Guiding Lights and Nautical Crossings: Ludington Lighthouses and the SS Badger

Ludington North Breakwater Light in Ludington at sunset
North Breakwater Light- Photo by Mike Mishler of Lincat Photography

Beacons of Lights and Floating Legacies

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you in the above picture of Ludington’s North Breakwater Light, a beautiful Ludington Lighthouse- it does lean a bit, about 4 degrees!  After the crib on which the tower sits shifted a bit during a 1994 renovation, the Army Corps of Engineers determined it was safe to leave it that way.

And, as the sun sets over Ludington, casting a golden hue upon the tranquil waters of Lake Michigan, two iconic symbols converge- the steadfast Ludington lighthouses and the mighty SS Badger car ferry. Follow along as we highlight Ludington’s lighthouses, the SS Badger, and a very special place to stay during your next Ludington getaway.

Big Sable Lighthouse in Ludington with cloudy skies
Big Sable Lighthouse Photo credit: Ludington House

Ludington Lighthouses

The beautiful mitten state currently has 129 lighthouses gracing the Great Lake’s shorelines.  Historically,  the state may have had as many as 250 active lighthouses. For more information about Michigan Lighthouses, check out this previous article. Some of our #MichBnB favorites are located in the beautiful lakeside town of Ludington.

Big Sable Lighthouse – Ludington State Park- Our voyage begins at the Big Sable Lighthouse, perched atop windswept dunes. Imagine its beacon cutting through the mist, guiding ships safely along the coast. Nestled among jack pines, just a quick two-mile walk along a breathtaking trail stands Big Sable’s noble black and white tower.

From May to October, visitors can hike 1.8 miles from the parking lot to the beach and climb the 130 steps to the top of the tower, which offers a spectacular view. The original keeper’s quarters houses a gift shop, where you can pick up a memento of your visit. For more information check out this link.

North Breakwater Lighthouse – Stearns Park Beach

This magnificent lighthouse is ranked the #1 lighthouse to visit in Michigan and for good reason.  It is a focal point in Ludington;  a great place to watch a sunset and wave at the SS Badger as it cruises by. The breakwater wall leading to this light is a mile-long round-trip walk and you’ll frequently see fishermen along the way.

This light is open for tours and tower climbs from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, May 21 through September 2, 2024, and boasts a vibrant green light from its tower. The Breakwater Light is at the end of a half-mile walk down the pier at Stearns Park Beach with a unique view of the channel and shoreline.

Sunset at the Little Sable Light House in Ludington
Little Sable Lighthouse

 Little Sable Point Lighthouse – Silver Lake State Park – Southward we venture, through rolling dunes and whispering pines, to the Little Sable Point Lighthouse built in the late 1870s.  Its white tower stands sentinel, a witness to countless sunrises and tempests.

Tours are available daily from May- September. This historic sentinel is located one-half mile south of Golden Township Park at Lake Michigan. Walk from a large parking lot on a concrete walkway up to Little Sable Point Lighthouse. From the lighthouse, it’s just a short walk down to our most spectacular expansive beach along Lake Michigan. A Michigan Passport pass is required to enter the park. 

White River Light Station & Museum-Whitehall- While not in Ludington, the White River Light Station is located in the nearby town of Whitehall and is included in the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association, also known as SPLKA. This impressive collection of supporters and volunteers work together with a mission to preserve, promote, educate the public, and make our lighthouses accessible to all.

The White River Light Station was built in 1875. Captain William Robinson was the visionary behind this lighthouse, which is infused with character and purpose. Lighthouse marvels include old spiral stairs and panoramic views that stretch across Lake Michigan and embrace the serene beauty of White Lake.

The museum welcomes visitors from May 22nd to October 31, six days a week, between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM.


  • SS Badger arriving in Ludington
    Photo Credit: Ludington House

SS Badger: A Floating Legacy

The SS Badger, with its coal-fired engines and storied past, bridges the gap between land and water. As you board, feel the vibrations beneath your feet—the same vibrations that resonate through Ludington’s lighthouses. The ferry’s horn echoes across the lake, bidding farewell to the shore. And as you sail between Michigan and  Wisconsin, remember that you’re not just crossing water; you’re crossing time, guided by lighthouses and embraced by the spirit of adventure.

The S.S. Badger is a remarkable vessel with several distinctive features that set it apart:

Historical Significance- The Badger is the last remaining example of Great Lakes rail car ferries, a type of vessel that significantly influenced the design of similar ships worldwide. Its coal-fired propulsion system is unique in the nation and believed to be one-of-a-kind globally.

Onboard Amenities- You’ll be amazed at the amenities available while you traverse Lake Michigan including Badger Bingo, Staterooms ideal for napping, free movies, lounging areas available both in and outside during your trip,

Dining Options- All dining and bar locations on the Badger feature items made with local Michigan and Wisconsin ingredients.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a leisure traveler, or simply seeking a unique experience, the S.S. Badger offers a memorable journey across Lake Michigan.

Ludington House Inn Front of house

The Ludington House: A Harbor of Comfort

After being transported by the SS Badger and a day of lighthouse exploration, retreat to the Ludington House. Its Victorian charm envelops you—with herringbone-patterned hardwood floors gorgeous carved cherry and golden oak woodwork, the  Italian marble fireplace, and beautiful stained glass windows, this is a truly remarkable Michigan Bed and Breakfast experience. Sit by the fireplace sip tea, and later walk downtown for a delicious meal. The inn is renowned for its delicious Scandinavian Breakfasts that will fuel you for your day of lighthouse exploration.

So, fellow traveler, let the lighthouses illuminate your path and let the SS Badger ferry you across history. Ludington awaits, where land and lake intertwine, and where every journey begins with a beacon’s glow.

Book your stay at the Ludington House here.


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