Spins around Lake Michigan can easily exceed 1,000 miles and 18 hours of road time, following the coastline rather than the interstate highway. It’s not a vacation for drivers and travelers with little leisure.

Another option: Shorten the loop by crossing the Great Lakes using two car ferries. This turns the escape into a one-tank journey, adding a sea adventure while exploring the small chunks of Michigan and Wisconsin.

The strategy keeps what you’d expect from a Lake Michigan excursion (quality beaches, dunes, lighthouses, nautical museums, waterfront meals), unique attractions, generations of business, and locals. Made it easier to notice the places loved by.

Navigate one way on the National Historic Landmark SS Badger, the country’s last coal-fired passenger steamship. Cruising between Manitowock, Wisconsin (only two and a half hours from downtown Chicago) and Ludington, Michigan for four hours, bingo, watch a movie, take a nap in the state room, museums and gift shops on board. I walk around. ssbadger.com

This route is a voyage extension of US Route 10. The floating giant (capable of accommodating 600 passengers and 180 vehicles) began to function as a railcar transport in 1953.

Another car ferry on Lake Michigan is a sophisticated, fast, business-like Lake Express introduced in 2004 to connect Milwaukee to Muskegon, Michigan in two and a half hours. Voyage with 250 passengers and 46 vehicles is usually more frequent than SS Badger. lake-express.com

When landing, it’s okay to stick to coastal parks and beaches, but there’s a lot to explore beyond the waiting town.

A 15-minute drive from the port of Rudington, Bortell’s Fisheries is a sixth-generation family-owned countryside smoked and fried fish sold for pounds. The seat is an outdoor picnic table. Turn right to the lakeside summit park. There, as the sun set, I used french fries to taste a half-pound smelter. I wasn’t alone. facebook.com/bortellsfisheries

My bed at night was a smartly remodeled stable in a Cartier mansion built for Baron Timber in 1905. The woodwork-rich decorations of the Rudington Inn are barely soiled. Breakfast plate: Sausage made from a chef-owned 22-ingredient spice blend. cartiermansion.com

How else do you spend your precious time until the ship returns? These rare possibilities caught my attention:

Members of the Sable Lighthouse Keepers Association are eligible to maintain the Lake Michigan Lighthouse for a week or two. Membership is $ 60 for one person and $ 100 for a family and includes free admission to four lights: Big Sable, Little Sable, Rudington and White River. splka.org

Soak in fresh ice cream at the House of Flavors. Next to downtown is a third-generation factory that produces 25 million gallons annually. houseofflavorsrestaurants.com

The new and spot-on of the historic White Pine Village is the value of the Sports Museum. Here, extraordinary athlete artifacts and stories focus more on character and life lessons than on the outcome of the competition. South of Rudington. historicwhitepinevillage.org

MacWood’s Dune Rides offers outdoor and close-up views of the dunes of Michigan in the 92nd year. Alternatively, you can rent a car at Silver Lake (aka “Dunetown”) and explore for yourself. macwoodsdunerides.com; thinkdunes.com

A four-generation country daily cheeseburger near New Era is made from farm meat and cheese. Orders come with a free milk pint. Cafes and markets have a Christian theme. Farm tours are offered. countrydairy.com

Frank Macserie of the Olympics designed a bank-shaped curved track at the Muskellunge Luge Adventure Sports Park to introduce the average person to the luge of all seasons. The wheels are mounted on the bottom of a luge sled that follows a 320-foot truck. The long course is the winter luge. msports.org

The growing social district of downtown Muskegon is divided into 12 blocks of restaurants, bars, cottage boutiques and public art. The historic buildings in this area are perfect for a nice walk.Beware of course restaurants and sweet spots, Educational institution of the Michigan Culinary Institute. Downtownmuskegon.org; Course restaurant.com; sweetspotcim.com

Located on Muskegon’s 2.5-mile-long Pele Marquette beach, the deck is a great place to enjoy drinks, food and music during the summer. At the main level, it’s so popular that the 90-minute limit applies. thedeckmkg.com

Travelers are drawn to the Milwaukee Art Museum by the lake. The wing-like design of the Milwaukee Art Museum is a symbol of the city. One mile inland, you’ll find the spacious and charming Gromann Museum and the Milwaukee School of Technology’s sculpture garden. Art depicts the reality of blue-collar and white-collar works. msoe.edu/grohmann-museum

One of the most admirable restaurants in Milwaukee this year is Solly’s Grille, the winner of the 2022 American Classics. The James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award indicates that Sollies introduced the butter burger in 1936 (using £ 130 butter each week). sollysbutterburgers.com

Near Sheboygan, Art Preserve is the world’s first museum dedicated to the environment built by artists. Most were made without formal art training. The closest outdoor example: James Teren Sculpture Park near the lakeside Kohler Andre State Park. jmkac.org/art-preserve; kohlerfoundation.org

Whistling Straits, Golf’s 2021 Ryder Cup venue spans 560 acres along Lake Michigan near Haven. Tea off or simply dine at a golf course restaurant. The rustic and cool environment with the pub on the second floor offers stunning views. destinationkohler.com/golf/whistling-straits

The rural and non-profit farm Wisconsin Discovery Center near Manitowock is all about field-to-farm heritage, production and diversity. There are interactive exhibits, gift shops and cafes. Admission includes a dairy tour. farmwisconsin.org

Get hooked on Dead by Dawn in downtown Manitowoc and don’t expect a peaceful night. The innkeeper turns every “dead breakfast” stay into a Halloween-style hangout. The 1851 building has a paranormal history. For more information, please reserve a seat at the Shrunken Head bar. deadbydawn.com

Admission is free West of Lake Garden, 6 acres, to the right of the former Manitowoc tram. It’s a very quiet place to spend the afternoon. westfoundation.us

When was the last time you voweled? The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers studies, preserves and prints wood types. No other museum specializes in wood types, and Hamilton Manufacturing was the largest producer in the country. woodtype.org

SSBadger and Lake Express voyages are seasonal from mid-May to mid-October. Frequency and cost will vary by ship and time of year. Expect to pay per passenger in addition to the cost of transporting the vehicle. Reservation is recommended. ssbadger.com; lake-express.com

Bring a bicycle instead of a car to save money. SS Badger offers discounts if you travel without a vehicle and return within 48 hours. The area from the dock to the downhill can be walked by Manitowoc and Rudington.

The Manitowoc and Milwaukee are about 80 miles apart. Rudington and Muskegon 60 miles away. Learn more about Portcity accommodations, restaurants and attractions below. manitowoc.info; visitludington.com; visitmuskegon.org; visitmilwaukee.org..