S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry

S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry

S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry
4.5
Historic Sites • Ferries
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5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Monday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Tuesday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Wednesday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Thursday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Friday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Saturday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Sunday
5:00 AM - 9:00 PM
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About
The S.S. Badger is the largest car ferry to ever sail Lake Michigan and has provided a safe, fun, and reliable shortcut across the inland sea for 67 years. The ferry takes passengers, autos, RVs, tour buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and commercial trucks across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin from mid-May through mid-October.
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  • Katherine B
    3 contributions
    Amazing experience on a steam ship!
    This was the best experience of our summer! The Badger is a national landmark and just an absolute treasure — coal-fired, steam-powered, and rich in history and character. It is an amazing experience for kids (and kids at heart). Boarding of both passengers and vehicles was smooth and easy. Sailing in and out of harbor is somewhat of an event — people turn up to watch in both Manitowoc and Ludington. There is an on-board museum for the historically curious. Wifi is available at a minimal cost for the duration of the trip. It's especially nice to have so much room to move around, watch Lake Michigan, see if you can spot land as you approach port, etc. This is a fantastic trip back in time that everyone should do at least once.
    Traveled as a couple
    Written June 22, 2022
  • InCommandSigns
    White Bear Lake, Minnesota2 contributions
    Summertime Mode of Transportation for many years!
    The S.S. Badger; Lake Michigan Carferry has been a part of our family history for almost 3 decades! In 1990, my mother lived just 3 houses from the marina in Ludington, MI where the SS Badger docks, making it quite impossible to not know about the Carferry when it sounded its horn entering and leaving the harbor twice each day all summer. In 1994, when my husband and I accepted a job transfer to Appleton, WI, my Mom was distraught about the distance, however, Mom soon figured out that we lived just 40 minutes from Manitowoc and she mapped out a plan! For a number of years, at the beginning of each summer, we would take our old Buick to Ludington on the first sailing and leave it at Mom's place. Then, most weekends, my husband and I, and our baby would take the midnight boat from Manitowoc to Ludington on Friday nights. When we arrived at sunrise, we just put our little one in the stroller and walked the 3 blocks to my Mom's house where breakfast would be waiting. When I went into labor with baby #2, I called my Mom, then the Badger ticket office, and they waited the few extra minutes she needed. She ran down the street, pushing Great Grandma in the wheelchair. As soon as she came into view, a Badger attendant ran to meet her and help with the wheelchair and luggage. Then they gently got both Grandma's boarded, knowing exactly what all the hoopla was about. Over the decades, we have had surprise birthday banners on the railings of the Badger, my younger brother was: Little Master Carferry one year, and we have all brought many friends over to Ludington to enjoy the lovely town. My Mom's place is now the Family Vacation Home and 3 children, 7 grown grandchildren, and all of their spouses really enjoy the relaxation and fun that can be had in and around Ludington. But for MY family, it will always be about the SS Badger!
    Written July 18, 2022
  • Teacherbear
    Eastend, Canada282 contributions
    A voyage you should take
    A voyage not to be missed! We decided to take this ferry as it meant we did not have to go around Chicago from Detroit on the interstates which are in complete construction modes. You can not go more then 10 miles without stopping. The check in for the ferry was so efficient and everything was explained very well. We had our dog with us and they went over the procedures for having a dog. Frist they indicated the dog car parking lot and indicate our car would be the last on but the first off. They drive all cars off and on which is fantastic. Also from the deck we could watch they drive our car and and put a sunshield on the windshield to protect the dog. We also noted they checked on the cars with animals quite often. We had breakfast on the ship and it was a nice buffet with limitless coffee. The ship has a store, movie lounge and games area. We decided to rent a stateroom a a very reasonable cost of $50.00 As we had been on the road since 4 AM it was great to have place to sleep. The rooms have a sink, toilet and two beds. The pillows were very comfortable and the room was quiet. Disembarking was very efficient and of course our car was first off and we were able to take right off. The crossing was very smooth as we had super weather All in all it is certainly worth the money as one relaxes, misses traffic and construction plus all the tolls.
    Written August 31, 2022
These reviews are the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor checks reviews for fraud.
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Myles P
2 contributions
Jul 2021
The staff on SS Badger were really nice and friendly. The trip itself was fairly smooth with no complaints - it was really nice to not have to drive as far as we would've.

However there was some noticeable scratches on the driver side door. By the time we noticed, it was 48 hours after we got home from the ship. When we reached out to be report the incident, we told them that we had a great time on the ship, but unforatuntely there was some damage we didn't notice at the dock. Their response was that the damage was "inconsistent with damage typically reported on the ship."

When we escalated to a supervisor, we were told: "Since your claim was made after the vehicle left our property we have no means of determining the cause or accountability for the damage and must decline to accept responsibility for it."

When you get your car from the ferry, it's extremely chaotic as everyone is racing to get their cars out from the parking lot. We felt rushed to get out of there and didn't think we'd need to check for damage. In addition, they are claiming that they know all possible damage that could have happened on the ship and that what we reported couldn't have happened because it's inconsistent with other damage. This makes little to no sense to me.

We were not looking for thousands of dollars, just a few hundred to help cover the repair to the paint. The whole situation isn't the end of the world, but it's certainly frustrating and a waste of time on both our side and SS Badger.

I wouldn't recommend this service moving forward as there as other ferries providing service across Lake Michigan.
Written September 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Tommy599
Two Rivers, WI822 contributions
Sep 2021
1 Sept - 2:20 PM leaving Manitowoc sailing East to Ludington on a nice sunny calm sea’s day with no wind.

This was my third crossing using the Badger and it turned into a truly a nice trip. Sure there is always a chance of inclement weather keeping you inside, but most of the sailing days, a crossing of 66 miles of water is usually within nice weather (we understand), as the ship only sails between May to October.
The ship has a capacity of 620 passengers but today there were only 144 on board (Not a lot of cars / camper / trucks on board down on the car deck).
You drive up to the loading dock, they ask you to make sure you leave any weapons or alcohol inside the vehicle.

You leave your keys in the vehicle and crew members drive your car on board with us rubbernecking around the decks and finding a VERY NICE place to sit outside on the boat deck starboard side aft. There was NO need for jackets on this trip as we reallllllly enjoyed the crossing within 75 F degree temps and us sitting in the sun. The only breeze presented was by the forward motion of the ship.

If you REALLLLLLLY want to sleep the ship has about 50 cabins on board for the 4 hour sail
.
The movie on board was Sponge Bob thus of not too much interest to anyone

There is an interesting museum on board which depicts the history of the 410 ft long / 59 ft. wide Badger and how the 4,000 HP steam recuperating engines work.
Ship burns coal (uses 50 tons for each round-trip crossing). The clinkers (ash) are taken off in Ludington Mi. for use in making cinder building blocks. The ship (built in 1952) has two 13 ft propellers. Each shaft (95 ft. long) has a 4-cylinder steam engine attached with boilers that supply 500# steam pressure, and if pushed the ship; she has been known to travel at 20 MPH (normally standard speed is 18 MPH).

As we reached the midpoint of the lake (around 33 miles) the Wisconsin shoreline (from our elevation at about 30 ft above the water) disappeared, and the Michigan shoreline started to appear.

The crew drives your vehicle off the ship into a parking lot and as you leave the ship in Ludington = you find your car and drive off.

Note You lose one hour going East from Wisconsin CST to Michigan EST.
Written October 7, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for sailing with us! We are glad you enjoyed your trip.
Written October 14, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Fred Garvin
Plymouth, MA34 contributions
Jul 2020
Took from MI to WI July 2020. Nice sunny day, calm seas, no movement or sea sickness at all. Boarding was smooth. They recommend getting there an hour early (8am for a 9am launch), I would not recommend this at all. First on is last off! We got to the boat about 8:15am, and it was 30min after landing before our car came off. After a 4 hour tour this wait was painful. Had an amazing cinnamon roll from the food area. My 13 and 11 year old boys said the Xbox system was not very good, and only one of the two was working. For me, I paid $5 for the wifi is this was a wasted 5 bucks. It was worse than any plane wifi I've used, to the point I couldn't even do work emails much less a video-less zoom I had planned on. So don't plan on using wifi. Individual quarters was very nice to have.
Written August 15, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Matthew K
21 contributions
Jun 2022 • Couples
From the time we arrived until the time we got our car back, everyone onboard this ship was amazing. The breakfast was very reasonably priced for what you got and the quality of the food was great. Movie selection was really good. The fellow calling the bingo game was very entertaining. I would definitely recommend the experience to anyone looking for a nice easy way to cross Lake Michigan.
Written June 23, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

gablenlombard
Appleton, WI149 contributions
Jul 2020
1st time riding the Ferry. We would do it again in a heartbeat! Easy to book and when you arrive at the dock - the process is so easy to get on the boat. I highly recommend getting a stateroom(I think it was an extra $40). You have your own bathroom and 2 beds to lay down on. It was just so enjoyable.
Written July 8, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Matthew Miller
Racine, WI133 contributions
Jul 2022
I wrote my last review for the S.S. Badger in 2019, and not much has changed after sailing again in July 2022. It's the same ol' Badger Bingo game, cafes, etc. The quality of the ship is fine, and the service is great.

First, the quality of the ship. Nothing is falling apart, but the interior is dated and boring. From what I have heard, the ship's last renovation was in the 1990s, and they do not have intentions to preserve the interior as "old and classic." I think a renovation is strongly needed; however, the interior is not horrible. The cabin interior is cozy and classic, which I enjoy.
My Rating for this Category: 4/5

Next, is the service. Everyone on board the S.S. Badger was extremely friendly and eager to assist. The ship was punctual for arrival and departure times; in fact, after the ship got repainted, the ship is arriving at its destinations early. In some cases, up to thirty minutes!
My Rating for this Category: 4/5

Finally, is some additional tips. If you are doing the classic Manitowoc to Ludington crossing or vice versa, staterooms are an absolute must. The staterooms are a great way for you to place your belongings in a central hub and take a quick nap. Also, the staterooms have a private bathroom.

The S.S. Badger is a fine way to get across Lake Michigan. At the end of the day, it is an extremely cool experience; however, more "fun" is needed. Their slogan is "Big Ship, More FUN," but after the first hour, I was extremely bored. More fun is needed! The staff was always extremely friendly. I would still recommend the S.S. Badger as a unique way to get across the lake.
Written July 10, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

empiremichigan
Spring Lake, MI30 contributions
Sep 2022
What a nice way to cross the lake and spend some downtime. The crew are all professional however I need to give a shout out to a few that stood out...
Tanya is the deckhand that keeps the ship shinning. Not only does she do a great job of picking up after all the passengers she takes a minute to say hello and share some history and stories. We enjoyed our conversation. Tanya's husband, Steve is a dog handler for the ship and her son is also a deckhand. For them, It's all in the family to honor their daughter and sister. Shelby is the marketing guru and historian. She's a very sharp gal and was so helpful at answering questions. Owen is a car runner. If you want to see a hustler in action hang around while the ship loads and unloads and watch Owen and the crew in action. Without their energy the Badger would still be sitting dockside. If you decide to play Badger Bingo inside or hangout on the top deck you'll find the Badger crossing a delightful experience.
Written September 16, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

kansasrod
OSKALOOSA1,429 contributions
Jul 2021
Go immediately to the Main Lounge to get a table next to the window. Majority of people first look around on deck and eventually all the tables are full. It was a warm July day and being able to open the window next to our table was a godsend. There are options for kids, too, including kid-appropriate movies. School age children will also enjoy the bingo game which includes prizes they can choose. About 30 minutes from shore they will announce all hot items are $1. This includes hot dogs and pizza slices. Pleasantly surprised by prices: $3 for nice slice of pepperoni or cheese pizza; $2.75 for drink cup which can be refilled as often as you like. Saves huge time and avoids Chicago traffic if it is in your travel direction.
Written July 4, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Thank you for sailing with us, we are glad that you enjoyed the trip. We hope you can sail again soon!
Written August 19, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

Dr. Tim
Marana, AZ5,139 contributions
Jun 2021 • Couples
In the 50s we’d travel in our Rambler from California to Goetzville, Michigan which is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To save us the drive around Lake Michigan we’d take the ferry out of Milwaukee, WI. Today the ferry runs from Manitowoc, WI, but still arrives in Ludington, Michigan. The last time I did it was 1980 so it was a real treat to do it yesterday. We left Manitowoc, WI right on time at 2pm CST and arrived on time in Ludington, MI at 7pm EST. The crew drives the cars on and off the ship so as luck would have it we were one of the last cars off. By the time we waited for our car it was almost 8:30 pm so you’ll want to take that into consideration if you’re in a rush. We drove to Traverse City once we got the car so didn’t arrive until almost 10pm. Luckily it was mid June so it was light out until almost 10pm. The crew on the ship is super friendly and the weather was perfect with Lake Michigan being smooth as silk! The weather was 80 degrees so an absolutely perfect crossing. We got a state room which was quite warm, but my wife enjoyed it since she could lay down and read. The food and drinks at the snack bar was also very nice and the ham sandwich was really great and beyond my expectation. Everything considered the Badger Ferry experience was perfect as always. Highly recommend!
Written June 11, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
We are glad that you could join us again! Thank you for sailing with us, we are glad that you enjoyed your trip.
Written August 19, 2021
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of Tripadvisor LLC.

wynterwynd
Michigan223 contributions
Sep 2020
It’s been a few years since I’ve taken the Badger, but it’s always an enjoyable trip. There were 195 passengers on this trip to Manitowoc and most did a good job of wearing their masks.
We played Badger Bingo, came in 2nd in Badger Trivia, ate the delicious popcorn, had a great Bloody Mary and enjoyed the views of the waves.
It’s always fun standing on deck watching them load and unload the vehicles.
The cost is worth not having to drive through Chicago traffic! The “emcee” of Badger Bingo had the best ‘dad jokes’ and it made the time go by quickly. Calm water helped, too!
Written September 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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S.S. Badger: Lake Michigan Carferry (Ludington) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

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