The journey from Chicago to New Buffalo, MI takes an hour in a half in the car and $8.10 in tolls. I can’t tell you up front that it’s well worth it. We had been trying to plan this day trip to New Buffalo all summer, so I was very excited when we finally got it together and drove there last weekend. Our first stop in this new city was the beautiful beach in town. We paid for parking and tip-toed across the hot, hot sand and past the super cute landmark lighthouse to the surprisingly not crowded lakefront. The few people populating the beach lounged under umbrellas and atop towels in the sunshine, and Mike and I picked out a free spot amongst them to set up. I immediately ran into the lake to stick my feet in the water. Lake Michigan was perfectly cerulean, clear and cold.
Behind the beach, grass covered dunes loomed; the whole scene was beautiful. I walked up and down the beach while Mike lounged, it was too pretty to sit still. I wanted to jump into the water so badly but due to a (minor) surgery earlier in the week, I had to settle for wading in up to my knees. We’ll just have to come back to swim I suppose. After a while, we decided to hike up the sand dunes to the boardwalk at the top. The view was breathtaking from every angle. It almost looked like the beach from Jaws, on the East coast.
As we made our way back down to the parking lot, we decided it was time to grab some lunch. Mike dropped me off at the door at the Stray Dog Bar & Grill, just across the bridge from the beach, and went off to find parking. This proved to be a difficult task, as he didn’t join me in the restaurant for another twenty minutes. While I waited for him, I checked out their beautiful rooftop terrace, which we ultimately opted out of due to the heat. We both ordered local beers (I got Kolsch by Round Barn – yum!), and, because the Bears game was on, we decided to order buffalo shrimp and chorizo nachos. The food was fantastic and perfect for watching the football game.
We watched the first half of the game at Stray Dog and then caught the next quarter down the street at the Beer Church Brewery where we engage in some light day drinking. While half of the church was currently under renovation, it was still a lovely place to sip a craft beer and catch some football. I had the Crooked Cross Ale and Mike had the Midnight in a Perfect World, which he enjoyed so much that we left with a Crowler (2 pint can) of it. At the brewery, we met a lovely couple who gave us some great recommendations in the area to check out.
(If churches made into breweries is something that strikes your fancy, check out Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids too!)
We decided to take their advice and head to the next town over, Union Pier, to check out the St. Julian Winery. On our way back to the car, we strolled down the main drag, Whittaker Street, and stopped into some stores as we went. We really loved Whittaker House (a cute boutique with beautiful jewelry and clothing), Frolic (gorgeous jewelry and fun knick knacks), and Designed Cottage Scapes (cozy home goods).
In between stopping into the stores, we popped into David’s Delicatessen & Coffee for some caffeine. The cool cafe featured home-baked and pre-packaged snacks and a cozy backroom with a fireplace and comfy armchairs. Mike and I took the opportunity to take a breather and plan out the rest of our day.
We drove the short way from New Buffalo to Union Pier to check out the oldest winery in Michigan, St. Julian Winery. We weren’t really sure what to expect walking in, but it was a really fun experience! We decided to do a wine tasting, which was only $6 to try six of their fantastic wines (and included a St. Julian wine glass). We chose to try the dry wines, which progressed from a sparkling rose, to whites to reds and finishing with a brandy. Chris, who was our wine guide for the afternoon, was very charismatic and knowledgeable. The wines were all very good, but we especially liked the Cock of the Walk red blend, which we bought a bottle of to bring home.
Our last stop of the day was Lakeside Antiques. This multiple building antique superstore was just down the road from St. Julian Winery. It was the perfect combination of curated and rummage-worthy piles of treasures. I especially liked all of their unique art on the walls, which of course was all for sale. It was a little pricey, but it was also very fun to browse through.
As we walked out of Lakeside Antiques, it started to rain, which perfectly summed up the way we felt about leaving New Buffalo to go back to reality. This little lakeside town made for the perfect little trip from the city. It had a little bit of everything: a beautiful beach, craft beers, and fun stores. We are looking forward to visiting again!
Have you ever been to New Buffalo, MI? What are your favorite attractions there?