Over the past weekend, I took a trip to Manitowoc, Wisconsin to celebrate the wedding of a close friend. Manitowoc, Wisconsin is a town I have visited a number of years ago, but it is a bit of a hike to get there when coming from my hometown. That being said I was looking for a way that I could bring my family over to Manitowoc without having to deal with the stress of driving through Chicago, which is the normal way I would have to travel. Typically from home, it would take me about 8 hours to drive around the lake through Chicago, Illinois. As I examined new ways to travel, I would either have to travel through the Upper Peninsula and it would take about 10-12 hours, or another option was traveling on the S.S. Badger, a car ferry that travels directly into Manitowoc, Wisconsin from Ludington, Michigan. Looking into the options, I chose to take my family across Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger.
The S.S. Badger offers the largest cross-lake passenger service on the Great Lakes and an authentic steamship experience. The relaxing four-hour, 60-mile cruise takes passengers, autos, RVs, tour buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and commercial trucks across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Michigan, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired passenger steamship in operation in the United States. She has provided a fun, reliable and affordable shortcut across beautiful Lake Michigan for more than 60 years and has transported millions of passengers since her re-birth in 1992. In 2016 she received the nation’s highest historic honor when the Department of Interior officially designated the Badger as a National Historic Landmark. (Learn more about the history of the S.S. Badger).
Some interesting facts about the S.S. Badger
- Length: 410 feet, 6 inches
- Width: 59 feet, 6 inches
- Height: 106 feet, 9 inches (7 stories)
- Weight: 6650 tons displaced
Now you might be wondering, what is there to do on a 4 hour car ferry ride. Well….. to be honest, a ton! There is a ton going on during this voyage including:
- Famous Badger Bingo
- Shopping in the “Boatique”
- Enhanced Wi-Fi
- Free Movies
- Open Deck for Walking and Fresh Air
- Board Games
- Quiet Areas
- Scavenger Hunt
- Coloring Contest
- Movie Theatre
All dining and bar locations feature items made with local Michigan and Wisconsin ingredients
- Badger Galley
- Full Service Bar
SHOP ON BOARD
The Best store available on the Great Lakes! Their online store features only a sampling of some of the unique finds for their onboard gift shop. You can also check out the small gift shop inside the new Ludington ticket office.
I ended up taking the S.S. Badger both to and from Wisconsin and my family had an amazing time. While 4 hours seems long by time, I will tell you, the time flies by and before you know it you are pulling into your destination. As we traveled, my family LOVED the famous S.S. Badger Bingo. The employees that led this effort made the game fun and funny and the prizes were ones that my kids loved to try to win.
All-in-all, this trip was a trip back in time. My father-in-law was someone that worked on the S.S. Badger sister ship, the Spartan back in the 1960s, and the trip over on this old ship really allowed you to enjoy your time while coming closer as a family.
The S.S. Badger usually ends trips across Lake Michigan in mid-October and starts trips again in the Spring.
If you have never traveled on the S.S. Badger before, I highly recommend you experience this for yourself as it is a memory that you will hold on to for years to come!