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How Long Is The Badger Ferry Ride


by Donna Rawlins



Welcome to the world of Wisconsin, a state known for its picturesque landscapes, charming small towns, and vibrant cities. Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, Wisconsin offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for visitors to explore. From its stunning natural beauty to its rich cultural heritage, this state has something to offer everyone.


One of the unique experiences that Wisconsin has to offer is the Badger Ferry ride. This iconic ferry has been traversing the waters of Lake Michigan for over 60 years, connecting two picturesque cities – Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan. Whether you’re a local Wisconsinite or a curious traveler, the Badger Ferry ride promises to be an unforgettable journey.


As you step aboard this historic vessel, you’ll be transported back in time to the golden age of travel. The Badger Ferry is not just a means of transportation; it’s an experience in itself. From the moment you set foot on the ship, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff, nostalgic decor, and a sense of adventure.


So, how long is the Badger Ferry ride? Strap in and get ready for an immersive journey as we take a closer look at the duration of the ferry ride, the activities and amenities on board, the scenic views you’ll encounter, and more. Whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway, or an extended vacation, the Badger Ferry ride is sure to be a highlight of your Wisconsin adventure.


Overview of the Badger Ferry

The Badger Ferry, operated by Lake Michigan Carferry, is a historic car and passenger ferry that has been in operation since 1953. It is the last coal-fired steamship operating on the Great Lakes and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The ferry provides a unique and nostalgic transportation option for travelers looking to cross Lake Michigan.


The Badger Ferry offers a convenient and scenic route between Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan. It allows passengers to avoid the long drive around the lake and instead enjoy a leisurely cruise across its pristine waters. The journey spans approximately 60 miles and takes you through the stunning views of Lake Michigan.


The ferry is equipped to accommodate both vehicles and passengers. It can carry up to 600 passengers and 180 vehicles per trip. This makes it an ideal choice for family vacations, road trips, and even commercial transportation.


One of the unique features of the Badger Ferry is its coal-fired steam engine. The ship’s massive engines were originally built for World War II naval vessels and have been meticulously maintained to provide a truly authentic and nostalgic experience. As the ferry glides across the lake, you’ll hear the soothing churning of the steam engine, adding to the enchantment of the journey.


Additionally, the Badger Ferry offers a range of amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable crossing. Passengers can relax in the comfortable lounges, catch a movie in the onboard theater, or even indulge in delicious snacks and meals at the onboard café and restaurant. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs to commemorate your Badger Ferry experience.


Overall, the Badger Ferry is not just a mode of transportation; it’s a nostalgic journey back in time. Whether you’re traveling for leisure or convenience, this iconic ferry provides a unique and unforgettable way to experience the natural beauty of Lake Michigan while connecting two charming Midwestern states.


Departure Location and Schedule

The Badger Ferry departs from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and arrives in Ludington, Michigan. Manitowoc is located on the eastern shore of Wisconsin, while Ludington is situated on the western side of Michigan. Both cities offer convenient access to the ferry terminals, making it easy for passengers to embark on their journey.


When planning your Badger Ferry ride, it’s important to check the schedule and plan your departure accordingly. The ferry operates from May through October and offers daily crossings during the peak summer season.


The departure times for the Badger Ferry vary depending on the day of the week and the time of year. It’s recommended to check the official website or contact the ferry operator for the most up-to-date schedule. This will ensure that you have accurate information on departure times and availability.


It’s advisable to arrive at the departure terminal at least one hour before your scheduled departure time. This will allow sufficient time for check-in procedures and boarding. The staff at the terminal will guide you through the necessary procedures and provide any additional information you may need.


Manitowoc, the departure point in Wisconsin, offers convenient access for travelers coming from various parts of the state. The city is located about 80 miles north of Milwaukee and approximately 140 miles northeast of Madison, the state capital. It is easily accessible via major highways and offers ample parking facilities near the ferry terminal.


In Ludington, the arrival point in Michigan, travelers can explore the city’s charming downtown area and visit nearby attractions before or after their ferry ride. Ludington is well-known for its beautiful sandy beaches, lighthouses, and picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline.


It’s important to note that the Badger Ferry operates on a first-come, first-served basis for both vehicles and passengers. Therefore, it’s recommended to arrive early, especially during the peak travel season, to secure your spot on the ferry and avoid any potential delays.


By planning your departure location and schedule in advance, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey on the iconic Badger Ferry.


Duration of the Ferry Ride

The duration of the Badger Ferry ride can vary depending on several factors, including weather conditions and lake traffic. On average, the crossing from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan, takes approximately 4 hours.


It’s important to keep in mind that the Badger Ferry is not a high-speed ferry. Instead, it offers a leisurely cruise experience, allowing passengers to relax, unwind, and enjoy the stunning views of Lake Michigan. The slower pace of the ferry ride provides ample opportunity to soak in the natural beauty of the surrounding water and landscapes.


During the 4-hour journey, passengers can explore the various amenities and activities available on the ferry. From taking a stroll on the outer decks to enjoying a meal at the onboard restaurant, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your time on the Badger Ferry.


For those traveling with vehicles, it’s important to factor in additional time for embarkation and disembarkation. Loading and unloading vehicles onto the ferry may require some waiting time, but the efficient staff ensures a smooth process.


It’s worth noting that the duration of the ferry ride can also be affected by weather conditions. In the event of rough waters or inclement weather, the ferry operator may adjust the schedule or make necessary alterations for the safety and comfort of passengers.


Overall, the 4-hour duration of the Badger Ferry ride provides a perfect balance between transportation and leisure. It offers a unique opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the serenity of Lake Michigan.


Whether you choose to relax in one of the lounges, watch a movie, or simply enjoy the breathtaking views, the duration of the Badger Ferry ride allows for a memorable and enjoyable journey.


Activities and Amenities on Board

The Badger Ferry is more than just a means of transportation; it offers a variety of activities and amenities to ensure passengers have a comfortable and enjoyable journey across Lake Michigan.


One of the highlights of the ferry is the onboard theater, where passengers can catch a movie during the crossing. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a cinematic experience while the ferry glides through the crystal-clear waters. It’s a great way to pass the time and immerse yourself in entertainment.


For those looking for a taste of nostalgia, the ferry offers guided tours of the engine room. You can get up close and personal with the historic coal-fired steam engine and learn about its fascinating operation. The tour provides a unique insight into the inner workings of this remarkable vessel.


If you’re feeling hungry, there are dining options available on board the ferry. The onboard café offers a variety of snacks and light meals, perfect for a quick bite. For a more substantial meal, the ship’s restaurant serves delicious dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Whether you’re craving a burger, a fresh salad, or a seafood special, there’s something to satisfy every appetite.


As you explore the ferry, you’ll also come across a gift shop where you can find a wide range of souvenirs to commemorate your Badger Ferry experience. From t-shirts and hats to postcards and trinkets, there’s something for everyone to take home as a memento of their journey.


The Badger Ferry also offers comfortable lounges where you can relax, read a book, or simply enjoy the scenic views. Take a seat by the window and watch as the shoreline fades away, replaced by the vast expanse of Lake Michigan. It’s a tranquil and serene environment that allows you to unwind and appreciate the beauty of nature.


For those traveling with children, the ferry provides a play area where kids can burn off some energy and have fun during the journey. The play area is equipped with toys, games, and activities to keep young travelers entertained throughout the crossing.


Whether you choose to indulge in a meal, catch a movie, embark on a guided tour, or simply admire the views from a comfortable lounge, the Badger Ferry ensures that your time onboard is filled with activities and amenities that cater to your needs and enhance your overall experience.


Scenic Views during the Crossing

As you embark on the Badger Ferry and make your way across Lake Michigan, you’ll be treated to breathtaking and ever-changing scenic views. The journey offers a unique perspective of the vastness and natural beauty of the lake, providing passengers with an unforgettable experience.


The crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan stretch as far as the eye can see, creating a stunning backdrop for your ferry ride. As the ferry glides along the surface of the water, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the mesmerizing dance of sunlight on the ripples, creating a dazzling display of colors.


The shoreline of both Wisconsin and Michigan offers picturesque vistas that captivate the imagination. From sandy beaches to rocky cliffs, the diverse landscapes along the route provide a feast for the eyes. You might even catch a glimpse of lighthouses standing tall and proud, guiding ships safely through the waters.


Throughout the journey, keep an eye out for wildlife that inhabits the lake. Lake Michigan is home to a wide variety of bird species, including gulls, herons, and even bald eagles. You might spot these majestic creatures soaring above the water or perched on a scenic perch along the shoreline.


As you venture further into the middle of the lake, the horizon stretches endlessly, giving you a sense of tranquility and freedom. The vastness of Lake Michigan creates a serene atmosphere that allows you to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.


If you’re lucky, you might even witness a stunning sunset during your ferry ride. As the sun dips below the horizon, it paints the sky with a brilliant array of colors, casting a warm glow over the water. It’s a magical moment that can make your Badger Ferry journey even more memorable.


Throughout the crossing, there are plenty of opportunities to step out onto the outer decks of the ferry and immerse yourself fully in the beauty that surrounds you. Fresh air fills your lungs, and the gentle breeze brushes against your face as you take in the awe-inspiring views.


Remember to bring your camera or smartphone to capture these scenic moments. The Badger Ferry provides endless photo opportunities, allowing you to document your journey and share the beauty of the lake with friends and family.


Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the great outdoors, the Badger Ferry offers an incredible opportunity to witness and be captivated by the scenic wonders of Lake Michigan.


Arrival Location and Disembarkation Process

After a relaxing and scenic journey across Lake Michigan, the Badger Ferry arrives at its destination: Ludington, Michigan. As you approach the shoreline, you’ll be greeted by the charming sights of this picturesque city, ready to explore and continue your adventure.


Upon arrival, the disembarkation process is smooth and efficient, ensuring a seamless transition from the ferry to your next destination. The ferry staff will provide instructions and guidance to ensure a hassle-free experience for passengers.


Before departing the ferry, it’s important to gather your belongings and prepare to exit the vessel. If you are traveling with a vehicle, you will be directed by the staff on when and where to proceed for vehicle disembarkation. The crew will guide you through the process to ensure a safe and organized withdrawal from the ferry.


If you are a foot passenger, the disembarkation process is equally straightforward. You’ll be directed to appropriate exits, and staff will be available to assist with any inquiries or needs you may have.


As you step off the ferry, you’ll find yourself in Ludington, a charming city located on the western shore of Michigan. Ludington offers a range of attractions and activities to explore. From its beautiful sandy beaches to its bustling downtown area, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


If you have some time before continuing your journey, consider exploring Ludington’s downtown area, where you’ll find a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. Take a leisurely stroll along the streets and soak in the small-town charm that Ludington has to offer.


Ludington State Park is another popular destination worth visiting. With its sandy dunes, hiking trails, and scenic vistas, it provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Michigan. Be sure to check the park’s operating hours and any specific guidelines before planning your visit.


When it’s time to continue your journey, Ludington offers convenient access to major highways and transportation options. Whether you’re exploring other parts of Michigan, heading back to Wisconsin, or continuing your road trip, Ludington’s central location makes it a convenient starting point.


The Badger Ferry’s arrival location in Ludington provides a gateway to discover the unique charm and attractions that this Michigan city has to offer. Take your time to explore, unwind, and create memorable experiences before moving on to your next destination.


Badger Ferry Ride Experience Reviews and Tips

For many travelers, the Badger Ferry ride is not just a means of transportation, but a memorable experience in itself. Here are some reviews and tips from passengers who have embarked on this iconic journey across Lake Michigan.

  • Nostalgic Journey: Many passengers appreciate the historic charm of the Badger Ferry. They enjoy the opportunity to step back in time and experience a piece of maritime history on this well-preserved steamship.
  • Scenic Delight: The scenic views during the ferry ride receive high praise from passengers. The tranquil beauty of Lake Michigan, coupled with the picturesque shoreline, creates a captivating and serene atmosphere throughout the journey.
  • Relaxing Atmosphere: Passengers often comment on the relaxed and laid-back ambience on the ferry. The comfortable lounges, onboard amenities, and the gentle rocking motion of the ship create an environment perfect for unwinding and enjoying the journey.
  • Friendly Staff: The crew members on the Badger Ferry consistently receive positive reviews for their friendly and professional service. Passengers appreciate their helpfulness, knowledge, and willingness to assist with any needs or inquiries.
  • Family-Friendly: Families with children find the Badger Ferry to be an enjoyable experience. The onboard play area keeps the little ones entertained, and the family-friendly atmosphere ensures a comfortable and pleasant journey for all.

Here are some tips to make the most of your Badger Ferry ride:

  • Arrive Early: To ensure a smooth boarding process, it’s advisable to arrive at the departure terminal early, especially during peak travel times. This allows time for check-in, vehicle loading, and settling into your accommodations onboard.
  • Pack Essentials: Remember to bring essentials such as sunscreen, a jacket or sweater (as it can get cooler on the water), and any personal items you may need for the duration of the journey.
  • Capture Memories: Don’t forget your camera or smartphone to capture the stunning views and memorable moments during the ferry ride. You’ll want to document the beauty of Lake Michigan and the experience of traveling on this historic vessel.
  • Explore the Ferry: Take the time to explore the various amenities and activities available onboard. From catching a movie in the theater to enjoying a meal at the onboard restaurant, there is plenty to discover and enhance your journey.
  • Prepare for Disembarkation: If you’re traveling with a vehicle, make sure to gather your belongings and follow the instructions of the staff for a smooth disembarkation upon arrival. If you’re a foot passenger, be ready to exit the ferry at the designated time and location.

Overall, the Badger Ferry ride offers a unique and memorable experience for travelers crossing Lake Michigan. Whether you appreciate the historic charm, the scenic beauty, or the relaxed atmosphere, the journey promises to be an unforgettable part of your Wisconsin adventure.



The Badger Ferry ride is a remarkable experience that allows travelers to immerse themselves in the beauty of Lake Michigan while connecting two picturesque states – Wisconsin and Michigan. From the historical charm of the ferry to the scenic views that unfold during the crossing, this journey offers much more than just transportation.


As you step aboard the Badger Ferry, you’ll find yourself transported back in time, surrounded by nostalgic decor and a sense of adventure. The duration of the ferry ride provides ample opportunity to relax, unwind, and enjoy the onboard amenities and activities. Whether you’re catching a movie, indulging in delicious food, or simply admiring the scenic vistas, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


The scenic views of Lake Michigan, with its crystal-clear waters and diverse shorelines, create a mesmerizing backdrop as the ferry glides across the water. From sandy beaches to lighthouses, the ever-changing landscapes along the route captivate the imagination and offer countless photo opportunities.


As the Badger Ferry arrives at its destination in Ludington, Michigan, passengers can further explore the area’s attractions and enjoy the small-town charm. Ludington’s downtown area, sandy beaches, and nearby natural wonders provide a perfect continuation of your journey.


Reviews from passengers highlight the nostalgic journey, the relaxing atmosphere, and the friendly staff as standout features of the Badger Ferry experience. Families also appreciate the family-friendly amenities, making it an enjoyable trip for everyone.


By following some simple tips, such as arriving early, packing essentials, and capturing memories, you can make the most of your Badger Ferry ride and create lasting memories of your adventure.


In conclusion, whether you’re a local looking for a unique way to traverse Lake Michigan or a traveler seeking an unforgettable experience, the Badger Ferry ride offers a nostalgic and scenic journey that is sure to leave a lasting impression. Embrace the tranquility of the lake, savor the breathtaking views, and let the Badger Ferry transport you to a world of beauty and exploration.