Our country has so much to see… even in the Midwest! I love the history out East, but we also have history right here in the Midwest that I think we can sometimes overlook. Did you know this car ferry, the SS Badger is a historical landmark? Here’s what I love about riding the SS Badger across Lake Michigan, and why you may want to consider it too on your next road trip…
The SS Badger was built in 1952 and started sailing across Lake Michigan in ’53. It is the largest car ferry to ever sail Lake Michigan. It was just designated a National Historic Landmark this year!
This is the only place in America that you will be able to experience a ride like this. The webpage for the SS Badger states, (catch the link for that site at the end of this post) that it is the only coal burning steamship to operate in the US.
All that is great stuff, but here’s what I love about it…
We make the long trek from NW Wisconsin to the East Coast, (Maine coast to be precise) by car every year. It’s a long drive. On the rare occasion that it works logistically, it’s a treat to go part of the way by ferry. By taking the ferry, we cut off a lot of miles and can relax while we are still making progress. The tricky part is to get the ferry schedule to work with our driving schedule.
But if you can get it to work, here’s the numbers: The ferry ride is 4 hours, which goes across 60 miles of Lake Michigan, from Ludington, MI to Manitowoc, WI. If you were to drive that by car, you’d have to go down through Milwaukee, around Chicago and back up the west coast of the U.P. to Ludington… a total of 400 miles!
We made it to Ludington and stayed the night there, to leave on the ferry in the morning. HERE is where I’d recommend staying in Ludington, MI (affiliate link) That worked out really well.
Here’s our trip on the SS Badger coming back from Maine last fall…
It was a cool, rainy Autumn morning.
We arrived at the dock and waited in line to park our vehicle.
We had a dog with us that would stay in the vehicle. They have special arrangements for that so that he would stay comfortable.
You don’t pull your vehicle into the ferry yourself, they do that. Instead we parked in the lot where they told us to and walked into the ferry. The vehicles are parked in the bottom of the ferry. We went up to the passenger level.
There are several different places on the boat you can be. From dining areas, game rooms, places to watch TV inside to several choices outside in the open air.
once on the boat…
We could look out and watch them finish loading up the vehicles.
There are interesting views from all over the ship to be had:
Leaving the dock was an interesting view as well…
The water churned as the steam engine took off.
See those large red and white columns? They were waiting to go across too… Not this time I guess…
From the boat, the coastal views of Ludington are very pretty.
People always wave from and to boats, right?
Here’s the last lighthouse I’d see for a while.
I had just come from spending most of the summer on the East Coast of Maine, when we took this ferry ride across Lake MI last fall.
In Maine there are so many wonderful lighthouses, it was a treat to see one more on our way back , right in the heart of the Midwest! (check out my posts about our travels in Maine, and decorating a coastal cottage there)
Then as we got a little further out, we noticed this:
A drastic change in the water color. I’m not sure if that light part was super shallow from a sandbar or what caused it, but it was very pretty to see.
On the boat, although there were lots of rooms and activities inside the boat, I preferred to be outside.
The lifeboats were visible along the side, as I made my way up to the front deck.
Where it was really windy and a little wet. On a hot day, this would be a great place to be and get some sun. I expect that even on a hot day, being out on the water here would still be comfortably cool.
Once there, turning around this was my view:
The front of the steamship.
About 4 hours later…
We were arriving at Manitowoc, WI.
That was our experience. Even on a damp rainy day it was an enjoyable time.
Do you think you’ll ever be taking the SS Badger across Lake Michigan in the future?
This photo is from the website for SS Badger, where you can learn all about the National Historic Landmark SS Badger and check out the departure times and prices and all that good stuff.
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I’m linking this post up with Susan at Between Naps on the Porch’s link party!