As a beach lover who grew up in South Florida and still lives in the Sunshine State, I’ve always had an idea in mind of what a coastal vacation looks like. But that was before I visited the beautiful and charming town of wheelchair accessible Ludington on the coast of Lake Michigan in the western part of the state. I knew nothing about Ludington before they invited me to come take a look at all of their accessible offerings for wheelchair users. After spending three incredible days there, I can’t wait to go back next summer with my boys!
If you’re looking for a relaxing destination with great wheelchair accessibility and even greater people, Ludington is the place to go. I’ve been to dozens of countries and almost every state, but had never been on a Great Lakes beach, and it was so much better than I expected. The accessible outdoor activities, the sunsets over the lake, the great food, and just the overall vibe makes Ludington the place you never knew you had to add to your bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know before you visit.
Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do in Ludington
Stearns Park Beach. In 2020, Stearns Park Beach earned the prestigious title of being one of the finest beaches worldwide, and in my opinion, it’s Ludington’s crown jewel. It truly provides a welcoming environment suitable for families and individuals of all abilities. There’s a playground, accessible parking, accessible bathrooms, and delicious concessions. Notably, the beach is wheelchair accessible, featuring three lengthy hard-surface beach mats (one at the south end, one at the north end, and one in the middle of the beach) that extend almost to the water’s edge. This thoughtful inclusion ensures that everyone can enjoy the beach experience to its fullest. Moreover, Stearns Park Beach presents a captivating sight during evening hours as it offers a stunning vantage point to witness breathtaking sunsets, as well as sunset beach bonfires with live music on select evenings during the summer. The combination of its natural beauty and accessibility makes it an ideal destination for leisurely walks, relaxation, and creating lasting memories.
Ludington North Breakwater Light. Personally, I believe you haven’t truly experienced Ludington unless you’ve taken a (st)roll along this stunning (and daring) breakwater. The Ludington North Breakwater Light is even considered a top lighthouse to visit in Michigan by TripAdvisor! The breathtaking breakwater path offers an impressive sight up close of the lighthouse, and extends half a mile. The lighthouse attracts avid fishermen and locals who delight in jogs and leisurely walks along the scenic route. Chances are you’ll get to chat with some fishermen about their catch! The top of the breakwater path is plenty wide enough for all wheelchairs, but please be aware that there are no guard rails. On windy days when the waves are crashing over the breakwater, there is a gate that blocks access for safety.
Ludington State Park. Ludington State Park, situated between the 5,000-acre Hamlin Lake and 7 miles of sandy Lake Michigan shoreline, features scenic sand dunes, three campgrounds, the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse, 21 miles of marked trails and more. A 1-mile stretch of the Big Sable River runs through the park and provides excellent opportunities for fishing, paddling and tubing. But what makes Ludington State Park truly special for wheelchair users are the multiple opportunities for exploring the great outdoors in adaptive fashion, thanks in large part to the Friends of Ludington State Park:
- Wheelchair users can visit the historic Lake Michigan Beach House, which provides free use of both regular sand-only beach wheelchairs and ones that can actually go into the waters of Lake Michigan. The Lake Michigan beach also has a plastic wheelchair mat (similar to the one at Stearns Beach) for rolling down to the water’s edge in your own wheelchair.
- Wheelchair users can also use one of two action track chairs for free to go off-roading on the wooded Logging Trail or on the Lake Michigan beach. To reserve a track chair, please contact the Ludington State Park office Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM at 231-843-2423, extension 0.
- There is a wheelchair accessible playground at the Hamlin Beach picnic area. This includes ramps to some elevated parts of the playground and a soft surface, making it easier for both parents and kids in wheelchairs to access all parts of the area.
- The Hamlin Lake area has a plastic wheelchair pathway to the water’s edge like at the Lake Michigan Beach. There is also a partially accessible kayak launch on Hamlin Lake that has been adapted for stronger wheelchair users to transfer along a stepped bench into a kayak. From there, the kayak user can pull themselves using rails into the water, then pull themselves out of the water back onto the launch ramp.
Cartier Park Pathway. The Cartier Park pathway is a truly enchanting outdoor space to enjoy a nature and meet great people. As you walk/roll along the well-paved pathway through the wooded park, you’ll discover a delightful addition that has recently been introduced: a collection of beautiful art installations crafted by talented local artists. These artistic creations enhance the already picturesque surroundings, making your visit even more visually appealing and memorable. You can also enjoy some lovely views of Lincoln Lake. Just be careful rolling on the dock in a heavier wheelchair, as some of the planks may be a little unsteady.
Waterfront Sculpture Park. This beautiful park spans 5.3 acres of land, conveniently located along Pere Marquette Lake connected to Lake Michigan, making it a favored spot for families to gather and witness the arrival or departure of the SS Badger ferry in Ludington. Within Waterfront Park, you’ll find nine captivating bronze sculptures thoughtfully placed throughout its grounds, along with a music pavilion frequently hosting free live music concerts.. Additionally, the park features a paved sidewalk throughout plus accessible picnic tables, ensuring accessibility for wheelchair users and making it easier for everyone to explore and enjoy the park’s offerings.
Port of Ludington Maritime Museum. The Port of Ludington Maritime Museum offers an immersive experience into the region’s maritime history. Housed in the historic former US Coast Guard station, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum utilizes digital storytelling, authentic artifacts, and interactive exhibits to bring the past to life. It’s a family and wheelchair-friendly three-story museum, conveniently located near the iconic Ludington North BreakwaterLight and the historic SS Badger carferry. Visitors can explore and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich maritime heritage of the area while being entertained and enlightened. The elevator reaches all three floors, the accessible bathrooms on each floor are spacious, and the interactive exhibits are relatively easy for wheelchair users to reach. Also of note is the Maritime Heritage Trail behind the the maritime museum along the Lake Michigan channel, offering 13 self-guided stops with informational signage along a paved pathway following the channel and Waterfront Park.
Wheelchair Accessible Places to Eat in Ludington
Crown & Cork. (502 W. Loomis St.) Crown & Corkis a popular downtown Ludington restaurant situated across from Pere Marquette Lake marinas, and channel to Lake Michigan. With its laid-back atmosphere, it has become a trendy spot for locals and visitors alike. The restaurant prides itself on its selection of expertly crafted cocktails and spirits, catering to those with discerning tastes. In addition to their impressive drink menu, Crown & Cork offer a delightful array of dinner options. From succulent steaks and fresh seafood to signature pasta creations, the restaurant delivers a sophisticated dining experience that is sure to satisfy even the most discerning palates. My favorite dish by far was the seared Ahi tuna appetizer, and their desserts are to die for!
Jamesport Brewing Co. (515 S. James St.) Jamesport Brewing Company is dedicated to crafting award-winning, high-quality, and consistently exceptional craft beers for the enjoyment of their customers. With each season, they curate a new menu that perfectly complements their brews. During our visit, we had the pleasure of experiencing their summer menu, which featured delicious offerings such as turkey and asparagus, a refreshing summer berry salad, beer-battered cheese curds, black bean hummus, vegetable spring rolls, and a delightful Michigan cherry stir fry. And for those with a sweet tooth, be sure to save room for their delectable strawberry shortcake dessert!
Stix Bar & Park Lanes. (1963 N. Lakeshore Dr., Ludington) STIX in Ludington is an event center with a beer garden, indoor and outdoor dining, a bowling alley, a locally inspired menu, handcrafted cocktails, and exceptional service. Since 1954, STIX has been a Ludington staple—a place for neighbors and friends to gather around the table, enjoy good company, and celebrate together. The dining room has ample space for maneuvering in a wheelchair, the bathrooms are accessible, and most of the outdoor patio is maneuverable, with possibly some difficulty in the very center with some gravel areas. Make sure that you check out their website for local live music events!
House of Flavors. (402 W. Ludington Ave.) The House of Flavors is not just an ice cream parlor; it’s a truly local experience! Since its establishment in 1948, their mission has been to revive the essence of family-style dining, providing patrons with high-quality meals and desserts in a lively and welcoming environment. With a strong commitment to superior service, the restaurant strives to recreate the nostalgic experience of dining with loved ones. As you roll inside, you’ll be greeted by a 1950s diner ambiance, complete with charming memorabilia that pays homage to its rich history. Highlights include a classic jukebox and a display of a famous Life magazine cover. While the House of Flavors is renowned for its delectable ice cream, its specialty lies in serving home-cooked meals made with care and attention. I really enjoyed the mint chocolate chip ice cream, but if you’re feeling adventurous and you have an appetite, go for one of their ice cream selections on top of a waffle!
The Sandbox. (Stearns Park Beach South Concession Stand, 321 N. Lakeshore Dr.) This kitschy concessionaire at the southend of Stearns Park Beach offers delicious sliders and sandwiches with scrumptious french fries (its sister stand at the north end offers a different menu of beach snacks as well). But their real treats are the beautiful and over the top milkshakes! One of the picnic tables nearby is actually wheelchair accessible with a bench cut-out that makes it easy to roll under and enjoy the beautiful view of the beach while sipping on your shake.
Blu Moon Bistro. (125 S. James St.) The Blu Moon Bistro stands out for its dedication to using fresh and sustainable ingredients sourced directly from local farms. Their menu showcases a delightful fusion of American, French, and Japanese cuisine, including a specialized in-house sushi kitchen. The bistro’s casual and family-friendly atmosphere adds to its charm, creating a welcoming and accessible space for all patrons. They are also happy to meet your gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan needs, and also offer a children’s menu. The Bistro features a dog-friendly sidewalk cafe.
Where Wheelchair Users Should Stay in Ludington
Cartier Mansion. Jenna and Chris Simpler, who possess extensive experience in the hospitality industry, are delighted to serve as the current caretakers of Cartier Mansion in Ludington. Built in 1905, the Cartier Mansion holds a significant place in the history of Ludington and is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its interior boasts a variety of exquisite wood types, including mahogany, oak, cherry, walnut, and maple. The mansion is tastefully furnished, creating a truly captivating ambiance. Additionally, the recently refurbished yet historic Carriage House Suites provide luxurious accommodations for guests. Each suite features comfortable bedding, private bedrooms, luxuriousbathrooms, a gas fireplace, mini fridge, Smart TV, and all the standard amenities one would expect.
The Edison Suite in the Carriage House is fully wheelchair accessible, and should accommodate most wheelchair users. The bed is approximately 23 inches high, and has plenty of space underneath for a hoist. There are grab bars around the toilet, plenty of space underneath the sink to roll under, and the flat entry roll-in shower has a very sturdy shower chair and grab bars for transfers. There is currently no wheelchair access to the main house, but Jenna and Chris provide a very delicious breakfast next door at the Ludington B&B that they also own/manage, where they can deploy a ramp system to help you get into the house. There are also wheelchair accessible parking spaces right in front of the Carriage House.