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Situated on the southwestern banks of Suttons Bay, within Grand Traverse Bay, on Lake Michigan, the Village of Suttons Bay is in Suttons Bay Township, Leelanau County, in the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan.

Suttons Bay is on the eastern side of the county, about midway between its southern and northern extents. Leo Creek flows through the southern portion of the village.

The main route through the village is M-22 (Bay Shore Drive) and M-204 (Duck Lake Road). Other routes include Center Highway, Dumas Road, and Herman Road, the latter of which forms a portion of the village's southern boundaries.

M-22 is one of only two roads in the state that have been designated as a Michigan Scenic Heritage Route, and was so designated because of its views of the water, woods, and open spaces. M-204 is a trunkline highway running across the Leelanau Peninsula between Leland and Suttons Bay.

The village of Northport is about twelve miles north, along M-22, and Traverse City is just over fifteen miles to the south. These are the only incorporated cities or villages within twenty-five miles of Suttons Bay, although the unincorporated communities of Keswick, Peshawbestown, Lake Leelanau, Omena, and Leland are within ten miles.

Suttons Bay first appears on the US census in 1900 with a population of 398. Over the years, it has experienced both increases and declines, but nothing drastic. Its population at the time of the 2020 census was 613.

Prior to its settlement by European-Americans, the area was inhabited by members of the Ottawa, Ojibwa, and Pottawatomi tribes. Now reorganized as one tribe, Native Americans have retained land in Suttons Bay Township in an area known as Peshawbestown, named for Chief Peshaba.

The current village of Suttons Bay was named for Harry Chittenden Sutton, who established a lumber camp on the bay in 1854, supplying fuel to the wood-burning steamboats that operated on the Great Lakes. Before taking its current name, the village was known as Pleasant City and Suttonsburg. Its current name was adopted to reflect the village's ties with the signature harbor on the Leelanau Peninsula. Commercial and residential development on the peninsula was concentrated in the village in the early days.

While timber was harvested, cleared lands were planted in orchards and field crops. Sawmills were another key industry in the area, one of the first established by Carr & Fox in the 1870s, and later owned by the Greilick Brothers.

Early agriculture was not specialized but, over the years it became focused on potato production. Schools closed for two weeks during the potato harvest. In time, cherries and other orchard fruits became important to the area economy and remain so today, and wine grapes became common toward the end of the 1900s.

Situated on the bay, shipping and siling have always played a significant role. Schooners were common during the 1800s, carrying lumber, cordwood, and tanbark to markets. Later, steamboats provided passenger and freight service to the village and nearby ports. As roads and railroads were developed and improved, and lumbering declined, fewer ships were needed and its ports became used more for recreational uses.

The Manistee and Northeastern Railroad established a depot at Suttons Bay around 1892, offering daily service through Suttons Bay and Northport by 1903. At that time, the main road to the community was a state road between Newaygo and Northport, passing through Suttons Bay along what is now St. Mary's Street.

Today, the surrounding township is mostly farmland, orchards, and shrub-covered fields, with cherry orchards and vineyards being the chief agricultural products.

On the eastern edge of the township, Suttons Bay has a busy downtown, particularly during the summer season, with a variety of shops and restaurants. There is a public beach behind the library and village offices, and adjacent to the municipal marina, and its 173-slip boat dock. The chief residential area of the village is west of the beach, on the other side of downtown.

This portion of our web guide focuses on the Village of Suttons Bay, highlighting the municipal government and any other governmental bodies within the village, as well as local businesses, industries, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, entertainment venues, and recreational opportunities.


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