How to Cross Lake Michigan

lake express ferry life ring, lake michigan

The sky slowly began to lighten as I made my way through the perpetual construction that marks the highways surrounding Milwaukee. Past Wisconsin State Fair Park, around the Brewers’ impressive Miller Park stadium, past the Harley-Davidson museum and Marquette University, and on to the Port of Milwaukee I drove our little Prius to the Lake Express Ferry Terminal.


If you live in the Midwestern U.S., you’ve probably heard of the ferries that transport passengers and vehicles between Wisconsin and Michigan. The S.S. Badger is the largest car ferry ever to sail Lake Michigan, running from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI and back; but this day I was taking the Lake Express across from Milwaukee to Muskegon.


The Lake Express is a high-speed passenger/vehicle boat operating 7 days a week from the spring through the fall. While the 2 ½ hour ride doesn’t necessarily take time off the drive around the southern end of the lake, it does provide you relief from sitting in the driver’s seat, and your car from the many miles.

lake express michigan ferry

As I entered the Terminal area, an attendant met me and asked for my identification. I was informed that “Richard” would be using his extended mirror to check the underside of my car for anything suspicious. Richard moved pretty quickly, getting through the line of about 20 cars in no time. Creeping up towards the gate, I talked with the next attendant and was directed to pull up behind the car in lane 2. All vehicles sit for a bit in this area, waiting for the “okay” to inch forward onto the ferry. Drivers and passengers can get out of the car momentarily before boarding the ferry, lounging on benches outside or heading into the terminal for coffee, restrooms, or to relax.

lake michigan ferry, lake express, terminal building

Once your vehicle is safely aboard…

cars inside lake express ferry, lake michigan motorcycles inside lake express ferry, lake michigan

(about ½ hour before departure), you can exit your car and head up to the passenger area. Comfortable chairs and tables fill the Classic Cabin, while more roominess and amenities grace the Premier Class Cabin. Restrooms, a café, and TVs are among the conveniences of the Lake Express.

inside of lake express ferry, lake michigan


The mighty Lake Michigan was surprisingly calm on this day- you could have waterskied on glass! I ventured out the door to the Sun Deck to take some photos.

sunrise from the lake express ferry, lake michigan, Milwaukee

sunrise over lake michigan, lake express ferry

Passengers milled about the cabin during the ride, getting a bite to eat at the cafe, playing cards, reading, or listening to music. Although the waters were calm, it was quite windy up on the deck, so not many people spent time up there until we were nearing Michigan shores.

passengers on deck, lake express ferry, michigan

looking backwards towards stern of lake express ferry, lake michigan


Upon arrival in Muskegon Harbor, passengers with vehicles were allowed to head back down to their cars or motorcycles, then drive easily off the ferry.


Easy, fast, and comfortable- a great way to see the east and west shores of Lake Michigan!


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