Small Town – Great Fun – Northern Michigan
Northern Michigan is one of our favorite places to visit in Michigan. There are beautiful beaches and just so many fun things to see in the Summer (and Winter) there. When you drive in Michigan, if you see an M-22 sticker on someone’s vehicle, you know you are driving among others who also love Northern Michigan. We are sharing 8 of our favorite places to see in Northern Michigan.
There is a difference between Northern Michigan and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Well, there is for those who live here. The U.P. as we call it, is when you go over the bridge. And Northern Michigan, is below the Mackinac Bridge. There are may fun things to do along Lake Superior too.
Plan 2 to 3 days to visit these locations, due to the driving and all the stops to see in between. Several of these are small towns that we continue to visit and have enjoyed over the last 10 years with our family.
Located just around the ‘corner’ from Frankfort is Elberta Michigan (Take M22 West across the small bridge from Frankfort). There is a nice play area for kids at Elberta’s Waterfront Park off of Furnace Rd. Take Bay Rd past Waterfront Park on the left and you can watch the sunset and rise. Beautiful and small so go early to get a parking spot. There are a few restaurants here as well to enjoy. Don’t pass by. Definitely stop.
From Frankfort take 115 East to 31 North and you will come to Bealah Michigan. This is another small town along the lakeshore. Beulah has a small public beach located off of downtown area. We enjoyed some great food when we stayed here and there was an awesome bagel shop as well. The kids enjoyed canoeing in Benzonia (head south of 31) just down the road.
There is antiquing that can be done in the area. Beulah is also the home of the Cherry Hut restaurant. All things cherry with homemade cherry coke, pies and lots of goodies you can take home with you.
The Chery Bowl Drive in is still operating in Honor Michigan. It has a play area and some pretty cool roadside attractions to see as well.
They play movies once it hits dusk. We have promised to go here, but end up being exhausted from our travels and have sadly not made it to see a movie. We drive by every time we are up here and say we are going to stop so our kids can experience a drive in movie.
Point Betsie Lighthouse
From Frankfort, head north on M22 and you will got about 5 miles to a sign that tells you the lighthouse is on the left. The road will dead end at the lighthouse. There is a small beach you can walk and the lighthouse is to the left. This is my favorite Michigan lighthouse as it’s hidden away and has beautiful views.
The beach is not huge to lay out and sun, but if you head away from the lighthouse, you could find a small spot to sit and enjoy the water. Depending on the side and size of the waves, you could venture out out into the water if you wanted. No life guard is on duty.
Located 35 miles north of Frankfort off M22, you will find Leland. Leland is also known as Fishtown because of the marina. There are several wineries you can stop and enjoy along your drive through Leelanau County (where Leland is located). In downtown Leland, there is a marina where the fishing boats go in and out. There are shops located here that are perfect for getting some food and souvenirs. There are some high end shops here, and also some that look like fish shanties. Parking is limited.
Suttons Bay, Michigan
You can take M22 from Leland to Suttons Bay and enjoy driving along the lakeshore. Or to get their quicker from Leland, take M204 for a straight shot east. There will be wineries either way to stop and visit. During the Summer, there are places to stop and pick a variety of berries as well, so bring cash to get some fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Suttons bay is a bigger town and has a eclectic vibe. Lots of artist shops to get some truly unique pieces to bring home. There are restaurants in town, and a movie theater. The town itself is about 3 or 4 blocks, but packed with lots of shopping.
Mission Point Lighthouse, Traverse City Michigan
Located on M37 on Mission Point, is the Mission Point Lighthouse. This is a beautiful 20-25 minutes drive through wineries and has several scenic views to enjoy on the peninsula.
There are many things to see in Traverse City as well. Known as the Cherry capital, if you are visiting in July, be sure to stop and buy some cherries. In the Fall, you can find peaches and other fresh produce in the many farmer’s markets along the roadways.
There are plenty of beaches to enjoy as well and downtown shopping has something for everyone, including delicious unique restaurants.
We fell in love with Frankfort Michigan for the beautiful beaches, restaurants and shops. The town is about 3 blocks long, but a convenient base to visit every place noted above. It is also not far from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.
We have stayed downtown Frankfort and enjoyed early morning walks to the beach. You can walk the pier all they way to the lighthouse too. There are great photo opportunities here. Look across the bay to Elberta. The Benzie Fish Frenzie happens here in August as well.
There is a large beach here to get your toes into and places not to far away to stay overnight.
Grab a bagel from the local shop and a coffee and enjoy the slower pace. It’s just around the corner, 10 minutes at most from Elberta. Depending on the tide, M22 bridge may have water over it, so drive with caution over to Elberta.