September 16, 2021

Suttons Bay

A Harbor Towns Special
By Rachel Pasche | July 3, 2021

Rock-strewn coasts and windswept beaches rightfully claim much of the fame for our corner of Lower Michigan’s vast shoreline. But amid the miles of Petoskey stones and golden sand, there blooms an idyllic series of civilizations, tiny harbor towns that offer shelter from Lake Michigan’s occasional storms and a much-needed escape from the usual landlocked 9-to-5 grind. Whether you’re a landlubber on a daylong escape or a boater on a weekend tour, most any one of the region’s lake- and bayside hamlets are worth setting your engine to idle and exploring. Here, a tour of one of our favorites, Suttons Bay.

Sitting just north of Traverse City is Suttons Bay, a quaint waterfront village bursting with local charm and idyllic scenery. Several beaches, warm bay waters, and acres of surrounding orchards make this place a true paradise from spring until fall. The downtown is full of local boutiques, restaurants, and even a vintage movie theater the community saved from closure. Whether meandering along the main drag — St. Joseph Street — exploring the shops and art galleries, dining at a local eatery, or paddle-boarding on the calm azure bay is your ideal way to spend a day, you’re certain to enjoy the relaxed pace of life in this bucolic town. 

Stay
To really immerse yourself in the rustic lifestyle up north, Century Farm Cottages offers a stay on an old farm in adorable refurbished wood cabins. centuryfarmcottages.com

Wild Cherry RV Resort is a dreamy getaway for all RV owners, with acres of land and surrounding forests, proximity to several local wineries, and even a small lake on-premises. www.wildcherryresort.com

For an upscale experience in Northern Michigan wine country, the Black Star Inn allows visitors to stay nestled beneath a hillside of vines and boasts stunning pastoral views. Your stay here includes gourmet breakfast and a bottle of wine, as well as a nightly hospitality hour. www.blackstarfarms.com/inn

Musts for Your Mouth
While there is no shortage of restaurants in Suttons Bay, there are a few iconic places that dish out memorable meals and experiences.

Wren, located in the old fire station, offers an intimate but never stuffy fine dining experience with a rotating menu based on locally sourced ingredients and chef Adam McMarlin’s superhero ingenuity. www.wrensuttonsbay.com

A Massive Mary on the rooftop deck of Boone’s Primetime Pub is a must-try, especially after a long day of boating or beaching. It’ll cost $17, but it’s basically a full meal and a drink — and it comes with a beer chaser. boonesprimetimepub.com

Sitting on the blooming, sun-dappled garden patio at Martha’s Leelanau Table feels (and tastes) like a getaway to an everything-from-scratch European bistro and, accordingly, the wine menu is wonderfully expansive. marthasleelanautable.com

Don’t Leave Town Without …
Belling up to the bonfires with a beer and Smores kit at Hop Lot Brewing Co., where you’ll feel like you’re glamping in the woods while your kids toss a football or play with any number of yard games within sight but slightly out of earshot. hoplotbrewing.com

Renting a bike and rolling a paved, flat 17 miles from Suttons Bay to Traverse City is a splendid way to spend a morning. Too pooped to pedal back? You and your bike can catch a ride on the BATA bus. Search Leelanau Trail at www.traversetrails.org and check out the Bike-n-Ride stops on Route 10: www.bata.net

Strolling through Bayside Gallery, a whimsical and endearing local shop bursting to the sidewalk with garden décor and more. www.baysidegallery.net 

Taking in the spectacular forest and bay views while sipping hard cider on the deck of Suttons Bay Ciders (just south of town). www.suttonsbayciders.com

Opening wide for a generous scoop of Grandma Lin’s Ice Cream, located next to Roman Wheel Pizza. You’ll feel like you’re back in the olden days, and Grandma herself will probably be there serving you.  

Dock It
The Suttons Bay Public Marina features 40 transient slips, as well as a bathhouse, wifi, super close access to the best beach in town with a playground and picnic areas, gasoline, pump-out services, water, electricity, a dog run, and walking distance to the entirety of downtown. Search “Suttons Bay Harbor” at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Want more?
Click to read about three other harbor towns highlighted this issue: Petoskey, Northport, and Charlevoix.

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