Nestled along the shores of Lake Michigan’s Crystal Coast lies the charming small town of Frankfort, Michigan. Known for its historic downtown, stunning beaches, and easygoing vibe, Frankfort encapsulates the beauty and adventure of Northern Michigan.
Here are my top recommendations for the ultimate things to do in Frankfort during your Up North vacation.
1. Relax at Frankfort Beach
No Michigan beach town would be complete without pristine public beaches, and Frankfort Beach takes full advantage of its scenic Lake Michigan location.
Spend a day stretched out on the golden sand beach, swimming in the cool, clear water, hunting for Petoskey stones along the shoreline.
This wide, sandy beach has picnic tables, volleyball nets, snack bars and clean facilities for your convenience. After working up an appetite swimming and sunbathing, grab a burger or hot dog from Crescent Bakery and dine beachside. With its family-friendly amenities, Frankfort Beach is a summer highlight.
2. Browse Downtown Frankfort’s Shops & Galleries
I love whileing away hours browsing the shops, galleries and eateries in downtown Frankfort. Pop into Harbor Light Gifts for nautical-themed souvenirs, Prints Old & New for local photography and art, or Foremost Gallery next door for unique jewelry.
Gabriella’s carries trendy clothing and accessories. Satisfy your sweet tooth with fudge and ice cream at Ben Franklin Crafts. With its walkable size and variety of boutiques, Frankfort’s downtown is made for strolling.
3. Charter a Fishing Trip
With Lake Michigan teeming with trout, salmon and other fish right offshore, fishing is naturally a popular activity in Frankfort. Book a guided charter trip with an experienced local outfitter like Fish N Dogs Charters or Schafer Sportfishing for a day reeling in your catch.
The best salmon and trout fishing happens May through September as the fish run. Look for coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead, brown trout, and more.
No boat or gear required – just climb aboard and cast your line! Fishing charters are a great way to enjoy Frankfort’s bountiful waters.
4. Rent a Bicycle and Cruise the Betsie Valley Trail
Stretching over 30 miles from Crystal Lake to Thompsonville, the Betsie Valley Trail provides a scenic way to experience the natural beauty surrounding Frankfort. Rent a bike from Betsie Bay Bicycles and hit the trail.
You can cruise right from town on the well-maintained, paved path lined with lush forests. Stop at roadside farm stands and vineyards in Elberta and Thompsonville.
Or head north 8 miles to the dune-backed shores of Crystal Lake. However far you venture, the trail rewards riders with ever-changing vistas of woodlands, orchards and farmland. A ride on the Betsie Valley Trail captures the spirit of Northern Michigan.
5. Hop Aboard the Benzie Bus For Easy Transportation
Frankfort and Benzie County offer plenty to explore beyond the downtown. Luckily, the Benzie Bus transit system makes getting around a breeze without a car. Their bus routes conveniently connect Frankfort with nearby villages like Beulah, Elberta, Benzonia and Empire.
Ride along scenic M-22 to Sleeping Bear Dunes, ride to the Interlochen arts campus, or transfer lines to venture to Traverse City. Affordable daily or weekly passes allow unlimited rides. Leave the driving to them and take in the Up North sights!
6. Catch a Show at The Garden Theater
Address: 301 Main St, Frankfort, MI 49635
Downtown’s historic Garden Theater first opened in 1939 and today hosts everything from movies to live music and theatre. Snag tickets for indie and classic films screened in the lovingly restored Art Deco theater.
In the warmer months, sit out under the stars for outdoor theatre and concerts on the grassy lawn. A snack bar serves up popcorn, candy and drinks to complete the moviegoing experience. As Frankfort’s beloved cultural hub, the Garden Theater shouldn’t be missed.
7. Sample the Local Wineries
The vineyards of Northern Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula have gained national acclaim for their Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay varietals. Just south of Frankfort in quaint Elberta lies a trail of farmstead wineries waiting to be explored.
Stop for a tasting at Galleria Marrese set on a hilltop estate, Bower’s Harbor Vineyards in a renovated barn, and Verterra Vineyard with its rustic tasting room. Let the wine and unbeatable scenery shine during a day trip through Leelanau wine country.
8. Take a Sailing Tour of Lake Michigan
What better way to experience Lake Michigan than from the deck of a sailboat! Book a sailing tour with a Frankfort outfitter like Intrepid Sailing to hoist the sails and cruise along the stunning shoreline.
Knowledgeable captains will identify landmarks, share history, and even let you take a turn at the helm. Feel the wind in your hair as you see Frankfort from offshore.
9. Cheer on the Racers at Waterfront 5K Races
Frankfort gets lively during the summer 5K running races right along the lakeshore. Events like the Crystal Lake Team Marathon in August and the Run for the Trees 5K in October take you past beaches, historic buildings and harbor views. Grab a spot to cheer on runners and feel that small town spirit!
10. Ride the Ferry to Exploring the Manitou Islands
Accessible only by boat or ferry lies the Manitou Islands archipelago, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Hop aboard the ferry from Leland to explore South Manitou Island or North Manitou Island.
Discover historic lighthouses, shipwreck remains, hiking trails, dunes and abundant wildlife. An island escape feels worlds away but is just offshore from Frankfort!
11. Tour Local Farms & Orchards
Stop by beloved farms around Frankfort and Benzie County for u-pick fruits straight from the source. At Crystal Mountain Farm pick juicy cherries in summer. Harvest apples at Apple Ledge Orchards in fall. Many farms have bakeries, play areas and tours that provide a fun outing for families.
12. Paddleboard Yoga at the Beach
For the ultimate beachfront namaste, join a paddleboard yoga class in Frankfort! Outfitters like The Over Easy Company offer beginning SUP yoga sessions on Crystal Lake or Lake Michigan when conditions allow.
Centering your mind while floating on the water takes these popular beach yoga classes to the next level.
13. Grab Sweet Treats at Crescent Bakery
No beach trip is complete without popsicles, fudge, or salt water taffy! Stop by beloved Crescent Bakery, in business since 1886, for old-fashioned candies, ice cream, and their famous baked goods.
Load up on cookies, doughnuts, turnovers and cinnamon rolls for a picnic or snack. With its charming vintage interior, Crescent Bakery is a Frankfort legend.
14. Camp at Lake Michigan Campgrounds
Pitch a tent or park your RV steps from Lake Michigan at campgrounds like Platte River Campground just south of Frankfort.
Wake up to beach views and attractions like hiking and fishing just outside your site. Campgrounds here offer a front row seat to the beauty of Northern Michigan.
15. Rent a House with Lake Views
For the ultimate peaceful retreat, book a rental home or cottage with panoramic views of Lake Michigan and Frankfort Beach.
Local companies like Dunes Realty represent lakefront vacation homes perfect for families or groups who want to unplug. Imagine sunrises over the water through floor-to-ceiling windows!
16. Experience Frankfort After Dark
When the sun goes down, Frankfort still shines! Take in a concert under the stars at the band shell or movie at the outdoor theater. Try glow mini golfing at Crystal Lake. Join a campfire singalong on the beach. Cap off your night at Harbor Lights Tavern or another local hangout.
17. Paddle Lake Michigan on a Clear Bottom Kayak
For a unique perspective, book a clear bottom kayak tour with Crystal Seas Kayaking. As you paddle Lake Michigan, the transparent bottom of these specially designed kayaks allows you to view the underwater world below.
Learn about Frankfort’s maritime history and ecology while exploring from this cool vantage point. Definitely an Instagram-worthy experience!
18. Go Geocaching Around Frankfort
Explore Frankfort in a different way by going on a geocaching hunt! Over 25 geocaches are hidden around downtown, the marina, lighthouse and trails.
Download the app and navigation to find these hidden boxes using GPS coordinates. It’s a free, fun scavenger hunt activity for all ages.
19. Attend the Betsie Bay Music Festival
Musicians and fans flock to Frankfort each September for the three-day Betsie Bay Music Festival held at Crystal Mountain Resort.
Rock out to local bands on outdoor stages surrounded by the fall foliage. Past lineups have included favorites like The Verve Pipe.
20. Golf at Crystal Mountain or Frankfort Golf Courses
Golf is a popular pastime with two scenic courses in town. Crystal Mountain offers an acclaimed 18-hole championship course with elevation changes. For a more laidback round, check out the 9-hole course at Frankfort High School.
21. Relax at Oasis Day Spa
After adventuring outdoors, indulge in some pampering at Oasis Day Spa. Choose from massages, body treatments, facials and mani/pedis.
The aromatherapy, soft music and skilled therapists provide luxurious relaxation. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated!
22. Take a Road Trip on M-22
Venture beyond Frankfort by taking a drive along scenic M-22 highway. This National Scenic Byway winds along Lake Michigan through forests, farms, vineyards and charming coastal villages.
Stop at places like the historic Glen Haven village. Driving the M-22 loop showcases northern Michigan’s diverse beauty.
23. Shop the Downtown Farmers Market
From May through October, downtown Frankfort hosts a weekly Farmers Market filled with local produce, meats, flowers and artisanal goods.
Browse the stalls for jams, maple syrup, baked treats and more while supporting area farms. The market takes place every Wednesday afternoon.
24. Take a Lake Michigan Cruise
For an offshore perspective, hop aboard one of the cruises offered by local companies. Sightseeing cruises like those with Nauti-Cat Cruises let you relax on deck while taking in Frankfort’s coastline and lighthouses. Sunset cruises offer a romantic voyage. There’s also dinner cruises and private charters.
With its historic lighthouse, charming downtown, scenic beaches, and small-town vibe, Frankfort exemplifies the beauty of a northern Michigan escape. The area’s natural wonder and hospitality will keep you coming back!