Only an hour and a half north of Grand Rapids, the beautiful and beachy town of Ludington, MI, rests on the grand shores of Lake Michigan. You’ll find lighthouses galore, wispy tall grasses, sandy beaches, and endless opportunities to explore the outdoors with gentle Lake Michigan as your constant backdrop.
But nature’s not the only thing calling you here in Ludington. The simultaneous poppin’ yet subtle downtown is lined with artisan shops and historical architecture like the Mason County Courthouse. And don’t get us started on all the food options — lobster nachos at Blu Moon? Enough said.
And at the end of the day? You’ll retreat back to your upscale yet welcoming vacation home steps from Lake Michigan with Waters Edge Vacation Rentals. We’re experts on all things Ludington, from beach house stays and lookout spots to local activities and itineraries for every group. These are the can’t miss things to do in this vibrant lakeshore town.
Experience Downtown Ludington’s Food and Art Scenes
- Location: Downtown Ludington
- Notable features: Local arts, fish-inspired cuisine, and charming architecture.
Downtown Ludington offers a charming and welcoming atmosphere packed with restaurants, shops, and art galleries. This whimsical ambiance is channeled in the charming architecture and inviting community. This is especially true at night when restaurant patios are lit with fairy lights, narrated by excited diners clinking their wine glasses.
You can relish some scrumptious food experiences full of seasonal menus, freshly baked pastries, and family-owned restaurants. Escargot, anyone? Try ‘em at Scotty’s Restaurant — along with their Apple Bacon Stuffed Chicken or town-famous broiled whitefish!
As for the art scene? You can’t miss the local treasure that is the Red Door Gallery — named for its eponymous entry. The couple who owns it populates exhibits with their own local-inspired artwork, from paintings to pottery.
And if you love art but have the kids with you? Check out the Bonafide Gallery instead – you might be able to book a pastel workshop for the whole family!
Finally, the Ludington Area Center for the Arts is the place to go for international art, interactive exhibits, and regular live performances like Bluegrass bands and film festivals!
Explore the Brewery Scene around Waterfront Park
- Location: 391 S William St, Ludington, MI
- Notable features: Historic bronze sculptures, scenic paths, and picnic tables.
Waterfront Park sits lakeside, right next to the Harbor View Marina and the SS Badger Car Ferry, which takes passengers across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Waterfront Park is known for its nine bronze sculptures of boat-inspired history, from the man holding a ship steering wheel to the massive steamboat in the ring. These make up more than half of the sculptures that make up the Mason County Sculpture Trail.
Once you’ve taken in the park’s serene art and lake views, walk just two blocks away to find both Ludington Bay Brewery and Jamesport Brewing Company. Blueberry wheat beer is on the menu, which goes great with a juicy cherry bourbon burger. Yum!
A Family Friendly Day of Culture at Ludington’s Museums
- Sandcastles Children’s Museums: 129 E Ludington Ave, Ludington, MI
- Maritime Museum: 217 South Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI
- Notable features: Family-friendly activities and tourist-friendly gift shops.
Who says kids can’t pay attention to cultural activities? That’s just not the case at Ludington’s many historical museums. Even if you’re traveling with a big group, spots like the Sandcastles Children’s Museum and the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum will awaken their sense of wonder.
The latter is based in a former US Coast Guard Station and features interactive exhibits depicting the area’s boating history, complete with stories of shipwrecks within the Great Lakes. They even have miniature lighthouse exhibits and one attraction that allows kids to simulate a sailing experience!
Nearby, the Sandcastles Museum is reasonably priced, with three floors of endless educational activities for the kids. Lite Brite interactive play, pulley system simulations, and play instruments are the tip of the iceberg here! Your kids won’t want to leave – at least, that’s what all the 5-star reviews say on Google!
But you won’t have to venture far if you’re starting to hear tummies rumbling. Ludington’s famous House of Flavors lies between the two museums. This 50s-style diner serves homemade ice cream, chicken & Waffles, BLTs, biscuits, and gravy that’ll make all your mouths water!
Embrace Nature at Ludington State Park
- Location: 8800 M-116, Ludington, MI
- Notable features: Historic Lake Michigan Beach House and lighthouse and nature immersion.
With sandy beaches, swimming areas, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and 21 miles of hiking trails, this waterfront park is the outdoorsman’s dream.
While you’re there, schedule time to see the 112-foot Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is open until 5 pm for tours. Don’t forget to take a few shots of the lighthouse against the gorgeous sunset backdrop later in the day!
While it’s not a bad idea to pack snacks, don’t stress too much. Ludington State Park is also home to Dune Grass Concessions, which offers quick foods, ice cream, rentals, and even souvenirs! Lake Michigan sandwiches Ludington State Park on one side and Lake Hamlin on the other, so you’ll have many opportunities to interact with the water without feeling congested with other people.
Go Back in Time at Historic White Pine Village
- Location: 1687 S Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI
- Notable features: Marchido Schoolhouse, Artisan Center, Fire Station, and the Blacksmith Shop
If you’re excited to see West Michigan’s historic sites, visiting White Pine Village is a must. This living history pioneer village displays both the buildings and lives of pioneers living in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
You’ll find over 30 historic buildings with interactive exhibits, a steam train, and even a working sawmill. We love the well-preserved historic homes — from old wooden school desks to rustic figurine toys and fascinating interiors. The museum is open from May to October and takes about two hours to explore fully.
Enjoy your Beachfront Rental
- Location: Your Waters Edge vacation rental!
- Notable features: Heated pools, hot tubs, Wi-Fi, fully stocked kitchens, lake access, and BBQ grills on site.
Sometimes, the best way to spend a vacation day is by resting. At Waters Edge, we’ve made every rental intuitive and spacious enough to feel relaxed while enjoying the company of your loved ones.
Maybe you’ll walk along the beach, or lounge by the heated pool and hot tub (or both)! Our waterfront vacation homes give you both of these options. But alongside luxury and impeccable comfort comes the familiarity of home.
That’s why we included a game and toy closet, a stocked mini fridge, pool toys, and high-quality bedding to make you feel as cozy as possible. Stay in and watch a movie if it’s chilly on our HD televisions, with views of Lake Michigan in your purview whenever you want to sneak a peek.
Bottom line? Our properties have everything you need to make your stay memorable and exquisitely comfortable.
Tap into Adventure at the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area
- Location: Free Soil, MI
- Notable features: Great area for backpacking and uninterrupted nature.
Lake Michigan’s known for lighthouses and soft coastlines — and sand dunes? Yes! These wonders of nature appear in a few different coast spots along the lake’s perimeter, especially in Ludington!
Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness area is the perfect place to explore and recharge your batteries with charming sunset views, delightful butterfly sightings, and minimal amenities to embrace life before all that human intervention. Plus, you’ll get to sculpt those calf muscles with all the hiking trails — trust us, the sand adds quite a bit of resistance! That just means more room to enjoy the town’s delicious restaurant fare!
Relax at Ludington’s Many Beach Spots
- Location: Various Locations near Ludington, MI
- Notable features: Horizon views, boat rentals, wildlife, and prime relaxation real estate!
If you’re looking to catch some rays while you’re on vacation, the best place to do that is certainly at one of Ludington’s many pristine beaches. Take your pick — Stearns Park Beach, Summit Park Beach, and Buttersville Park Beach are some solid options.
Stearns Park offers a lovely picnic area, concessions, and a playground to accommodate all the kids and little cousins. But if you’re looking for something a little more secluded, we suggest Summit Park or Buttersville Park, which are generally quieter.
Of course, Lake Michigan can get a bit tumultuous on a windy day, making your beach day look more like a raincheck. Our advice? Head over to Hamlin Lake, slightly warmer than Lake Michigan’s coastlines and protected from the wind. With Hamin Lake Boat Rentals, you can even enjoy a more immersive experience in the lake’s tranquil waters!
Last but not least, there’s a beach spot for adventure and sports enthusiasts in the group, too! Check out the Pere Marquette River for kayaking, wildlife viewing, and the infamous Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse!
Visit STIX for Bowling and Relaxed Eats
- Location: 1963 N Lakeshore Dr, Ludington, MI
- Best for/Notable feature: Revamped historical architecture with bowling, local-inspired dishes, and a lovely beer garden.
Just three and a half miles north of downtown Ludington is STIX, a newly renovated venue where fantastic dining and bowling come together within a gothic structure. Oh, and there’s a delightful courtyard with boat-inspired patio furniture as well!
STIX has been around since the 50s, but the venue’s recent renovation really took things to the next level. Boasting 12 bowling lanes, STIX is the perfect spot for a corporate event, family outing, or even a romantic date night that presents a twist on the traditional glass of wine and dinner.
As for the food? They use locally sourced ingredients from around the area, like sweet corn and pumpkin, and offer a seasonal menu, making ingredients both local and fresh. Dig into the fresh and exotic Ahi Tuna Rice Bowl for dinner or the juicy STIX Ribeye with a Romano cheese crust, smashed redskin potatoes and asparagus. We’re not drooling; you’re drooling! Who knew you could find a bowling alley surpassing the boring-old frozen chicken fingers and pizza?
Don’t Miss Out on Ludington
If you’re looking for an unforgettable trip on the Great Lakes, Ludington is a hidden gem that offers a whimsical blend of natural beauty, historical touches, and regional dining.
Imagine your next family getaway with everyday views of Lake Michigan’s scenic splendor and miles of shoreline. That’s just another day at one of our rentals. Our advice? Pack a bathing suit, pour a glass of wine, and stare at the star-filled skies from the bubbling, warm hot tub on your vacation rental’s patio.
Ready to explore the exquisite Ludington in luxury? Book a Waters Edge vacation home today!
Featured Image Credit: Frederick Millett