 90% from the average 80% the rest of the year. Snowfall in greatest in late December and January, when almost 28 inches may fall. Ludington Harbor temperatures range from an average 21°C (70°F) in July and early August to °C -5.5(22°F) in January.
Calling Ludington Harbor home for over 50 years, the SS Badger is the biggest car ferry that ever sailed on Lake Michigan. Operating from mid-May to mid-October, the ferry carries passengers, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, RVs, tour buses, and commercial truck from Ludington Harbor across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
A National Mechanical Engineering Landmark, Ludington Harbor's Badger is only coal-fired steamship still operating in the US. Designed to handle the rough conditions on Lake Michigan, the Badger was created to move railroad freight cars. During its heyday in the late 1950s, it also offered excellent accommodations for passengers.
The vessel was tied up in 1990 when railroad freight traffic ended, but in 1991, Charles Conrad brought the Badger back to life as a leisure vessel for passengers and their vehicles. A new generation now has the opportunity to experience this precious bit of American history.
In 2012, Ludington Harbor's SS Badger made daily trips between Ludington Harbor and Manitowoc, leaving Ludington Harbor at 9am (Eastern Time) and arriving at Manitowoc at noon (Central Time). In the evening, the ferry leaves Manitowoc at 2pm (Central Time) and arrives at Ludington Harbor at 7pm (Eastern Time). From June through early September, the Badger makes two daily round trips, the second trip leaving in the evening and returning early the next morning.
A ticket for a one-way trip on the SS Badger in 2012 is $74 for adults and $67 for seniors. Children under five ride free, and children from five to 15 may ride free during the Kids Go Free promotion or pay $24 for a one-way ticket. Staterooms are available. Group and frequent-sailor discounts are also available. Visitors can also stay overnight and have breakfast on the Badger in Ludington Harbor.
The price for autos, vans, and pick-ups is $74 one way in addition to passenger fares. Prices for trailers are based on the size of the vehicle and range from $4.95 to $5.95 per foot. Separate fees apply for RVs, motorhomes, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Ludington Harbor's SS Badger offers a wide range of amenities that include food and cocktail services, a "quiet" room with a maritime historical display, two lounges, a gift shop, a kids' playroom and a video arcade, two TV lounges, and pet-friendly services. A stair-lift moves passengers needing assistance for boarding and disembarking.
People who love the outdoors will not want to miss the Pere Marquette River, which is a National Wild and Scenic River. Stretching for over 100 kilometers (66 miles) through four counties, the river drains into Lake Michigan at Ludington Harbor. The river is not deep: it averages from .6 to 1.2 meters (2 to 4 feet). It is from 9.1 to 12.2 meters (30 to 40 feet) wide.
The river's current is clear and steady, and beginning paddlers will find it a pleasant trip. Canoes and kayaks can spend a few hours or a few days on the river where they will find many canoe liveries and more than two thousand private campsites in bordering forests.
The Pere Marquette River is also a popular place to fish. Rainbow trout are abundant, and steelhead are numerous. The river also runs through the Mainstee-Huron National forest that is rich with wildlife. Pere Marquette Expeditions LLC in Ludington Harbor is a convenience store and outfitter on the banks of the river that can accommodate river adventures with a variety of goods and services.