Top Lake Michigan Getaways: Frankfort Beach
When the early-morning fog sits just-so off of the broad beaches of Frankfort, the massive white lighthouse appears to hover, untethered, over the harbor, looking ridiculously photogenic in the pale light. That hour—before the sun burns off the haze and the floppy-hatted crowds stake their claims on the sand—is the best time to walk out to the end of the stone-slab pier, past the waves gently spilling over the rocks piled up at its sides and the weatherbeaten orange rack holding a single life preserver onto which someone has Sharpied “Rob Boughton just saved your life … You’re welcome. Hit me up at the 517.” Then, you’ll know that the 1912 square, steel pyramid tower, long a symbol of the town’s maritime tradition and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, isn’t just some prop placed out there to wow the tourists (although it does a very good job of doing so).
Aerial photos reveal what makes this gently curved swath of coastline so nautically unique: a pair of piers form a horseshoe around Frankfort Harbor, which is fed by Betsie Bay. In this arrangement, water wraps around the town on two sides, in the form of bay, harbor, and Great Lake. But all that’s just the backdrop for a wide beach that gradually slips into sandy-bottomed clear water, the perfect summer playground for visiting beach bums looking to get mentally swept out to sea.
Travel Time: 6.5 to 7 hours
Getting There: Frankfort Beach’s large, free parking lot abuts the sand.
Going to Town: Much of the commerce in Frankfort gravitates to boater-friendly Betsie Bay. This is where you’ll find tiny shops and restaurants that channel the quaintness of Cape Cod.
Stay: The B&B industry is booming in the Frankfort area. The Victorian-Italianate confection Stonewall Inn ($150/night; 428 Keelanau Ave., 231-352-9299) is decorated with Civil War antiques.
A beautiful wooden staircase leads to the Assistant Keeper’s Apartment atop Point Betsie Lighthouse ($2,000/week; 231-352-7644), a charming 2BR, 1BA with iron beds and views like a cruise ship’s.
Eat: A huge sake menu and creative Asian fare put The Fusion (411 Main St., 231-352-4114) high on the list of dining options in Frankfort.
Unassuming Crescent Bakery (404 Main St., 231-352-4611) has a cult following hooked on elaborate break-fast panini with gourmet extras like pulled pork and housemade asiago spread.