The community is named for one of the first settlers of European descent, Harry C. Sutton, who arrived in 1854. He arrived with a crew of woodsmen to supply fuel for passing wood steamboats.
In 1903 the Traverse City, Leelanau, and Manistique Railroad began a route between Traverse City to the South and Northport to the North, stopping at Suttons Bay, as well as Hatch's Crossing, Fountain Point, Bingham, Keswick, and Omena.
Like many other communities in northern Michigan, Suttons Bay relies heavily on tourism to generate revenues for its economy.
Activities include the Suttons Bay Jazzfest and the Suttons Bay Art Festival.
Suttons Bay also is highly embedded in the cherry industry, producing sweet and tart cherries of many varieties. Harvest operations usually take place in mid-July and run into August.
In August 2013, the community held an event to attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most kayaks and canoes rafted together. The effort followed an attempt a year earlier, which missed the record of 1902 boats set by a group near Inlet, New York in 2011.
After the arrival of European settlers, the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan was, historically, the home of a booming timber industry and fur trade. Small lumbering settlements dotted the landscape beginning in the early 1800s, and by 1900, the village of Sutton's Bay was thriving as the largest settlement in Leelanau County.
It's home to many old buildings, including stately houses built by lumber barons of the past. In particular, this house, at 11040 South Shore Drive, is one of the oldest yet most masterfully restored properties in the area.
Highly characteristic to the area, this house looks out on 900 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline, and has its own dockhouse and beach porch.