Check out our picks for the top 50 coolest things to do in Ludington, Michigan, along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography
Take a Step Back in Maritime History at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum!
Residents and visitors alike are invited to step back in the past and learn about Ludington’s rich maritime history at the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. Located in the former US Coast Guard Station, a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum entertains, enlightens, and instructs.
Visitors can pilot the famed carferry Pere Marquette 22 into Ludington’s harbor, meet holograms of both Captains Nels Palmer and Wallace Van Dyke, and enjoy several interactive exhibits.
Admission to the museum is $12 for Seniors (60 & Up), $13 for Adults, $11 for Children 4-13 years of age and free for children under 3.
Within the Museum
The museum tells the story of Ludington’s rich maritime history and heritage with three floors of exhibits that cover lighthouses, shipwrecks, the Coast Guard, the Ludington carferries, the lumber industry, and much more. The museum features the two original Fresnel lighthouse lenses from the Big Sable Point Lighthouse and the Ludington North Breakwater Light. Visitors can look into the recreation of the captain’s cabin of Captain Wallace Van Dyke, who was the captain of the historic Ludington carferry, the Pere Marquette 22, and see a hologram of an actor portraying Captain Van Dyke talking about his life growing up on the Lakes and becoming a captain. One of the museum’s premier exhibits is the fully interactive pilothouse simulator, where you can experience driving the carferry Pere Marquette 22 into the Ludington harbor as it would have looked in the late 1920s.
S.S. Badger Carferry Exhibit
The third floor of the museum features an exhibit dedicated specifically to the S.S. Badger carferry. Though several exhibits in the museum tell the full story of Ludington’s carferry industry, the Badger itself continues to be an important historical and cultural icon of Ludington’s maritime heritage. The exhibit explores the history of the Badger from its time as one of the railroad carferries, through the present day.
The Armistice Day Exhibit
The museum’s newest exhibit, which just opened in May of 2021, is on the historic Armistice Day Storm of 1940.
On Armistice Day- November 11, 1940, three storm fronts collided over the Midwest, creating a massive storm that wreaked havoc throughout the upper Midwest area, and then struck Lake Michigan.
The storm sped north along Lake Michigan, damaging dozens of vessels, and causing its worst destruction between Big Sable Point and Little Sable Point Lighthouses; grounding the carferry City of Flint 32 on the beach at Ludington, and sinking three large freighters. The Armistice Day Storm, as it became known, took the lives of 154 people, including 64 sailors on Lake Michigan.
This highly immersive exhibit will take you back in time to experience the dramatic events of the storm. When you enter the exhibit, 1940s parade music plays as you learn about the many Armistice Day celebrations that were taking place that morning, and visitors are introduced to the various vessels and topics that the exhibit follows throughout the storm. As you progress through the exhibit, the lighting changes to reflect the sudden and drastic change in weather as you learn the dramatic story of the storm and its many impacts. The end of the exhibit explores the shipwrecks of the vessels that sank in the storm and includes a mockup of a small submarine where visitors can sit and see underwater video of the shipwrecks.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum
217 S. Lakeshore Dr.
Ludington, MI 49431
More Activities & Attractions in Ludington...
In addition to thousands of book titles, the Mason County District Library’s Ludington and Scottville branches provide many free programs.
Putt putt for a purpose by visiting the Ludington Area Jaycees Mini Golf Course in Stearns Park, right on Lake Michigan.
Just blocks from the beach is the heart of downtown Ludington, where you can shop, dine, and enjoy summertime events.
The Lumber Heritage Trail, highlighting Mason County’s rich lumbering history, is one of four that comprise the Mason County Cultural Trails.
No matter your experience level, Ludington area charter captains will guide you in what to bring and what to expect on the big lake.
The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant and Lakewinds Energy Park are the two main sources of energy that power Ludington! Check them out!
Your pet should feel right at home in Ludington. There are many businesses that allow pets and parks and beaches for them to play on.
Farm Markets & U-Pick farms offer locally grown and organic produce, flowers, plants, seeds, and more in West Michigan.
Ludington’s North Breakwater Light is the number one lighthouse to see in Michigan! Take a trip along the breakwater path to see it up close!