Wayfarer Lodgings near Frankfort, Michigan, remains a popular Northern Michigan vacation getaway just minutes away from Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Wayfarer Lodgings welcomes guests to experience bygone days in one of its quaint, retro cottages with a relaxing, friendly vacation in Northern Michigan’s Benzie County. The Wayfarer is the oldest operating business in Gilmore Township, on the south side of Lake Betsie, and the second oldest continuously operating business in Benzie County. As you gaze out the windows of the pretty yellow cottages, you can almost envision the first Model Ts rolling down a dirt road (now the iconic M-22).
Wayfarer Lodgings’ owners, Iris and Mike Jones, have owned the popular vacation spot since 1994. In 1994, Mike had just retired from the U.S. Coast Guard and the couple had 14-month-old twins who they wanted to raise within a family-oriented community. They found their dream location at Wayfarer Motel, an 11-acre property just south of Elberta.
Over the years, the Jones’ have continually improved the property, now offering 10 vintage cottages for rent. The Jones’ worked hard each year, adding new windows, new furnaces, remodeling the kitchens and bathrooms, adding ceiling fans in every room and Wi-Fi and redecorating with a vintage-inspired theme. Mike planted more than 300 trees, added outside seating and trails, installed games such as a new horseshoe pit, hammocks, a croquet lawn and bocce ball.
“We didn’t really make any money on Wayfarer Lodgings for many years as I worked full-time while Iris took care of the daily needs of the cottages,” Mike says. “We just kept putting the summer lodging income back into improving the cottages and amenities for guests. We are proud to say that we’ve had between 35–40 percent of guests returning here year after year, for more than 25 years. Really, it’s the charm of this place and returning to the past that brings people back.”
Wayfarer Lodgings History
The main house on the current Wayfarer Lodgings’ property was built in 1914 by a local politician for $4,300. At the time, it was the most expensive house built in Benzie County. Legend has it that the house was purchased a few years later by a ferry boat captain by the name of Benson. Seeing a business opportunity, Captain Benson began building little guest cabins for the passengers that he transported by ferry boat starting around 1920 or 1921. Six cabins became regular lodging locations for summer visitors to the area. Guest rooms were very rare in those days so the guest cottages were highly sought after. Around 1942, Captain Benson built four more cabins. In the autumn of 1994, Mike and Iris Jones bought Wayfarer Motel, as it was called at the time. Today, Wayfarer Lodgings is the name of the 100-year-old vacation destination.
Each year, guests at The Wayfarer discover its charm. Among the regular guests are a National Geographic photographer and his wife, as well as the renowned Indiana painter Douglas David who stays during his summer sessions at Elizabeth Lane Oliver Center for the Arts in Frankfort.
Wayfarer Lodgings is located in the quaint village of Elberta. There are many outdoor recreational experiences nearby, including hiking on miles of wooded and dune trails, great golfing in nearby Beulah and Crystal Mountain, fishing on the Betsie River, biking on the 22-mile Betsie Valley Trail and numerous other trails, a dune climb at Elberta Beach and bird watching right on The Wayfarer’s property. Just a short walk through Wayfarer Lodgings’ meadow, a woodland path and down several stairs, explorers will find a beautiful stretch of secluded Lake Michigan beach, too.
Wayfarer Lodgings operates from May through October each year with website booking at wayfarerlodgings.com.
Press Release provided by Make it Benzie