6 Things to Do in New Buffalo, Michigan During a Weekend Getaway
Raise your hand if your day to day life is crazy. Work is hectic, you always seem to be stuck in traffic, and you never have a moment to relax. During the week, you are so go, go, go that by the weekend, you’re in desperate need of a break. If you live in the Midwest or are just passing through, I highly recommend taking that breather in New Buffalo, Michigan. As a quaint little resort town on Lake Michigan, it’s only a 1 hour, 20 min drive from downtown Chicago, but it feels like a world away. Time not only slows down because of the laid back small-town vibe, but you’ll see signs everywhere that the town runs on “Michigan Time,” which is basically just the Eastern Time Zone since New Buffalo lies right on the time zone border. From Chicago, that means an extra hour of sunlight every night! Perfect for long sunsets and cocktails late into the evening. Filled with spas, shopping on both Main Street and the nearby outlet mall, plus all the ice cream, beach time and hiking you could desire, it’s is the perfect vacay spot to unwind from life. Even if just for a weekend, and you’ll find countless things to do near New Buffalo, MI
Stay at the Lake Country Inn
If you’re visiting a small, Midwestern town like New Buffalo, Michigan, you HAVE to stay at a bed and breakfast. B&Bs are a staple of the Midwest and provide a much more unique and personalized lodging experience than a hotel or even an Air BNB. Lake Country Inn is by far the best option in town; the location is PERFECTION! Located off a quiet side street, you won’t be awakened throughout the night by people wandering by, despite being still only a block or two from the main street, and only about a three block trek to the beach! The Lake Country Inn is run by the wonderfully charismatic Dolly, who will make you feel like she’s opening up her own home to you. She is the kindest, most hands-on lodging owner we’ve ever met. She even makes breakfast every morning from scratch for her guests serving delicious bites such as sausage and biscuit sandwiches, egg frittata and fresh Caprese salad with pesto. Grabbing a plate and a fresh cup of coffee and relaxing in a rocking chair on the outdoor backyard deck is the most zen way to spend your morning.
Hit New Buffalo Beach at Sunset
One of the main attractions of New Buffalo, Michigan is New Buffalo Beach, where you can easily spend a whole day getting your tan on and enjoying the cool, freshwater of Lake Michigan. However, make sure you make your way back at sunset as well. New Buffalo’s location in Michigan means that the sun goes down over the lake, providing stunning colors dancing across the sky and amazing reflections off the water. With boardwalk trails that wind up and around the sand dunes towards the lake waves, you can get a great view of the sunset from any angle.
Where to Eat: The Stray Dog New Buffalo
If you could only pick one restaurant to eat at in New Buffalo, The Stray Dog will be the most common recommendation among locals and nearby lake house owners. This classic eatery near the water is so much of a New Buffalo institution. So many people sport the restaurant’s logo on hoodies and t-shirts around town that you’ll feel like you’re in a living advertisement. The beach vibe of the white wood building, and the wide selection of seafood (order the Cod Sandwich: best thing on the menu) and fun cocktails will make you feel like you’ve been transported out of the Midwest. The rooftop deck for adults only is also perfect for warm summer evenings.
“Pig Out” at Oink’s Dutch Treat
I’m ALL ABOUT ice cream on vacation. I order it wherever I go, no matter what city or country I’m in. It’s the perfect sweet treat that my stomach ALWAYS has room for. Oink’s Dutch Treat is the summertime staple of New Buffalo, Michigan and after over 30 years of service, is one of the most well-known ice cream spots in the whole state. Serving over 50 rotating flavors of ice cream made in the Midwest, you can try a different flavor every day of your vacation…or after every single meal if you’re really dedicated. I’m typically a Birthday Cake or Cookie Dough ice cream kind of girl but on this trip, I went all in on Black Raspberry ice cream with thick fudge swirled throughout. I’m drooling just thinking about it. You can also take home an assortment of fudge and candy which makes any road trip drive SO MUCH BETTER.
New Buffalo Activities
We traveled to New Buffalo with no definitive plans: something I rarely do. I’m usually an over-planner when it comes to traveling but for this long weekend, I embraced the idea of just showing up in town and figuring it out day by day. With this in mind, we found so many things to do in New Buffalo and in the towns nearby. All were a short drive and didn’t require us to commit our whole day to doing one thing.
Our first stop was Captain Mike’s Fun Park. I grew up playing mini-golf all the time with my family which has made me pretty skilled on a put-put course. I never shy away from honing my “super useful” mini-golf talents whenever possible. This small, cash-only fun park is a short drive from New Buffalo and is the perfect way to reconnect with your inner child. Not only is there an 18-hole mini golf course, but also go-cart racing, an arcade, and BUMPER BOATS (my childhood favorite). It’s inexpensive down-home fun, perfect to kill a few hours in the afternoon.
As you drive through Michigan’s Harbor Country, you’ll also no doubt pass a lot of fruit stands along the side of the road. The Local Harvest Michigan Fruit Stand caught our eye and we made a pit stop for fresh picked Michigan berries (blueberries are a staple of the area) and homemade fruit cider. This is also the perfect stop to grab fresh produce for an evening of grilling and cooking if you’ve chosen to stay in a lake house or Air BNB in the area. Fresh Michigan sweet corn on the grill? YES PLEASE.
Sailing is another popular activity in New Buffalo, Michigan. Although we didn’t have the chance try it, I’d love to go back to book an afternoon or sunset cruise on a small sailboat. Captain Steve, with New Buffalo Sailing Excursions, is the guy to call (maybe he knows Captain Mike?). The prices are incredibly reasonable and you can really say you’ve checked off your Lake Michigan beach town bucket list with the experience.
New Buffalo is also perfect for the outdoorsy folks. The amount of dunes near New Buffalo, Michigan is kind of unprecedented, which means you have access to A LOT of hiking trails. Whether you want to visit the nearby Warren Dunes State Park or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore further north along the Michigan coast, there are so many options to get out in nature and explore. There’s also a newly designated National Park near New Buffalo! Indiana Dunes was honored the distinction in February 2019 which means you can drive for only 30 minutes in order to hike one of the 61 National Parks!
Head to Nearby Sawyer for a Beer
New Buffalo is part of what’s known as Harbor Country, Michigan, which is formed by the many small lakeside towns along the coast in the southwest region of the state. Therefore, it’s super easy to get in your car and hop from town to town for different shops and eateries each day. One of the most unique nearby towns that also seems to be one of the most different from New Buffalo is Sawyer, Michigan. About 15 minutes north, Sawyer is New Buffalo’s cool, hipster brother. Although the town is small, one of the biggest draws is Green Bush Brewery, which sells beer that is common across the Midwest and in Chicago bars. The brewery is made up of multiple buildings including a taproom with outdoor seating, and the Annex which not only serves a whole bunch of beer but some of the best BBQ in the area as well.
New Buffalo, Michigan had so many things to do and proved to be the perfect weekend getaway where we didn’t have to plan ahead, and were instead able to block out our schedules for some R&R. The amount of activities near town is endless but it’s so easy to tailor your trip to what relaxation means to you. We honestly spent one afternoon just driving the roads right along Lake Michigan to check out all the massive mansions and luxury houses that many wealthy Chicagoans own as their vacation homes. With delicious eats and the most perfect sunsets, you’ll feel the urge to travel back to New Buffalo again and again.