Lake Michigan: Cruise the Midwest

Roughly the size of West Virginia, Lake Michigan is the fifth largest lake in the entire world. A beautiful, powerful, majestic body of water, our family is from a long line of Coast Guard officers and light house keepers. We love the Lake, but sometimes wish Chicago had fewer traffic jams. Fortunately, there are a few options for crossing the lake by ferry, the oldest being the SS Badger Lake Michigan Car Ferry.

Probably best known most for the tag-line, Big Ship, More Fun! the SS Badger Lake Michigan Car Ferry has been sparing families from automobile exhaust fumes since 1953. I’ve, personally, been riding the ferry for the past 33 years (34 if you count in utero), as a kid and now with my own three first mates. Hands down the best part of the entire trip is SS Badger Bingo run in the Main Lounge by an energetic activities host. So groan-worthy are the bingo jokes at times, I’m hoping Big Ship, More Puns! catches on soon. With opportunities to win food, pencils, and even a massage from the ship’s masseuse, make sure and pack your lucky bingo charms! (Trust me: we all still remember the day my sister won a SS Badger sweat shirt back in 1991.)


Activity room for young children.

I can’t remember a trip where we didn’t rent a state room on the SS Badger. Regardless of the time of day (or night) you sail, a state room offers you a quiet place to nap, re-group, and have a little privacy (including your own bathroom); this is worth the couple extra bucks. Because our kids are still young, we tend to hover around the Boatique Gift Shop, Movie Lounge, Video Arcade, and Kids Play Room. Some day we’ll venture out into the TV Lounge areas or even up to the second-story Cabana Room for cards or board games. Opportunities for scenic views and fresh breezes can be found on both port and starboard sides of the ship, with the biggest space for sun bathing in the bow seating area at the front (here’s a photo from last summer; we were looking for Leondardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet). The SS Badger is getting hipper-and-trendier, too, with free WiFi and wireless trivia consoles.

With ports in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Luddington, Michigan, the SS Badger Lake Michigan Car Ferry has the potential to knock hours off travel time (and gallons of gasoline) on your next road trip. But what if you just want to ride the boat and come home? Or ride the boat to one side of the lake, stay for a day or two, and come back home?


Blue Harbor Resort Waterpark

Located a short 45 minutes drive in nearby Sheboygan, Wisconsin the Blue Harbor Resort and Spa is a lovely place to get your feet wet. Practically opening up onto the beach, families will enjoy views of sail boats almost as much as the Breaker Bay Indoor Waterpark. We loved Breaker Bay for the complimentary life jackets, variety between the different pools, and the toddler pools. Outside Breaker Bay is a very warm outdoor pool, open to both guests of the resort and waterpark patrons.

Boathouse Suite, Blue Harbor Resort

Boathouse Suite

We also loved the kids craft and activity room located on the second floor directly above the waterpark and adjacent to the Northern Lights Arcade. With age-appropriate toys, a variety of free and affordable crafts, coloring sheets for a coloring contest (and other parents with crazy waterpark hair), we played for at least an hour without even noticing the time passing us by. Later on in the evening, the resort staff helped kids roast marshmallows at the camp fire pit by the sand dunes and paved walking trail. With family-sized suites and impressive villas (family reunion, anyone?), we loved the Boathouse Suite. I don’t think hotels came with boat-shaped beds when we were kids, did they?


Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark

On the opposite side of the lake in equally beautiful Traverse City, Michigan is the Great Wolf Lodge and Waterpark. Great Wolf is a popular year-round destination for visitors and residents to the Leelanau Peninsula.While we did not visit this location, we have been to other Great Wolf properties around the country and know guests can expect to have a great time.

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine,, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at