A hub of maritime history, the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum explains the region’s marine history with three floors of interactive exhibits.  

Pilot the Pere Marquette 22 carferry across Lake Michigan or climb a scale-model replica of Ludington’s North Pier Lighthouse. The museum is filled with original artifacts, multimedia experiences and hands-on activities.

“The interactive capabilities are really state of the art,” says Rebecca Berringer, executive director of the Mason County Historical Society, which operates the museum. “People enjoy being able to actually interact with different exhibits.”

The museum opened in June 2017 in Ludington’s historic U.S. Coast Guard Station and attracts 8,000 visitors annually. The main level includes exhibits on lighthouse history and optics, with two original Fresnel lenses on display, and the area’s carferry and line steamer history.

“At one point in time, there were nine carferries,” Berringer says. “It was the largest port for carferries on Lake Michigan.”

From the new third-floor exhibit devoted to the S.S. Badger, which is the last coal-fired car and passenger steamship in operation in America, visitors can see the historic vessel come in and out of port as it departs for Manitowoc, Wisconsin or a special shoreline cruise.

In his cabin on the Pere Marquette 22, which sailed from 1924 to 1973, the “ghost” of Captain Wallace Van Dyke talks about his inspiring life and career. The voyage continues on the museum’s second floor in the pilot house of the ship, where you can guide the Pere Marquette 22 in and out of port under Van Dyke’s direction.

Other exhibits include a unique display of handcrafted, international ship models highlighting the Age of Sail, and fine art paintings of Ludington’s carferry era, maritime art and historical maps. 

Learn about Lake Michigan shipwrecks and Ludington’s wild and wooly lumbering days and other maritime industries. Another highlight is a 100-foot-long hand-painted scroll by Jacob Lunde, depicting a panoramic view of the region from Pentwater to Hamlin Lake between 1884-1908. 

A new exhibit honors U.S. Coast Guard personnel and 70 years of service in the Ludington station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. A hands-on display gives guests the chance to decode the meaning of maritime signal flags and create their own message.    

Other features include a theater, gift shop and outdoor landmarks to explore. The outdoor Maritime Heritage Trail features 13 different historical panels from the lighthouse to the city marina, with interactive narration.

If you go to Port of Ludington Maritime Museum:

Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day, with limited hours through early November. Adults, $12.50; seniors, $11.50; children ages 6-17, $10; and 5 and under, free. 217 S. Lakeshore Drive, Ludington. ludingtonmaritimemuseum.org | 231-843-4808.

Photo credit: Mason County Historical Society


Marla R. Miller is an award-winning journalist and professional writer who lives in Norton Shores, Michigan. She enjoys boating, going to the beach and experiencing Michigan's natural beauty in every season.

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