Turns out my one day of pure R&R this summer was spent crossing Lake Michigan on the SS Badger Ferry (our trip to New Orleans wasn’t exactly R&R). Assembling this blog post was a wonderful way for me to revisit that trip, especially now that I’m still mostly confined to the house during my recovery from hip surgery. This ferry crossing falls under the “I always wanted to…” category of undertakings, except that in this case I actually had crossed Lake Michigan on this ferry before, on a big cross-country trip with my mom when I was fifteen. But I always wanted to do it again because I love to experience the vastness of this country, and the vastness of this lake on whose very shore I live.
The week before my surgery, logistics worked out so that we had to be in central Wisconsin one day to visit our son at camp and make it to the Detroit area two days later to attend my uncle’s funeral. How else to accomplish this efficiently except by taking a boat across Lake Michigan? It turned out to be such a fun and relaxing trip for my husband and me, I only regret that our kids weren’t along.
Unlike other ferries we’ve been on, you don’t drive your own vehicle onto the SS Badger. Instead, it’s valet service.
As we pedestrians waited to board, I studied the history signs to learn more about this national landmark we were about to be on.
Into the ferry!
The harbor at Manitowoc, Wisconsin, where I wish we would have had the time to visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum–right there with the submarine parked out front. Lake Michigan was, after all, a huge naval training base during WWII, including training on submarines.
And then we were heading out to “sea!”
I love lighthouses, and so it was a special treat to see the Manitowoc Lighthouse up close as we puffed by.
We secured a comfortable spot on the north side of the ferry, where we still got plenty of sun. As as we headed farther out on the lake, it got quite cool on an otherwise sunny and warm summer day.
A fellow passenger’s reading spot perfectly captures the mood of the day.
I also enjoyed exploring the innards of the boat – there was a little museum on board, a gift shop, of course a few lounges and a restaurant, and for the night crossing, you can book a cabin! The crossing takes four hours, so if you’re a tired trucker, I’m sure a cabin sounds great.
I timed it: After 1 1/2 hours, you don’t see land in any direction.
Eventually, the Michigan coastline appears,
and then the Coast Guard,
and then the Ludington Lighthouse.
It was great fun watching the captain maneuver the boat toward the dock at Ludington. My husband found out that the boat in the background is one of the other decommissioned ferries, identical in build to the SS Badger, and it is now used for spare parts to keep the historical ferry going.
Docking is precision work.
Disembarking at Ludington
Back on land
A last look at the lighthouse, as the sun sinks lower.
Thank you for the pictures and captions. Your descriptions made it easy for me to see myself relaxing onboard with a thermos of tea, hot chocolate or coffee and a good book. Everyone needs some time to decompose. I wish for you a speedy recovery from your hip surgery.
Thank you so much! I’m glad the relaxing atmosphere of this trip came through in my pics and descriptions.
Quite a journey to make. I knew there was a ferry operating on that lake. I wouldn’t mind doing the trip myself sometime.
It’s really worthwhile!
Look forward to making this voyage in the fall when we visit friends in Michigan. With your photos and details I can sell the ferry idea better to my husband.
Hope your recovery is going well.
Hi Jennifer – I hope you can take the ferry ride, it is so worth it! Keep me posted!