10 Reasons to Love Benzie and the West Shore

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: Discover Benzie County’s portion of this magnificent lakeshore where there are ample places to camp, fish, hike, kayak, swim or snowshoe. Begin your trek at the visitors center in Empire (9922 Front St., Hwy. M-72, 231-326-5134).

2. Bortell’s Fisheries: This Ludington icon has been owned and operated by the same family for more than 100 years. The specialty is wood-smoked fish – from the Great Lakes and beyond. It’s takeout only, so settle in at one of their picnic tables or head to a nearby beach (5510 South Lakeshore Dr., Ludington, Michigan. 231-843-3337).

3. Hop a car ferry to Wisconsin: Relax on the deck of the SS Badger surrounded by Lake Michigan’s blue while your kids watch movies and do other fun activities. Buy a roundtrip ticket because you’ll want to come right back to Michigan, of course. The trip over takes four hours (701 Maritime Dr., 800-841-4243, ssbadger.com).

4. Canoe Platte River: Spend a lazy day touring the Platte River by tube or canoe to where the river empties into Lake Michigan. Riverside Canoe Trips (231-325-5622).

5. Frankfort Pier: Stand on it to cast a line into the water, or look above it on the Fourth of July, a fabulous fireworks display lights up the sky there every year (benzie.org).

6. Betsie Valley Trail: 27 miles of trail – part paved, part crushed stone – run from Frankfort to Thompsonville, with scenic stops at Elberta, Beulah, Crystal Mountain, Crystal Lake and Betsie River. Find the trailhead in Elberta. The visitors center is at the Beulah trailhead (downtown on Center Street, betsievalleytrail.org).

7. Cruise out of Pentwater: On Captain Russ Murphy’s Irish Wake. The 30-foot Pearson sailboat sets sail out of Pentwater’s Snug Harbor four times a day during the summer. Cruises are 90 minutes, and reservations are a must. (231-629-0739, irishwakeenterprises.com).

8. U-pick farms: Get a little juicy at a U-pick strawberry farm. Try Urka Farms (16919 Pole Rd., Brethren, 231-263-4507). Or go organic at Ware Farm (9094 Alkire Rd., Bear Lake, 231-864-3242).

9. Maples Blueberry Festival: Get your share of blueberry pancakes and pies, a pig roast, music and children’s games at this one-day Frankfort event. Held in August at the Maples Benzie County Medical Care Facility (210 Maple St., Frankfort or frankfort-elberta.com).

10. Crystal Mountain: Named by SKI magazine as the Northern gem of the Midwest. Find out why by experiencing top-notch golfing, skiing, swimming and an art park (800-968-7686, crystal mountain.com).

Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s [email protected]

Note: This article was first published in June 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    Is number eleven the Point Betsie lighthouse?

  • Anonymous

    The Pierce Stocking Trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes park is not to be missed whether you’re two or ninety. It is an easy drive to see the grandest view of a 600 foot cliff of sand overlooking sapphire blue Lake Michigan.