Betsie Bay has shaped the history and economy of Frankfort and Benzie County as one of the best natural harbors on Lake Michigan. The bay provides access to the “big lake” and shelter from its storms and also permits access to the interior via the Betsie River.
This harbor was the gateway for newcomers to Frankfort and Benzie County long before roads or railroads found their way here. During the logging era of the latter 1800’s, sawmills constructed on the banks of the bay loaded ships with lumber bound for ports on the Great Lakes. Commercial fishing fleets operated out of Frankfort from docks located along the bay. Excursion and passenger boats brought summer resorters here to disembark at docks in the harbor. The Ann Arbor railroad bee-lined here from Toledo for the specific purpose of ferrying railroad cars across Lake Michigan. Betsie Bay Harbor was home port for the railroad’s carferry fleet for the next 90 years.
Today where schooners once loaded lumber and fish tugs docked with their catch, marinas welcome sports fishermen and pleasure craft.