10 Things We Love About New Buffalo, Michigan

After a long few days at the office, a weekend getaway can be the perfect way to relax and recharge. It’s no wonder so many Chicagoans flock to quiet waterfront locales in Wisconsin and Michigan to experience the wonderment and rejuvenation that these places have to offer. One destination of note is New Buffalo, Michigan, a town of just under 2,000 people along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Think dramatic sunsets, wineries, and long days at the beach. Now add the fact that it’s within easy driving distance from Chicago, and the allure of New Buffalo only becomes more enticing. So enticing that it may be hard to imagine not returning on a regular basis…or perhaps calling it home year-round.

Whether you’re a planner or someone who likes to experience new things off the cuff, there’s plenty to see and do in New Buffalo. Just don’t forget the beach towel and sunscreen.

It’s a quick drive to and from Chicago

New Buffalo is just a 90-minute drive from downtown Chicago, making it a relatively short and sweet journey there and back. A weekend, or even single-day trip, is not out of the equation — though Chicago’s rush hour traffic could tack on some more time, so plan accordingly. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on podcasts or play a movie for passengers, and before you know it, you’ve made it to your destination.

You get an extra hour of sunlight

It may not initially seem like a big deal, but being located on the western edge of the Eastern Standard Time zone makes a huge difference. You’ll get an extra hour of sunlight, which means that you’ll get much more out of your days. There’s more time at the beach soaking up rays, more time on the water, or more time simply relaxing.

Spend a day at the beach

Speaking of beach days, be sure to bring your swimsuit, towel and beach chair with you when heading out to New Buffalo. The clean, clear, and enchanting New Buffalo Beach is a popular draw, and it’s easy to understand why. The scenic view of small boats passing by with New Buffalo’s small lighthouse in the backdrop feels almost cinematic, so be sure to bring your camera too.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat)

If you happen to own a boat, or have a friend who does, New Buffalo’s public boat launch allows residents and visitors to set sail off the tranquil shore of Lake Michigan. What better way to relax than to enjoy a beautiful summer or autumn sunset on the water? There’s also a handful of fishing charters and jet ski rental businesses in town, and plenty of opportunities to take advantage of other water activities like paddle-boarding, kayaking, tubing, and wakeboarding.

Soak up small-town charm

While the population balloons during the summer months when tourists flood the Lake Michigan shoreline, at the end of the day, New Buffalo is still a quintessential small town. Bursting at the seams with midwestern charm and character, the town of 1,800 people boasts vintage buildings and small boutiques. It’s the perfect place for a cruise in a vintage convertible to get the full effect.

Get a scoop or two

Whether you’re visiting during the warmer summer months or in the winter, sometimes you just need to treat yourself to some ice cream. And why not indulge? New Buffalo lays claim to a couple of noteworthy ice cream shops including Beachside Scoops and Oink’s Dutch Treat. No matter your favorite flavor, you’ll find a plethora of delectable options at either spot.

Expand your palate at local wineries and breweries

Looking to expand your breadth of knowledge on local brews or grape varieties? Plan a visit to one or more of the many wineries in the region to brush up on wine vernacular (can you taste the terroir?), including spots like Warner Vineyards, Shady Creek Winery, Lemon Creek Winery, and Hickory Creek Winery. For freshly brewed beers, check out Beer Church Brewing, Ghost Isle Brewery, or Burn ‘Em Brewing.

A full season of summer festivals

What small midwestern town is complete without a calendar of street fairs and summer festivals? You’ll find plenty to do during the warmer months in New Buffalo. Think makers fairs, wine fests, live music, and even gatherings for boat owners. Curious about what’s coming up during your trip? Be sure to keep an eye on the city’s official list of events.

Take a hike

New Buffalo may be best known for its Lake Michigan shoreline, but the region is surrounded by nature preserves and state parks. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, bird watching, or just getting out for a quick breath of fresh air, there are numerous options for outdoor recreation, including popular destinations like Galien River County Park, Warren Woods State Park and Chikaming Township Park & Preserve in nearby Three Oaks, among others.

Explore the area’s rail history

Simply put, the Chicago area wouldn’t be what it is today without the robust network of railroads that helped transport dry goods and raw materials throughout the country. Fortunately for train and rail buffs, the New Buffalo Railroad Museum offers visitors a look into the past, when the area was known for being the largest rail yard in southwestern Michigan. And the best part? Admission is free.

Written by AJ LaTrace
AJ LaTrace is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer covering Chicago real estate, architecture, and neighborhoods. His work has been featured in Chicago magazine, Time Out Chicago, Michigan Avenue Magazine, Curbed Chicago, Block Club Chicago, and others.