Family-friendly Ludington, Michigan

A huge thanks to the Pure Ludington CVB for hosting our stay. All opinions expressed are mine.

As you may remember, on our first part of our road trip we had a blast on Mackinac Island. It was especially nice taking the scenic route from St. Ignace to our next destination – Ludington. We absolutely fell in love with charming town! Located on Michigan’s west coast, this beach town is an underrated hidden gem waiting to be discovered. The beaches are fantastic, interactive museums, great brews, good food, excellent ice cream, and outdoor activities to keep anyone busy. Read on to find out why we fell in love with #PureLudington.

Warning: Serious case of wanderlust coming up!

Places to PLAY

Sandcastles Children’s Museum, 129 E. Ludington Avenue

Family Friendly Ludington - Sandcastles Childrens Museum

The kids had a ton of fun at this children’s museum. The first floor held a cool replica of the S.S. Badger playship. Kids could even board a plane and navigate. Kids love Egypt where they can play in a sandbox.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the museum includes local Ludington businesses like the famous ice cream parlor, House of Flavors, the post office, and grocery store.   Music lovers will not want to miss out on going to the third floor and jamming out on the sound stage with a real drum set, guitars and a mic. You may even spy yourself on tv!

Tip: Head to the third floor where you can see parts of the original Elks building. If the weather is on your side, step outside and play music or tend to the garden. Don’t forget to check out the views on top.

Stearns Park Beach

As one of Ludington’s main beaches, we found Stearns Park Beach to be one of our favorite parts of our visit. USA Today awarded this beach as one of the “Top 51 Great American Beaches”, and after a day of sun it’s easy to see why.This downtown city beach offers amenities families love — barbecue grills, shuffleboard court, a skate park, mini golf, concession stand with snacks and bathrooms, plus watercraft rental. The best part is that entrance to the beach is completely free with plenty of parking to boot.

We absolutely fell in love with this clean beach with its shallow waters.

North Breakwater Light

Located at the southern end of Stearns Park Beach, we walked a half-mile to The North Breakwater Light. We had great views of boats passing by, but I can imagine how amazing this would look watching the sunset or the S.S. Badger sail by. The Light is open for tours during the summer and for a $5 donation you can climb to the top.

Family Friendly Ludington - North Breakwater Light

Ludington State Park/Hamlin Lake (8800 W. M-116)

Three miles down from Stearns Park is Ludington’s other main beach area – Ludington State Park. After paying a fee of $9 and passing a few campgrounds, we could see why Ludington State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Michigan. They offer tons for families to do from water sports like kayaking to floating down an inner tube to beaching it up and hiking.

Since the weather was a tad bit chilly, we thought we would try our luck at Hamlin Lake with its warmer waters. It was still a little too cool for us, but that didn’t stop the kids from playing in the sand.

Family Friendly Ludington - Hamlin Lake at Ludington State Park

Afterward, we wanted to explore the Lake Michigan beach side. We learned our lesson about the water, but that didn’t prevent us from walking along the shore. We’ve never seen so many different blues of Lake Michigan! So beautiful!

Family Friendly Ludington - Lake Michigan Shores

But those dunes were beckoning us, so of course we had to climb them. They weren’t as crazy high as Sleeping Bear Dunes (thank goodness), but still loads of fun!

Loved the views from the top! Family Friendly Ludington - View from Dunes

Next time, we’ll hike the two miles to the Big Sable Lighthouse. (Yes, apparently I’m obsessed with lighthouses.)

Tip: If you don’t want to pay to get in, before entering the state park you can pull off the road and park on the side and make your way to the beach.  

Family Friendly Ludington - Dunes access from the road

Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, 217 South Lakeshore Drive

Family Friendly Ludington - Port of Ludington Maritime Museum

We were given a sneak peek of the museum, and boy were we impressed! Housed in a former U.S. Coast Guard Station, the new museum is 10 years in the making. I absolutely loved that the museum was interactive for all guests but especially their youngest visitors.  Guests are able to climb up a replica of the North Breakwater Lighthouse, pilot the Pere Marquette 22 car ferry into Ludington’s harbor, listen to holograms of captains as they share their tales, and see historic artifacts used at Ludington’s harbor by its Coast Guardsmen and car ferry sailors.

Waterfront Sculpture Park, 200 S. William St. 

At the suggestion of the Port of Maritime Ludington executive director, Rick Plummer, who mentioned that heading to the Waterfront Sculpture Park would be a neat experience to enjoy with the family especially around the time the S.S. Badger docks for the evening. So we grabbed our cones from House of Flavors (read all about it in our next post) and took a stroll around the park, checking out a few of the 9 bronze statues depicting the history of Ludington.

. We loved saying hello to the S.S. Badger, as it would be embarking on our voyage with her the following morning.


We spent the next few hours exploring the awesome playground, while the sun set. It was a great way to end a fun day in Ludington.

 

S.S. Badger, 1687 South Lakeshore Drive

SS Badger Carferry - Top

When we heard that Ludington was also a port for a 1950s-era steamship making its way across Manitowoc and Ludington two times a day, we were intrigued. The best part is that cars can come along for the ride. Besides, who wants to battle the notorious Chicago traffic? We just had to experience this. One of the best parts is that it’s super family-friendly. Kids can watch a few movies, play in the kids room, try their hand at Badger Bingo or just enjoy being on the water. We absolutely loved the whole experience!  Stay tuned for an in-depth review.

Places to STAY

Nader’s Motel & Suites, 612 N Lakeshore Dr.

Naders Motel and Suites - Exterior

Located just a block away from the beach, we found the family-owned Nader’s Motel and Suites an ideal basecamp to explore Ludington. After a day of sun and fun, we looked forward to just unwinding and resting at our comfy double queen suite with kitchen.

Naders Motel and Suites - Double Queen Bedroom

We could lounge in the separate living room or hang out on the balcony and enjoy peace and quiet. Having a heated pool was an additional plus.

Naders Motel and Suites - Pool

Other reasons why Nader’s rock:

  • Fresh, baked cookies upon check-in. Yes, it’s all about the small things, right?
  • They will pick you up on arrival and take you back on departure.
  • They are pet-friendly
  • Play games like shuffleboard or basketball.
  • Picnic area with grill

We Wish..

No doubt about it – we will be back to Ludington. Here are a few places we will need to check out when we are back.

  • Murals – Ludington has a few murals that we passed but didn’t get a chance to stop and take pics.
  • Todd & Brad Reed Photo Gallery (114 W. Ludington Ave.) – Fall in love with the Mitten State all over again with a photo gallery of all things Pure Michigan.
  • Amber Elk Ranch (2688 W Conrad Rd.) – A real elk ranch where people can take a wagon tour through the grounds and visit a petting zoo.
  • Historic White Pine Village (1687 S Lakeshore Dr.) The same people that brought the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, operate this historic farm and village.
  • Country Dairy (3476 S 80th Ave., New Era, MI 49446) –  See the dairy process in action, then indulge in unlimited chocolate milk!

Read all about our Ludington post on all the yummy food we ate!

Exploring Family-friendly Ludington, Michigan