Our MLive video series “Michigan’s Best Day In” shows you how to eat and drink your way across some of Michigan’s coolest towns. Our newest video features the beautiful city of Ludington, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. A year-round destination, the city really shines during the summer, when the powder sand beaches are busy, the lake sparkles in the sun, and downtown is bustling.
Special thanks to our sponsor, Pure Ludington, for supporting this project.
Michigan’s Best Day in Ludington
Start your day in Ludington off right, by fueling up with a big breakfast. We headed to Brenda’s Harbor Cafe, a favorite of both locals and tourists, with traditional offerings all served up in a nautical-themed space.
The Eggs Benedict is one of the most popular breakfasts, and features toasted English muffins topped with savory, shaved ham and poached eggs blanketed with creamy, lemony hollandaise sauce.
We also enjoyed the thin and delicate Swedish pancakes that come topped with butter and a bright lingonberry jam.
The diner also serves lunch, and is open until 2 p.m. daily. Owners Brenda and Mark Cole bought the business in 2008.
Brenda’s Harbor Cafe | 316 S. James St., Ludington, Michigan 49431
Probably the number-one reason why you need to visit Ludington? It has some of the best beaches in the state, if not the country.
Nestled on the shores of gorgeous Lake Michigan, the city has plenty of powder sand beaches to choose from, with over 28 miles of shoreline to explore.
Ludington State Park is one of the most popular state parks in Michigan, and once you visit, you’ll understand why. With 5,300 acres of dunes, trails, beaches, forests and marshes to enjoy, the park is one of Michigan’s best. Lake Michigan beckons on one side, and Hamlin Lake on the other. The park has over 360 modern campsites to rent at three different locations: Pines, Cedar and Beechwood campgrounds.
You can take a short, 1.5 mile hike to check out Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is open for tours from May to October.
Kayak or canoe, hike or bike, swim or lounge. Ludington State Park has it all.
Ludington State Park | 8800 W. M-116, Ludington MI, 49431
Other beaches in the area:
Sterns Park Beach | North Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
Summit Park Beach | 5528 S. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, MI 49431
One of the coolest things to do in the area is to visit the Amber Elk Ranch. Located just minutes from downtown, it’s one of the coolest things to do anywhere.
Owner Bob Northrup took his passion for elk up to a whole different level when he opened up the ranch. He has 130 acres where he raises elk for breeding stock, antlers, meat and community education.
When you arrive, head over to the cabin to purchase tickets for the wagon ride. Then hop on in, and get ready for an up close and personal elk experience. The tractor chugs you out onto the ranch, with one of the ranch hands hopping out every so often to unlock and then lock the various gates you’ll travel through. Your driver will share all sorts of interesting elk facts as you head out to the large “pens” where the elk reside, separated by age and gender.
Once in the pens, there are buckets of grain to feed the elk. And this is where it gets really good. You don’t just throw some grain out on the ground, you hold your hand out flat and low from the wagon and the elk come and EAT RIGHT OUT OF YOUR HAND. It is incredible to have a giant (and some of the bull elks are huge) animal that close. I screamed in both fear and delight as the first elk came up and kind of swallowed my hand with its rough tongue licking up all the grain. The elk also like it when you scratch their heads, right between the antlers, and they’ll gaze up at you with big brown eyes. Gently touch the velvet on their sensitive antlers. It’s pretty much the softest thing you’ll ever feel.
The female elk are a little more aggressive with the food, so be sure to keep the buckets in the center of the wagon, and keep your hand flat when feeding them. The baby elk are shy, and usually won’t come up to the wagon, but they are adorable at a distance.
The trip typically takes about an hour. Afterward, you can check out all the antlers piled up around the ranch, and visit the small petting zoo on the property.
Amber Elk Ranch | 2688 W Conrad Road, Ludington, Michigan 49431
- Adults: $12.00
- Children ages 2 to 12: $8.00
- Seniors: $10
- Children under age 2: Free.
- Group rates available. Please inquire.
When you are this close to all this water, you really better try some fresh fish. In Ludington, you can head on out on one of the many charter boats that provide incredible fishing experiences on Lake Michigan, and catch your meal yourself.
Ludington is considered the number-one salmon fishing port in Michigan, with record-class catches of salmon and trout. There are over 45 professional fishing charter captains in the area to choose from.
Not into fishing? No big deal, you can enjoy some fresh fish at a variety of restaurants around town.
For something unique and completely delicious, head to Bortell’s Fisheries, just south of downtown. The Bortell family has been serving up their fresh, fried and smoked fish for over 120 years. They still use the original recipes and techniques that have been passed down through six generations. The fish here is ultra-fresh, and if fried, gets a nice thin, crispy coating. This is a no-frills place. You place your order, and then grab and go. There are picnic tables outside where you can eat. Cash only.
Bortell’s Fisheries | 5510 S Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
Prefer to a sit down place? Here are a few other spots with great fish.
Scotty’s | 5910 W U.S. 10, Ludington, Michigan 49431
Old Hamlin | 122 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431-2022
Stix Bar | 1963 N Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431-9383
Jamesport Brewing Company | 410 S James St., Ludington, Michigan 49431
The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum is chock full of history, artifacts, photos and some amazing interactive exhibits all focused on the region’s maritime history. It’s the perfect stop for a little education, and for a break from all the sun (or rain, if that’s the case).
Located right on the water in a former U.S. Coast Guard Station, overlooking the North Pier Light and the S.S. Badger car ferry, the museum has three floors to explore.
On the main floor, learn about the history of the area, with scale models of boats and nautical artifacts telling the stories of the steamers and ferries that have plied the waters through the years. There is a mini lighthouse to climb, and an exhibit on how the lighthouses of yore worked. Head upstairs for a super sweet interactive exhibit where you get to captain a ferry into Ludington port, complete with a welcoming whistle pull. More photos showing the history of Ludington are on the third floor.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum | 217 S. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington, Michigan 49431
10:00 am – 5:00 pm; Last ticket sales at 4:30 pm
Open Tuesday – Saturday, April 16th – May 25th
Closed Memorial Day
Open Sunday – Saturday, May 26th – September 1st
Open Tuesday – Saturday September 2nd – October 19th
Open Saturdays, October 26th, November 2nd and 9th
General Admission Cost
Children: $10.00 (6 – 17 years of age)
Under 5: Free
Visit both The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum and Historic White Pine Village with dual ticketing: Two Museums for one great price!
Child (6-17): $14.50
Under 5: Free
Downtown Ludington is full of shops to explore, from art galleries to surf shops. Gordy’s is a T-shirt and skate shop located right downtown, and is a great place to pick up some custom apparel to let the world know you visited Ludington.
The store has a heat press on site. Pick out your T-shirt or sweatshirt, then select from a variety of logos and designs on the wall. The helpful (and fast!) staff will then press your shirt right before your eyes. It’s a cool spot to create a unique memento of your trip.
Gordy’s | 104 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431
A hot summer day in Ludington calls for an ice cream, and there is no better place to go than the very popular, very busy, and very delicious House of Flavors.
The Neal family has been making ice cream for almost 80 years in Ludington, and with their production facility next door, churn up almost 25 million gallons of ice cream every year. They are the largest producer of ice cream in Michigan.
At the restaurant, you can stroll on in and select from a rotating list of about 30 flavors every day. Have it stacked up in a homemade waffle cone, or get it whipped into a shake or a malt. If you are really hungry for ice cream, get one of their “Pig Dinners” that come in various sizes and are served in a trough. Finish one and you’ll get a collectable Pig Pin.
Don’t let the long line deter you. The scoopers here are fast, and it moves quickly. Plus, part of the fun is trying to decide what flavor to get.
House of Flavors is a summer tradition for many Ludington visitors, with families returning year after year to this fun, retro spot, for good old-fashioned fun.
House of Flavors | 402 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, MI 49431
We also would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fabulous rotisserie turkey they roast every single day at House of Flavors. Moist and succulent, the turkey gets served up as Thanksgiving dinner, and hot sandwiches drenched in homemade gravy and nuzzled up next to homemade mashed potatoes.
It’s fantastic, and somewhat unexpected. Pro tip: the hot turkey sandwich can be ordered for breakfast.
A great spot to stop for a drink is The Mitten Bar, located right downtown. The bar, opened by husband and wife team of Brian and Megan Josefowicz in 2011, features all (and only) Michigan-made goods. The couple wanted to create a community gathering place for both locals and tourists alike. It’s a super-friendly place, and the staff will make you feel welcome right away. Many nights, there is live music performed on the small stage in the back.
Craft beer, wine and spirits from Michigan are featured, along with 12 draft lines. The only pop available is Faygo, and it’s really all you need.
The Mitten Bar | 109 W Ludington Ave., Ludington, Michigan 49431
The best way to end the day is to head to the beach for the sunset. You won’t be the only one. It’s kind of the greatest show in town, every single night. There really isn’t a bad spot to watch from, and you can even head on out onto the pier.
We hope that you enjoy your Michigan’s Best Day in Ludington.
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