While we have been to Ludington more than a handful of times now, our latest visit was our first after the mark of Labor Day, when many beach towns start finding their off-season rhythm. While the pace might be a bit slower, the weather is still perfect, and the small town is bustling with the same energy, just fewer crowds.
Traveling along the lakeshore in the fall is my favorite time to visit these gems speckled along the shoreline, and this trip to Ludington confirmed that it will now make itself into the regular rotation of fall visits.
Thank you, Pure Ludington, for hosting Awesome Mitten in this opportunity to explore your town more fully.
My Ludington Weekend Itinerary
What We Did
- Experienced Lewis Adventure Farm and Zoo
- Played at Ludington Area Jaycees Mini Golf
- Enjoyed sunset at Stearns Beach
- Walked through Waterfront Park
- Shopped at Gordys Skate Co.
- Visited Sandcastles Children’s Museum
- Explored Ludington State Park
- Took a bus ride to Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Where We Ate
- Crown and Cork
- House of Flavors
- Cafe 106
- Red Rooster Coffee and Community
- Ludington Bay Brewing Company
- Big Apple Bagels
Where We Stayed
- A cozy cottage at Sauble Resort
A Magical Experience at Lewis Adventure Farm and Zoo
We stopped at Lewis Adventure Farm and Zoo as we made our way to Ludington. It was the perfect stop on our road trip and sits just over 30 miles from Ludington. If you make a trip there from May through October, you will have to add this Adventure Farm to your to-do list.
They have truly thought of everything to make a visit to the farm a magical experience for your family. Take a wagon ride out to pick apples, visit the exotic animals, enjoy treats from the bakery, take a barrel ride, feed the farm animals, stop at one of the many photo opportunities, play barnyard games, cool off at the splash pad, and so much more!
Cozy Cottage at Sauble Resort
After hours of fun at the farm, we made our way to check in to Sauble Resort. We were so grateful to be hosted at this gorgeous resort. You’ll find the resort on a bluff that overlooks Hamlin Lake. With a pool, laundry and game room, fish cleaning station, marina with boat rentals, playground, and fully stocked cottages, this was a true home away from home.
Dinner at Crown and Cork
After a full day of fun, we headed into downtown Ludington to eat dinner with a view at Crown and Cork. With a view of the municipal marina, we cozied into a stunning booth and took time looking over all of the delicious dinner options.
What truly marked this as a restaurant I would love to return to was the elevated dining and drink options and the relaxed feel. There were kid-friendly options on the menu for my pint-sized travel companion and even a uniquely designed play area tucked back for those small diners who need a break from the dining table.
Mini Golf at Ludington Area Jaycees Mini Golf
After dinner, we headed to a truly unique mini golf course to take in 18 holes. Coined “Putt Putt for a Purpose,” the Ludington Area Jaycees Mini Golf course was opened with the community in mind, with its proceeds going towards community projects. You’ll learn more about Ludington with each hole as each one is designed after Ludington landmarks ranging from the S.S. Badger to Big Sable Point Lighthouse.
Sunset at Stearns Park and Beach
Because the mini-golf course was just across the street from Stearns Beach, we could time our game perfectly with the sunset and walk out on the pier towards Ludington North Breakwater Light. We spent our time climbing the small dunes, taking in the sunset from the pier, and playing on the playground.
A Sweet Treat from House of Flavors
What’s a vacation if you don’t throw bedtime to the wind occasionally and end your night at the ice cream counter? We made our final stop of the day at the House of Flavors Restaurant, a true Ludington staple.
You’ll need to plan for extra time to take in all of the 1950s decor and make your choice from a huge selection of ice cream flavors. My daughter landed on the classic chocolate and vanilla combination.
Breakfast at Cafe 106
With patrons filling in and out of the bustling restaurant all morning, you can see that Cafe 106 is one of the go-tos for breakfast in Ludington on a weekend morning. With patrons greeted by name, I could tell why these customers returned over and over again. The friendly atmosphere, delicious food, and cozy small-town experience would bring me back as a regular if I lived in the area as well.
Latte at Red Rooster Coffee and Community
Wanting to take in more of downtown Ludington, we left our car parked near the cafe and walked towards the Waterfront Park. If you are a coffee lover, you must make a stop at Red Rooster Coffee and Community.
When you walk in, it has the true coffeehouse feel. You’ll see people using this as a workspace, a family breakfast with coffee and a bakery item, or a place to meet up with friends. I grabbed a caramel latte to sip as we continued our journey through downtown.
Morning at Waterfront Park
We continued our walk to Waterfront Park. Here you will find a bandshell where if you visit during the summer months you will be able to catch a summer concert, a sculpture park, stunning views of the municipal marina, playgrounds, and swing sets, all with the S.S. Badger completing a stunning backdrop.
My daughter loved bouncing between the two playgrounds designed with different age groups in mind and was thrilled to see two different sets of swings.
Souvenirs from Gordys Skate Co.
After we had our fill for playing, we walked back downtown to Gordys Skate Co. to grab a piece of Ludington to take back home with us. While I am a firm believer that you can never have enough sweatshirts, my husband may disagree.
In my favor is the crispness of fall at our fingertips, so I was able to pick out a perfect pigment-dyed crewneck and have it pressed with a Ludington State Park screenprint. The staff was so patient with my three-year-old as she took her own time picking out first the perfect shirt and then a stencil for her very own custom print.
Hands-On Fun at Sandcastles Children’s Museum
Just a city block from our shopping, we went down to the Sandcastles Children’s Museum. As mentioned before, we have visited Ludington a handful of times, and much as we enjoy children’s museums, I am surprised we had never ventured to Sandcastles before. With three floors for your child to learn, imagine, and explore, there is so much to do here.
What struck me most was that just about all of the items and spaces are curated and designed by community members. From artists taking time after hours to freehand murals on the walls to different exhibits being put together, the sponsors and community are the glue of this museum.
My daughter spent most of her time in what I would coin the “town” section of the museum. With a hospital room, post office, market, restaurants, veterinary office, and more, if you have a child who loves to use their imagination, this is a must-stop on your visit to Ludington.
Lunch at Ludington Bay Brewing Company
After working up an appetite from playing, we grabbed a take-out lunch from Ludington Bay Brewing Company to bring to the beach. With indoor and outdoor seating, knowledgeable staff, and a dog-friendly atmosphere, you’ll want to make dinner plans for here the next time you are in town.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse at Ludington State Park
There is magic certain places have, and Ludington State Park holds that magic for both my children and me.
If you are bringing your family, you’ll want to spend most of your time at the beach, handicap-accessible playground at the Hamlin Beach Picnic Area, and for those with more adventurous spirits, a tube or kayak ride down the Big Sable River to Lake Michigan or
a hike out to the Big Sable Lighthouse.
While many make the hike out to Big Sable Point Lighthouse by foot or bike, there are a select few “bus days” offered by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keepers Association to make a visit to the lighthouse accessible to everyone.
We were able to take a bus on our visit for this season’s last bus day, but keep an eye on the calendar for next season. This was a great option for us as my daughter is younger, and the 1.8 one-way trip, while doable for her, would have allowed us less time to truly explore and enjoy ourselves once we reached Big Sable.
Tours of the lighthouse are available from May to October at a separate cost, but keep in mind that children must be able to walk the lighthouse stairs on their own and be 40 inches tall.
Dinner at Stix
After spending our afternoon and early evening at the state park, we found Stix just outside of the park to enjoy a delicious dinner. With a bowling alley and beer garden on-site, this is a place where everyone can enjoy themselves.
My daughter and I enjoyed our dinner (I highly recommend the blackened chicken tacos) and then made our way to the beer garden to enjoy yard games after our meal. I loved that we could move from dinner to the outside where I could enjoy a specialty cocktail while she played.
Sunset at Ludington State Park
Although we had spent our entire afternoon at Ludington State Park, my daughter also inherited whatever DNA is woven into me that believes sunsets at a Great Lake trump all. As I saw the sunset time approaching, I asked her if she would like to return to the beach. With an excited yes, we packed up and made the couple-minute drive back to the sand.
There’s nothing like a Great Lake sunset, so if I ever find myself a few minutes from the water, that’s where you’ll find me as the sun melts into the horizon.
Breakfast at Big Apple Bagels
After we packed up and got ready to head back home we stopped at Big Apple Bagels for a quick breakfast to hold us over until we got home. My original plan was just to have a latte, but when I saw the breakfast sandwich options, I knew I had to try one, and I am so glad I did.
My daughter enjoyed picking out different muffins for her mini-muffin packs. If you are in the Ludington area and looking for a quick, family-friendly breakfast option with something for everyone, this is it.
Small-Town Hospitality with a Big Heart
While I am sure it is the sand and water that attracts flocks of people to visit this small lakeshore town, I can say with certainty what brings people back to Ludington over and over again is the hospitality.
I noticed the owners working alongside their employees in almost every place I visited. People were greeted by name and with a smile. And if you aren’t a local like we weren’t, you’ll still feel welcomed like one and right at home.
Thank you, Pure Ludington. We will be back.