Enjoy a Lake Michigan Loop Adventure
Turn your S.S. Badger crossing into a vacation by combining it with a Lake Michigan loop driving tour!
Sailing aboard the S.S. Badger isn’t just about convenience – it can help you create a memorable Lake Michigan loop tour vacation. Officially part of the US-10 Highway, the east-west Badger route also is a shortcut for the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, cutting the usual 1,100-mile drive around Lake Michigan in half via two loop vacation itineraries around either the northern or southern half of the lake.
Northern Lake Michigan Loop
Traveling west on the Badger from Ludington, head north on WI-42 to enjoy the following detours after first sightseeing in Manitowoc and Two Rivers, exploring the USS CobiaWorld War II submarine and touring Rogers Street Fishing Village and the Great Lakes Coast Guard Museum.
- Door County, Wisc.– Indulge in fresh fish at a Door County fish boil, shop quaint galleries and boutiques, or visit one of 11 lighthouses dotting the 70-mile-long peninsula (one of the largest concentrations of U.S. lighthouses) on this bucolic peninsula. (Rowleys Bay Door County Fish Boil photo credit: John Nienhuis/DCVB)
- Green Bay, Wisc. — Home of the legendary Green Bay Packers (the only NFL team owned by its fans), this town celebrates its team. Football history buffs can enjoy the self-guided Oneida Nation Walk of Legends near Lambeau Field (where you can also visit the Packers Hall of Fame) or Packers Heritage Trail that pays homage to buildings and businesses significant to the team. If you visit during August, catch the team practicing at Packers Training Camp.
- Escanaba, Mich., and Western Upper Peninsula — Follow US-41 north across the Wisconsin border into Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula where you can fuel up on a traditional Cornish pasty — a hand-held, meat and vegetable pie originating in the 1840s when miners emigrated to the U.P. from Cornwall, England. Check out Fayette Historic Townsite in Fayette Historic State Park — a ghost town-turned museum village of 20 original buildings and costumed interpreters depicting the life of this once-bustling iron ore manufacturing community between 1867 and 1891. Further along, visit Kitch-iti-kipi in Palms Book State Park, Michigan's largest freshwater spring at 200 feet across and 40 feet deep.
- Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island — Head to Michigan’s Lower Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, with 7,400 feet of roadway suspended over the Straits of Mackinac. This iconic five-mile bridge is a sight to behold during the approach (see the scenic overlook off US-2in St. Ignace) and as you cross. Detour to car-free Mackinac Island, reachable by ferry boat from St. Ignace or Mackinac City. This jewel of the Great Lakes has been attracting visitors for more than a century, as evidenced by the 1887-era Grand Hotel flanking its west bluff. Tour historic Fort Mackinac, pedal a bike or ride in a horse-drawn carriage around the eight-mile circumference, and buy a slab of Mackinac Island Fudge.
- Northern Lower Peninsula (Petoskey to Manistee) — Once in the Lower Peninsula, enjoy an array of Lake Michigan resort towns for an afternoon or overnight stay along with your return route to Ludington. Favorites include Petoskey and Charlevoix for historic downtowns, stunning waterfronts, and beautiful beaches; and Traverse City for its stellar dining and craft beer/ wine/spirits scene along Grand Traverse Bay. Detour west to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (enjoying nearby Glen Arbor or Empire) to climb a sand dune, and then take the famous M-22 Highway south through the historic towns of Frankfort and Manistee before turning south onto US-31 for the final leg to Ludington.
- Ludington — Build in time in Ludington at the front or back end of your trip, with its perfect combination of small-town charm plus woods and water along 28 miles of sandy Lake Michigan coastline that includes popular Stearns Park Beach and Ludington State Park. Enjoy downtown’s excellent eateries, breweries, and shops, or take in an afternoon at the new Port of Ludington Maritime Museum to learn about the region’s carferry history.
Southern Lake Michigan Loop
Head south from your arrival in Manitowoc on I-43, hitting the following highlights in a counterclockwise loop around Lake Michigan after first exploring Manitowoc.
- Milwaukee — This bustling waterfront city with its German beer-making roots (think Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz) is known as a “big city of little neighborhoods,” with eclectic neighborhoods making up its unique culture. Take in a Brewers game, see motorcycles at the Harley-Davidson Museum, tour Pabst Mansion or marvel at the architectural wonder of the Milwaukee Art Museum with its 90-foot vaulted glass ceiling and cantilevered wings.
- Lake Geneva, Wisc. — Take a detour west to this resort community on Geneva Lake, featuring historic mansions (many built by wealthy Chicagoans), boat cruises, and the 21-mile Lake Geneva Shore Path(one of only a few developed U.S. lakes with a public path around a lake).
- Chicago — What’s not to love about a trip to the Windy City? Spent the night for a full city experience, or take in an activity like a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, a production of Hamilton, or a walk on the Skydeck of Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Or hit one of Chicago’s famous festivals like the annual Chicago Jazz Festival.
- Southwest Michigan Harbor Country(New Buffalo to Sawyer) — Cross into Michigan and enter Harbor Country, a 15-mile geographic region encompassing the southwest lakeshore towns of Michiana, Grand Beach, New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, Harbert, Sawyer, plus Three Oaks. These communities offer restaurants, eclectic art galleries, and shops, beaches, plus lodging.
- West Michigan (South Haven, Saugatuck/Holland, Grand Haven) — Split off I-94 just south of St. Joseph and travel north on I-I96 through the lakeshore hamlets of South Haven, Saugatuck, and Holland. You’ll have a hard time deciding on your favorite town of parks and public beaches, shops and galleries, breweries and wineries, plus U-pick orchards. North of Holland, pick up US-31 and enjoy the resort town of Grand Haven before returning to Ludington. (South Haven photo credit: Dylan Nelson)