The River Cottage Guidebook

Aaron
The River Cottage Guidebook

Great Local Beaches

Welcome to the water wonderland! Our beaches are what summer was made for. Grab the beach chairs and umbrella at the cottage, fill the cooler and spend some time with your feet in the sand!
2.5 miles from the cottage at the end of Lake Michigan Rd. Parking is free with a National Park Pass, or $5 in the small township-owned Parking lot. Public restrooms, picnic tables, and grills are available as well as a public boat launch. This is where the Platte River flows into Lake Michigan. Enjoy the end of the warm, lazy river as well as the waves and majestic views of the "Big Lake". We recommend going early in the day, as parking is limited.
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Platte River Point
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2.5 miles from the cottage at the end of Lake Michigan Rd. Parking is free with a National Park Pass, or $5 in the small township-owned Parking lot. Public restrooms, picnic tables, and grills are available as well as a public boat launch. This is where the Platte River flows into Lake Michigan. Enjoy the end of the warm, lazy river as well as the waves and majestic views of the "Big Lake". We recommend going early in the day, as parking is limited.
2.7 miles from the cottage at the end of Peterson Rd. Parking is free with a National Park Pass. The beach is a short walk through the dunes over a boardwalk. A National Park Service outhouse is available to the public. A more rustic beach experience, but usually less crowded.
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Peterson Beach Sleeping Bear Recreation Area
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2.7 miles from the cottage at the end of Peterson Rd. Parking is free with a National Park Pass. The beach is a short walk through the dunes over a boardwalk. A National Park Service outhouse is available to the public. A more rustic beach experience, but usually less crowded.
12 miles from the cottage in the town of Frankfort. Parking is free in town. Public restrooms (both plumbed and port-a-potties), benches, and swing sets are available. The highlight of Frankfort beach is the pier and lighthouse that visitors can walk out to. Stroll downtown from the beach to grab a to-go lunch, ice cream, beer at Stormcloud Brewing, or snowcones! We recommend the beach to the right of the pier, rather than the area within the breakwater.
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Frankfort Public Beach And Playground
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12 miles from the cottage in the town of Frankfort. Parking is free in town. Public restrooms (both plumbed and port-a-potties), benches, and swing sets are available. The highlight of Frankfort beach is the pier and lighthouse that visitors can walk out to. Stroll downtown from the beach to grab a to-go lunch, ice cream, beer at Stormcloud Brewing, or snowcones! We recommend the beach to the right of the pier, rather than the area within the breakwater.
8 miles from the cottage in the town of Beulah. This small public beach is located on Crystal Lake in the heart of the little town of Beulah. Public Parking is free. Public restrooms, beach showers for a quick after swim rinse off, picnic tables, and play structures are available as well as a public boat launch. Stroll a few steps downtown from the beach to grab a to-go lunch, ice cream, or a beer at Five Shores Brewing.
Beulah Beach
8 miles from the cottage in the town of Beulah. This small public beach is located on Crystal Lake in the heart of the little town of Beulah. Public Parking is free. Public restrooms, beach showers for a quick after swim rinse off, picnic tables, and play structures are available as well as a public boat launch. Stroll a few steps downtown from the beach to grab a to-go lunch, ice cream, or a beer at Five Shores Brewing.
13 miles from the cottage at North Bar Lake near Empire, Michigan. This is our family favorite. Parking is free with a National Park Pass. The beach is a short walk from the parking lot (watch out for poison ivy). A National Park Service outhouse is available to the public. This is the most unique beach around with a small inland lake directly adjacent to Lake Michigan. Bar Lake is warm and sandy. Most years there is a small rivulet that flows between Bar Lake and Lake Michigan. This beach is an absolute stunner. If you only go to one beach, this is the one!
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North Bar Lake
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13 miles from the cottage at North Bar Lake near Empire, Michigan. This is our family favorite. Parking is free with a National Park Pass. The beach is a short walk from the parking lot (watch out for poison ivy). A National Park Service outhouse is available to the public. This is the most unique beach around with a small inland lake directly adjacent to Lake Michigan. Bar Lake is warm and sandy. Most years there is a small rivulet that flows between Bar Lake and Lake Michigan. This beach is an absolute stunner. If you only go to one beach, this is the one!

Towns

Each of these little towns is unique and has its own summer holiday vibe. All provide wonderful shopping, dining, and sightseeing opportunities as well as groceries and any other necessities for your stay close by. Each town also boasts at least one public beach!
8 miles from the cottage. This is a small, quiet little town. Highlights include our closest coffee shop Ursa Major Bistro. L'Chayim Delicatessen has great take-out sandwiches. Five Shores Brewing just opened in 2020 with great beer, creative food, and live music “Campfire Songs” on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9 pm. The Cherry Hut just outside of town has the best cherry pie around (and we’ve tried them all!)
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Beulah
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8 miles from the cottage. This is a small, quiet little town. Highlights include our closest coffee shop Ursa Major Bistro. L'Chayim Delicatessen has great take-out sandwiches. Five Shores Brewing just opened in 2020 with great beer, creative food, and live music “Campfire Songs” on Fridays and Saturdays from 6-9 pm. The Cherry Hut just outside of town has the best cherry pie around (and we’ve tried them all!)
12 miles from the cottage. Highlights include The Crescent Bakery for fantastic donuts and coffee as well as other baked goods and breakfast items. Stormcloud Brewing for award-winning beer, and great food. The Cool Spot is our favorite for ice cream! There are also lots of great little shops with everything from t-shirts to furniture. This is a fun place to wander around for a few hours and grab lunch or dinner. There is a park with a big playground in town for the kids, as well as the pier and lighthouse at the beach.
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Frankfort
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12 miles from the cottage. Highlights include The Crescent Bakery for fantastic donuts and coffee as well as other baked goods and breakfast items. Stormcloud Brewing for award-winning beer, and great food. The Cool Spot is our favorite for ice cream! There are also lots of great little shops with everything from t-shirts to furniture. This is a fun place to wander around for a few hours and grab lunch or dinner. There is a park with a big playground in town for the kids, as well as the pier and lighthouse at the beach.
18 miles from the cottage. Highlights include the original Cherry Republic selling everything cherry from wine to candy, to cherry wood bowls. The M-22 Store is where you can stock up on the latest Northern Michigan must-have apparel, or enjoy a wine flight exclusively blended for M-22 by Black Star Farms. There are lots of shops to wander through and browse. Some great casual dining restaurants we like in town are Art’s Tavern, Good Harbor Grill, and Boone Docks.
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Glen Arbor
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18 miles from the cottage. Highlights include the original Cherry Republic selling everything cherry from wine to candy, to cherry wood bowls. The M-22 Store is where you can stock up on the latest Northern Michigan must-have apparel, or enjoy a wine flight exclusively blended for M-22 by Black Star Farms. There are lots of shops to wander through and browse. Some great casual dining restaurants we like in town are Art’s Tavern, Good Harbor Grill, and Boone Docks.
35 miles from the cottage. Leland is a bit of a drive, but the drive itself is beautiful. This is a little bit larger town with lots of shops and restaurants and historic Fishtown, which offers a truly unique look into the history of northern Michigan lakefront towns.
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Leland
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35 miles from the cottage. Leland is a bit of a drive, but the drive itself is beautiful. This is a little bit larger town with lots of shops and restaurants and historic Fishtown, which offers a truly unique look into the history of northern Michigan lakefront towns.

Great Food

Our closest coffee shop! Beulah
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Ursa Major Bistro (formerly Blue C Cafe)
245 S Benzie Blvd
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Our closest coffee shop! Beulah
A great place for breakfast or lunch. Two locations! Beulah and Frankfort
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L' Chayim Delicatessen
274 S Benzie Blvd
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A great place for breakfast or lunch. Two locations! Beulah and Frankfort
Just outside Beulah. They have the best cherry pie around (and we've tried them all!)
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The Cherry Hut
211 North Michigan Avenue
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Just outside Beulah. They have the best cherry pie around (and we've tried them all!)
Fantastic donuts and coffee as well as other baked goods and breakfast items. Frankfort
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Crescent Bakery and Cafe
404 Main Street
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Fantastic donuts and coffee as well as other baked goods and breakfast items. Frankfort
Award-winning beer and great food. They usually have live music on the weekends. Frankfort
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Stormcloud Brewing Company
303 Main Street
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Award-winning beer and great food. They usually have live music on the weekends. Frankfort
Our favorite for ice cream! Frankfort
The Cool Spot
306 Main St
Our favorite for ice cream! Frankfort
Casual dining with good burgers. Glen Arbor
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Art's Tavern
6487 West Western Avenue
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Casual dining with good burgers. Glen Arbor
A small little place with fantastic food. Glen Arbor
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Good Harbor Grill
6584 Western Ave
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A small little place with fantastic food. Glen Arbor
A family favorite! Call ahead to order sandwiches otherwise, the wait can be very long. Tip: if you are buying something other than sandwiches, don't wait in line, just grab it and take it to the counter! Historic Fishtown in Leland
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Village Cheese Shanty
199 West River Street
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A family favorite! Call ahead to order sandwiches otherwise, the wait can be very long. Tip: if you are buying something other than sandwiches, don't wait in line, just grab it and take it to the counter! Historic Fishtown in Leland
Just opened in 2020! They have great beer, creative food, and live music "Campfire Songs" Friday and Saturday night from 6-9pm! Beulah
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Five Shores Brewing
163 South Benzie Boulevard
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Just opened in 2020! They have great beer, creative food, and live music "Campfire Songs" Friday and Saturday night from 6-9pm! Beulah
Great casual dining with a view of the bay! Frankfort
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Birch & Maple
727 Main St
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Great casual dining with a view of the bay! Frankfort

Other fun local attractions...

Opened in 1953 and is one of the last drive-ins around. They always show family-friendly double-features starting at “dusk”.
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Cherry Bowl Drive-In Theatre
9812 Honor Highway
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Opened in 1953 and is one of the last drive-ins around. They always show family-friendly double-features starting at “dusk”.
Just downstream! Wander on down in the evening for ice cream around the campfire. They have a cute little “up north” store with souvenirs, some basic groceries, and a snack bar with food service. They specialize primarily in boat, kayak, and tube rentals to make the trip from the cottage down to Lake Michigan Beach. They have several different trips that last varying lengths of time. They’ll be happy to tell you all about it!
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Riverside Canoe Trips
5042 North Scenic Highway
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Just downstream! Wander on down in the evening for ice cream around the campfire. They have a cute little “up north” store with souvenirs, some basic groceries, and a snack bar with food service. They specialize primarily in boat, kayak, and tube rentals to make the trip from the cottage down to Lake Michigan Beach. They have several different trips that last varying lengths of time. They’ll be happy to tell you all about it!
Located just north of Frankfort the lighthouse is a step back in time. The original 1858 lighthouse, keeper’s residence, fog signal building, and Boathouse Museum are open to the public. The beach at the lighthouse is a family favorite for rock collecting (the pebbles in the fireplace are from Point Betsie).
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Point Betsie Lighthouse
3701 Point Betsie Road
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Located just north of Frankfort the lighthouse is a step back in time. The original 1858 lighthouse, keeper’s residence, fog signal building, and Boathouse Museum are open to the public. The beach at the lighthouse is a family favorite for rock collecting (the pebbles in the fireplace are from Point Betsie).
This is a must! Located 5 miles north of the town of Empire, there is nothing else like it in the world. While the climb may be strenuous, the run back down is a blast! A National Park Pass is required. We recommend going either on a cloudy day or early in the day. The sand gets hot!
Dune Climb
This is a must! Located 5 miles north of the town of Empire, there is nothing else like it in the world. While the climb may be strenuous, the run back down is a blast! A National Park Pass is required. We recommend going either on a cloudy day or early in the day. The sand gets hot!
A fully renovated historic small-town theater in downtown Frankfort.
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The Garden Theater
301 Main Street
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A fully renovated historic small-town theater in downtown Frankfort.

Our favorite places for unique souvenirs...

Bring a little bit of northern Michigan home with you! These are some of our favorite stops.
A place near and dear to our hearts! Great t-shirts, sweatshirts, and wine!
M22 Glen Arbor
Western Ave West Western Avenue
A place near and dear to our hearts! Great t-shirts, sweatshirts, and wine!
The original location! They sell everything cherry - from wine to candy to cherry wood bowls.
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Cherry Republic | Glen Arbor
6026 South Lake Street
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The original location! They sell everything cherry - from wine to candy to cherry wood bowls.
The studio of a famous local artist, Gwen Frostic. Recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places, the building itself is amazing. Witness old-fashioned working printing presses creating prints from woodblocks carved by Gwen Frostic during her lifetime. You can even bring a few prints home for yourself! This is a fantastic place to go if it rains. Search it on Google under "Gwen Frostic Studio" to view their website (the Airbnb app can't find it for some reason).
5140 River St
5140 River Street
The studio of a famous local artist, Gwen Frostic. Recently added to the National Registry of Historic Places, the building itself is amazing. Witness old-fashioned working printing presses creating prints from woodblocks carved by Gwen Frostic during her lifetime. You can even bring a few prints home for yourself! This is a fantastic place to go if it rains. Search it on Google under "Gwen Frostic Studio" to view their website (the Airbnb app can't find it for some reason).

Hiking, Biking, and More!!

A great place to start planning your hiking and biking adventures is by visiting with some National Park Rangers. They know the area inside and out and are so happy to help you enjoy the natural wonders that collectively make up Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We recommend starting either at the Platte River Campground just up the street, or at the Philip A. Hart Visitor’s Center in Empire. Most of the sights around (including many beaches) require a National Park Pass which costs around $25 for the week, so pick one up while you’re there. The Rangers know everything there is to do and see relative to nature in the area, from the big attractions to little out-of-the-way local hikes. There are hiking and biking trails, rivers and lakes, and tours of historical sites all over the area. If you tell them your interests, they are sure to point you in the right direction.
A great way to plan your visit to the natural wonders nearby is by visiting with some National Park Rangers. They know the area inside and out and are so happy to help you enjoy the natural wonders that collectively make up Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A little time in the visitors center will be time well spent.
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Philip A. Hart Visitors Center
9922 W Front St
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A great way to plan your visit to the natural wonders nearby is by visiting with some National Park Rangers. They know the area inside and out and are so happy to help you enjoy the natural wonders that collectively make up Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A little time in the visitors center will be time well spent.
Our closest local trail. It consists of two loops, each about 2.5 miles long. The loops lead to a beach at Lake Michigan and back. A pleasant, easy hike.
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Old Indian Trail Sleeping Bear Dunes
4349 N Scenic Hwy
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Our closest local trail. It consists of two loops, each about 2.5 miles long. The loops lead to a beach at Lake Michigan and back. A pleasant, easy hike.
A 1.5-mile roundtrip hike near Empire. The trail ends at a scenic overlook of Lake Michigan. This is a great spot for family photos on a sunny day!
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Empire Bluff Trailhead
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A 1.5-mile roundtrip hike near Empire. The trail ends at a scenic overlook of Lake Michigan. This is a great spot for family photos on a sunny day!
A great way to get to many of the places within the Lakeshore, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail planned to span 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at County Road 651 to the Leelanau/Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. Currently the trail runs almost 22 miles between Empire and Bohemia Road, connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Most of the trail is asphalt, but a 3-mile section which goes through the Port Oneida Rural Historic District north of Glen Arbor is crushed stone.
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Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
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A great way to get to many of the places within the Lakeshore, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail planned to span 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at County Road 651 to the Leelanau/Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. Currently the trail runs almost 22 miles between Empire and Bohemia Road, connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Most of the trail is asphalt, but a 3-mile section which goes through the Port Oneida Rural Historic District north of Glen Arbor is crushed stone.
This short hike (about 3 miles if you leave from the trailhead on Norconk Rd.) has a little of everything that makes Sleeping Bear Dunes such a great place to visit. There is a walk through a nice hardwood forest, 2 historic homesteads to explore and a dune to climb with a scenic panorama of Lake Michigan. History buffs love this one!
Treat Farm Trail
6748 S Dune Hwy
This short hike (about 3 miles if you leave from the trailhead on Norconk Rd.) has a little of everything that makes Sleeping Bear Dunes such a great place to visit. There is a walk through a nice hardwood forest, 2 historic homesteads to explore and a dune to climb with a scenic panorama of Lake Michigan. History buffs love this one!

Golf Courses

Located 36 miles from the cottage the views from this course are absolutely breathtaking. There are multiple dining options in the clubhouse. We especially love being there in the evening when the bagpiper "pipes the sun down" on the back lawn at sunset. It's a summer tradition for our family!
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Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club
14710 Northwood Hwy
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Located 36 miles from the cottage the views from this course are absolutely breathtaking. There are multiple dining options in the clubhouse. We especially love being there in the evening when the bagpiper "pipes the sun down" on the back lawn at sunset. It's a summer tradition for our family!
The two courses, Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley are distinctly different, but both have been awarded a 4 star rating from golf digest magazine. The kids love the riding the ski lift up to the top of the mountain then, riding the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide down. It's a 1,700 foot long curved sled track set up to "sled" down the ski mountain in the summer.
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Crystal Mountain (Michigan)
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The two courses, Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley are distinctly different, but both have been awarded a 4 star rating from golf digest magazine. The kids love the riding the ski lift up to the top of the mountain then, riding the Crystal Coaster Alpine Slide down. It's a 1,700 foot long curved sled track set up to "sled" down the ski mountain in the summer.
A peaceful but exciting golf course, it's Arnold Palmer's parkland-style classic. Its 8th hole was chosen by Palmer as one of his best Par 5's.
Manitou Passage Golf Club
4600 South Club Drive
A peaceful but exciting golf course, it's Arnold Palmer's parkland-style classic. Its 8th hole was chosen by Palmer as one of his best Par 5's.