M-116 begins in Ludington at the intersection of William Street and Ludington Avenue. It is at this intersection where US 10 turns southward and heads to the Ludington-Manitowoc ferry docks. From here, M-116 continues westward along Ludington Avenue for about one-half mile before turning north on Lakeshore Drive. The road continues as North Lakeshore Drive until passing the Lincoln Hills Golf Club where it curves westward towards the lakeshore as it approaches the park. The route runs along the coast of Lake Michigan for the remainder of its route, through sand dunes, until reaching its northern terminus at the entrance to Ludington State Park.

Ludington State Park is bound to the west by Lake Michigan, the north by sand dunes and to the east by Hamlin Lake. As such, M-116 provides the only road access to the park from the south. The park encompasses 5,300 acres  and is home to several types of ecosystems such as forests and sand dunes as well as Lake Michigan, Big Sable River and Hamlin Lake.  M-116 was first designated on June 28, 1928, from the north city limit of Ludington north to the Sable River, but not all of it was built and open to traffic. It was extended southerly on July 15, 1931, into the city of Ludington to US 10. There was a new alignment closer to the lakeshore opened on March 14, 1933. Later that year on July12,, the original, unbuilt routing was cancelled. The northern end was extended on October 31, 1935, to encompass the Big Sable River bridge opened in 1934.

In all, M-116 encodmpasses 7.1 miles with the largest section along the prestine beaches of Lake Michigan.  Parking spaces are designated for having your own private beach at several junction points along the highway.