While the S.S. Badger has been honored with a placement on the National Register of Historic Places, its beginnings were humble. First setting sail in 1953, the Badger originally carried railcars, along with a few select passengers, across scenic Lake Michigan year round. Now the last of the United States’s coal-fired steamships, the 410-foot vessel ships cargo of a different kind, transporting guests and their vehicles across Lake Michigan with the comforts and amenities of a modern cruise ship, with efforts to improve their ship environmentally in the near future.
While the boat embarks along between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, guests amble through the open deck for views of the scenic shorelines or set up shop on deck chairs, armed with a cool drink and a Mermaid-to-English dictionary. The ship’s shaded interior entertains with movies, guests shouting at celebratory bingo, and arcade games giving off musical tones as kids set new high scores. For a more muted ride, private staterooms let guests snooze away the hours, and a quiet room elucidates the ship’s history in hushed solitude. An in-house bar blends, shakes, and stirs ingredients into a range of refreshing cocktails, while the café showcases artfully crafted sandwiches like a deli hall of fame.
In homage to Harley-Davidson's legendary hogs, Steve "Doc" Hopkins built a 24.5-foot-long, 10-seat motorcycle powered by seven engines that he dubbed the "Timeline." Then, in homage to the bike, Hopkins opened the Timeline Saloon & BBQ. There, the cooks prepare what you might expect at a restaurant themed after a 10-seat motorcycle: barbecue. Though there's pulled pork, beef brisket, and chicken on the menu, the ribs are the standout dish. First, they're marinated in apple juice, teriyaki sauce, and maple syrup for 48 hours. Next, they're slow-roasted in the onsite smokehouse and slathered in one of five sauces. If you're worried that there won't be enough food, their cooks also prepare an epic, 7-pound burger.
Before or after your meal, explore the restaurant's sprawling premises, which include a Harley-Davidson dealership, classic car and motorcycle museum, antique shop, and zoo with alligators, a camel, tortoises, and other animals that would look cute in motorcycle vests.