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Ludington’s a sandy summer dream

Published July 22, 2012  Battle Creek Enquirer

With over 3000 miles of coastline in Michigan, let’s celebrate the longest freshwater coastline in the United States. So many miles of beaches, so little time.  We decided to dip our toes into Lake Michigan from the white sand beaches of Ludington for a weekend getaway.

Spur of the moment trips can either yield great bargains or premium costs. We love intimate, historic bed and breakfasts and as well as the reliability of chain hotels. Luckily, Ludington had lots of different choices in both categories. We choose the five room Cartier Mansion Bed & Breakfast, the 1905 estate of Ludington lumber baron Warren Cartier. This neoclassical beauty of a home sits right on the main drag with two-story white columns decorating its impressive portico.

True to his professional calling, Cartier built his home to showcase a variety of different varieties of wood, including the foyer’s white oak and the black walnut in the library. Admiring the woodwork, we slipped past a lively cocktail reception on the first floor to our comfortable rooms upstairs.

In search of seafood, we picked P.M. Steamers, a 30 year dining tradition situated on waterfront and at the home port of the historic SS Badger, the largest car ferry to ever sail Lake Michigan and the only coal-fired steamship still in operation in the U.S. The restaurant’s name pays homage to Michigan’s steamship era. Enough about history; how was the food? The Michigan trout with cherries and the potato-crusted Canadian walleye were exceptional.

Ludington is known for its beaches, and they didn’t disappoint. We went to see the sugar sand beach at Ludington State Park Beach north of town. The name seemed appropriate, since the sand was very white. We set up towels and wiggled our toes in the sand until we were too hot and had to jump in the Lake to cool off. A few hours of sitting in the sun and relaxing with a good summer book is exactly what I needed to really feel that summer had arrived.

No trip to this city is complete without a stop at the House of Flavors,a ‘50s diner with a full menu and out-of-this-world ice cream made on the premises. The Neal family has been making ice cream in town since 1948.  Practice does make perfect with 400,000 gallons of ice cream produced every week. In addition to all of the regular flavors, they offer a line called Ashby’s Sterling Flavors. I had to try Anniversary Cake, a cake batter ice cream with cake and frosting pieces. Wow. It was the kind of place to throw caution and diets to the wind and enjoy every fully loaded lick.

Breakfast at the inn was as delicious as advertised.  The praline French toast was my favorite. As with all good innkeepers, this breakfast recipe was made the night before, so that the early morning food preparation isn’t any earlier than necessary. One thing to know if you choose this kind of lodging is that you have to be prepared to make conversation with other guests before your first cup of coffee. Sometimes your group may be seated at your own table, but most often you sit with the other guests. On our visit, we met a nice young couple enjoying some anniversary, but it was early which made it difficult to recall all of the details.

And, in case you were wondering, even after the million-calorie breakfast, we sampled another flavor on our way home, licking the drips as we drove. Sand, water and ice cream—a summer’s dream.

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