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A Tour of the Lighthouses: Ludington

Submitted by: Laura Niemiec

Three hours north of Michigan City, Indiana is Ludington, Michigan. In this quaint harbor town you will find not one, but two lighthouses. Turning off of US 31, follow Ludington Ave all of the way to Lake Michigan. As the lake comes into view, turn right on North Lakeshore Drive, also called M-116, and drive 3 blocks then turn left into Stearns Park (Note: If you don’t turn onto North Lakeshore Drive you’ll have to loop around as Stearns Drive is only one way).

The Breakwater Light, built in 1924, is the second lighthouse to stand watch over the harbor entrance on the Pere Marquette River. The pier, which is 2,770 feet long, can be traversed in good weather but advisable to keep off when the lake is rough and in inclement weather. From Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day you can tour the lighthouse house daily from 10am-5pm: $5 adults, $2 children 11 years and under.

After checking out the Breakwater Light, grab a bit to eat at one of the restaurants on the main road or, if you packed one, have a picnic at Stearns Park or on the beach before driving three miles north to Ludington State Park to visit Big Sable Point Light. It is a 2-mile flat hike out to the Big Sable so you’ll need your energy! If you aren’t up for walking 2 miles, this trail is bicycle friendly (or on most Saturdays in season you can hop a bus from the ranger station to the light for a fee). The trail is mostly gravel and sand, wide enough to get a vehicle down. If you plan on walking, keep in mind there are plenty of benches to take a break along the way.

It’s $9 to enter the park unless you have a Michigan Recreation Passport ($32 for non-residents). I highly suggest the passport; it’s a windshield sticker good for entrance to dozens of Michigan parks/locations for the entire year. Once you enter the park, drive straight ahead into the main parking lot. From there, towards the back of the lot, you’ll see a sign pointing you in the direction of the lighthouse. You’ll walk all the way through the main campground then start the 1.8 mile hike to the light.

Along the hike to the lighthouse, there are plenty of opportunities for photographs, such as small inland lakes and rolling dunes, along with informational signage about the landscape and habitats, including the insects and wildlife you may come across. There is even a spot about half way to the light where you can climb some smaller dunes to the beach to view shipwreck remnants.

As you round the tallest dune on your hike you’ll see the top of the 1867 black and white lighthouse. This beauty is one of my favorite lights on Lake Michigan. From May to the first weekend of November, you can tour the lighthouse house daily from 10am-5pm: $5 adults, $2 children 11 years and under.

If you aren’t into driving 6 hours round trip in a single day like I do, consider camping at the state park and taking in some of the other trails at the park and around Hamiln Lake or spending the night at one of the many bed and breakfasts or inns in the area. Also, if you’re really up for an adventure you can take a car ferry from Ludington across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

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