The Mighty Mitten loves all things northern Michigan, but when we go up north our homebase is often Frankfort. It’s smaller and quieter than Petoskey, Charlevoix or Traverse City, and offers a great jumping off location for tons of awesome Michigan activities. Here are some of our Frankfort favorites:
1.) Frankfort itself!
There's so much to do in such a small space, but let’s check the classic off the list right at the top: The Frankfort beach.
This is one of the biggest in-town beaches on this side of Lake Michigan and is perfect for all of the beach-going activities you might be dreaming of: swimming, sandcastle-making, lounging under an umbrella, throwing a frisbee, exploring the shoreline, walking out along the pier to the lighthouse, picnicking… you name it. Its proximity to town makes it crowded but convenient, and it’s always fun to find a spot to hang out, people watch, and enjoy the day. On 4th of July, the Frankfort fireworks can be viewed from the beach and even though it really is wall-to-wall people then, the atmosphere is so fun, festive, and so totally northern Michigan summertime!
Of course, the beach can be a tough place to snag some tasty food and drinks. Whenever we travel to Frankfort, we go to Stormcloud Brewing Company at least once a day. For delicious food, beer, live music, a beer garden in the summer and a curling sheet in the winter, head to the pub right downtown. A mile away is the larger facility where they do their brewing. You can also stop there for beer, food trucks and some bar games. We love Stormcloud!
Birch & Maple is a newer addition to Frankfort, and we were pleasantly surprised when we had brunch there in early 2020. They use local ingredients as much as possible and have healthy and reasonably priced options. And of course, a trip to Frankfort isn’t complete without a stop at The Cabbage Shed, across the bay in Elberta. The ramshackle establishment has a killer crispy fish sandwich, tons of room, and lots of good beers on tap.
We always try to catch our favorite local band Barefoot when we’re up in Frankfort, too. They play at Stormcloud and The Cabbage Shed with some regularity and are also often at St. Ambrose Cellars in Beulah. Lead vocalist Jenni Rae is enormously talented and is backed by a great band. They play acoustic versions of familiar songs and put their own awesome spins on them all.
2.) Frankfort is a great spot to launch day trips from!
Taking a short trip out of downtown to the Point Betsie Light is a staple of a trip to Frankfort. This is one of Michigan’s loveliest lighthouses and boasts absolutely stunning sunsets year-round. We love to go in all seasons to see how the landscape and shoreline change over the year. There is also great rock hunting along the beach at Point Betsie—we found a Petoskey stone there in February!
Not much farther up M-22 there is of course the world famous Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, but you don't even have to go that far for a unique adventure. We absolutely love heading just a bit north of Point Betsie to put tubes into the Platte River and float for a few hours. You end up floating right into Lake Michigan! Stock up on provisions (ahem, beer) at the awesome Riverside Canoe Trips general store before you hop in the river.
As often as we go up, we are a little surprised to continue finding more hidden gems within a half hour drive of Frankfort. This past fall we discovered Lake Ann Brewing Company, a great cabin-like spot in Lake Ann with good beer and a yummy pizza place next door where you can get carry out and bring it over to the brewery. We also can’t recommend Northern Natural Ciderhouse & Winery enough! Located in Kaleva (haven’t heard of it? We hadn’t either… it’s about 7 miles south of Thompsonville), it’s an odd little spot with the best hard cider we’ve ever tasted. All of their products are certified organic and you can taste the difference between their ciders and basically any other cider we’ve ever had. They have a classic semi-dry apple cider and a delicious apple-cherry variety along with more unique flavors like orange blossom and lavender.
In the fall, we also love to take day trips up to Traverse City and head up Old Mission Peninsula and Leelenau Peninsula for wine tasting, hikes, and foliage views. Our favorite winery is Hawthorne Vineyards, on Old Mission. We also love to stop at the Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission—they have a special menu and a beautiful location that’s quieter than the other JP’s. On Leelenau Peninsula, we find Hoplot Brewing to be worth a stop, especially in the fall when the leaf colors in the big outdoor beer garden are out in full. Making it to the tip of either peninsula (Old Mission Lighthouse on Old Mission or Leeleanu State Park on Leelenau) is also always worth it for us!
3.) Frankfort is the perfect jump-off for outdoor adventures. We love hiking and trail running and have a few favorite trails close to Frankfort. Right down the road in Elberta is the Elberta Dunes Natural Area, which features a relatively short but steep hike through dunes and forest until you pop out at the top of a ridge to see stunning views of Lake Michigan. Our favorite! The Green Point Dunes Nature Preserve is a few miles further south and is an incredible hike in all seasons. On this hike you get lots of terrain changes too, and multiple opportunities to see lake vistas. You used to be able to go down to the beach at one point on this hike but unfortunately due to erosion, beach access has been removed. Still a great bet if you’re looking to get some exercise!
We also love biking on the Betsie Valley Trail right from downtown Frankfort past Crystal Lake and into Beulah. We stop for a pint or three at The Corner Pub or Five Shores Brewing and then turn around to head back, stopping to jump in Crystal Lake at Mollineaux Beach. The bike trail is lovely and offers lots to see—woods, ravines, creeks and, as you get closer to Beulah, lake houses and the beautiful turquoise waters of Crystal.
The more you’re willing to explore, the more you’ll find to do in Frankfort and the surrounding areas (although we suppose that goes for all of Michigan!). Let the Mighty Mitten know if you need more suggestions of what to do in the area… and don’t forget to snag a Frankfort print or a Point Betsie print while you’re at it!