Ludington is a harbor town located on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Pere Marquette River. Many people come to Ludington year round for recreation, including boating and swimming on Lake Michigan, Hamlin Lake, and other smaller inland lakes, as well as hunting, fishing, and camping. Nearby are Ludington State Park (which includes the Big Sable Point Light), Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area, and Manistee National Forest. Ludington is also the home port of the SS Badger, with daily service in the summer across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Watching the Badger come into port in the evening from the end of the north breakwall by the Ludington lighthouse is a favorite local pastime. In summer, the city hosts quite a few large events. Examples are one of the largest Gus Macker basketball tournaments (with 25,500 spectators), the Ludington Area Jaycees Freedom Festival (July 4), the Lakestride Half Marathon in June, and the West Shore Art League's Art Fair. As a result of its many attractions (based on AAA's 2005 TripTik requests), Ludington is the fifth-most-popular tourist city in Michigan, behind Mackinaw City, Traverse City, Muskegon, and Sault Ste. Marie.
In 1845, Burr Caswell moved to the area near the mouth of the Pere Marquette River as a location for trapping and fishing. In July 1847 he brought his family to live there as well and began a small community known as Pere Marquette village. Two years later they built a two-story wood-framed house on their farm. After the organization of Mason County in 1855, the first floor of this building was converted into the county's first courthouse. Restored in 1976 by the Mason County Historical Society, the structure stands today as a part of White Pine Village, a museum consisting of several restored and replica Mason County buildings (see external links). The town was originally named Pere Marquette, then later named after the industrialist James Ludington who owned some of the logging operations in the late 19th century. The area boom in the late 1800s was due to these sawmills and also the discovery of salt deposits.
By 1892, 162 million board feet (382,000 m³) of lumber and 52 million wood shingles had been produced by the Ludington sawmills. With all of this commerce occurring, Ludington became a major Great Lakes shipping port.
In 1897, the Pere Marquette Railroad constructed a fleet of ferries to continue the rail cargo across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The fleet was also expanded to carry cars and passengers across the lake. By the mid-1950s, Ludington had become the largest car ferry port in the world. Unfortunately, due to disuse and declining industry, this fleet eventually dwindled. Currently only one carferry, the SS Badger, makes regular trips across the lake from Ludington, one of only two lake-crossing car ferries on Lake Michigan.
During the late 1910s and early 1920s, Ludington was the home of the Ludington Mariners minor league baseball team. A team of the same name currently plays "old time base ball" in historical reenactments of the original version of the game.
| ||US 10 enters the city from the east, connecting with Clare and Bay City. It continues across Lake Michigan into Wisconsin via the SS Badger, providing carferry service to Manitowoc.|
| ||US 31 is a freeway to the south of a junction with US-10 east of Ludington. US-31 and US-10 run concurrently for about east of Ludington before US-31 turns northerly again at Scottville.|
| ||BUS US 31 is a section of the former US 31 along Pere Marquette Highway east of the city.|
| ||M-116 is a spur route providing access to Ludington State Park, to the north of the city, from US-10 downtown.|
There were 3,690 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.2% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.3% were non-families. 36.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 84.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,089, and the median income for a family was $36,333. Males had a median income of $31,970 versus $22,809 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,215. About 12.9% of families and 16.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.7% of those under age 18 and 8.0% of those age 65 or over.
Ludington's downtown retail is focused on the city's tourism and includes clothing stores, art galleries, and jewelry stores. Unique local businesses include Fort Daul and Maude's Garage. Maude's Garage (formerly Maude's Gallery) is located in a converted 1930s auto repair shop. Fort Daul, a gift shop, has operated for several decades on the corner of Ludington Ave. and James St. Exterior is fashioned after a wooden fort and includes several murals of early American scenes on its façade. Now, Fort Daul has been downsized to a smaller location on James Street, and is now called Daul's Twisted Arrow. Ludington's history is preserved and documented in a series of murals done by the Ludington Mural Society ("Town of Murals")
Secondary West Shore Community College is a two year institution with many degrees including nursing, crimial justice and others. Located about 17 miles from Ludington, it is a prime choice for high school graduates looking to stay close to home while pursuing higher education.