The beach within reach! The lakeside town of Ludington is an emerging accessible-travel haven for nature lovers of all abilities.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our magazine library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

In the sweet coastal town of Ludington, one of Michigan’s best assets is opening up to people with various disabilities: the outdoors.

Ludington has become a more welcoming and accessible outdoor destination, thanks to efforts by both local disability advocates and the Friends of Ludington State Park, a nonprofit organization supporting the park.

According to Patrick O’Hare, president of the Friends of Ludington State Park, the organization is always looking for ways to enhance the park, and it just so happens that a number of those projects involve improving accessibility.

One such project was obtaining an all-terrain, electric-powered track chair in May 2022 for state park visitors. The off-road track chair can handle uneven trails, snow, sand and even water. In its first season, it was used 58 times. “The response has been overwhelmingly very positive,” O’Hare says.

Some of that encouraging feedback included a comment shared by Jennifer McDonald Murphy, whose husband used the Ludington track chair. “I cannot begin to describe the feelings my family had seeing [my husband] truly happy for the first time in years. Driving along the beach he said, ‘I never thought I’d hear the waves again.’”

Jamie Spore, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2016, is an accessibility advisor to Friends of Ludington State Park, as well as other Ludington businesses. Born with spina bifida, Spore is a lifelong paraplegic wheelchair user and has been a passionate advocate when it comes to accessibility for all.

“The new track chair has been an amazing addition to Ludington State Park,” says Spore, who has taken it for rides on the Logging Trail and the path out to Big Sable Point Lighthouse. “Before the track chair … I had never been able to go on the Logging Trail, because of inaccesibility. It’s a beautiful trail!”

Photo by Steve Begnoche for Friends of Ludington State Park

How to Rent a Ludington Track Chair

Reserve a chair (free) by contacting the Ludington State Park office Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 231-843-2423 (extension 0). A video explaining how to use the chair is online at friendsofludingtonstatepark.org. Click the “track chair” link at the top of the page. 

The Friends of Ludington State Park recently completed their fundraising for an additional track chair. The park has two track chairs to loan out as of this summer.

More accessible attractions in Ludington:

  • EZ Roller Floating Surf Wheelchair: This new beach wheelchair actually allows the user to go in the water (pictured above).
  • Beach Wheelchairs: Wheelchair users can rent special wheelchairs equipped for sand from the Beach House and the Hamlin Lake concession stand. They are free and first-come, first-served.
  • SeeCoast EnChroma® Viewer: This new viewer is located along the Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park. It’s designed to show a broader spectrum of colors for people with red-green color blindness and is the first viewer with the EnChroma® feature anywhere in Michigan.
  • Universal Kayak Launch: Located at Hamlin Lake Beach, the universal kayak launch includes a 30-foot graded gangway and transfer area, enabling wheelchair users to launch their watercraft.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

Photo by Dave Weidner

  • Accessible Playground: Also at Hamlin Lake Beach, there’s a playground featuring ADA-accessible ramps, a poured-in-place rubber surface and an accessible sidewalk.
  • Beaches: There are three beaches that are wheelchair-accessible and barrier-free in Ludington: the Lake Michigan beach by the Beach House and Hamlin Lake Beach in Ludington State Park, along with Stearns Park Beach near downtown. All have vinyl decking beach pathways to the water’s edge and loanable beach wheelchairs.
  • Waterfront Park: This 5.3-acre park has an accessible paved scenic path and a wheelchair-accessible playground on the shores of Pere Marquette Lake.
  • Cartier Park Pathway: A paved, ADA-accessible one-mile loop within the popular 80-acre woodland park area.
  • Ludington Bicycle Trail: A paved, ADA-accessible two-mile path that connects to the Sable River Trail.
  • Ludington Area Jaycees Mini Golf Course: This mini golf course includes a wheelchair-accessible course.

For information on accessible attractions in Ludington, including restaurants and transportation, reach out to Pure Ludington at pureludington.com or 231.845.5430.

Photo by Dave Weidner

Accessible Stays in Ludington

Ludington State Park Campgrounds
The park offers wheelchair-accessible camping; there are five barrier-free campsites at Pines Campground and one at Beechwood Campground. The sites include features like an asphalt path to restrooms and electrical outlets, heightened poured-concrete fire pits and picnic table overhangs for wheelchair access.

Cartier Mansion Bed & Breakfast
This stunning B&B was recently renovated, in consult with local accessibility advocate Jamie Spore. The Edison Suite in the carriage house is fully ADA accessible and includes a roll-in shower and accessible sink.

Sarah Bence is a freelance writer and occupational therapist based in Michigan. Follow her travel blog @endlessdistances on Instagram.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner