The not-too-far-away getaway: New Buffalo, Mich.

New Buffalo, Michigan is approximately 75 miles from the center of Chicago, but it feels like a world away when you’re wiggling your toes in the sand along the shore of Lake Michigan.

It’s a wonderful destination when you need a getaway but schedule, finances and responsibilities make it hard to get too far away. Here’s our guide to a wonderful trip to New Buffalo.

Where to stay

I confess that until a recent trip, I had never stayed overnight. And now I see that I’ve been making a big mistake, because spending even just one night changes the experience from a fun day trip to a true vacation. The relaxation level for the whole day went way up when I knew I didn’t have to contend with traffic back into the city that same night.

We stayed at the Marina Grand Resort. I loved it for the location that was within easy walking distance of the beach and restaurants and for the view from the rooftop patio. My daughter loved it for the hot tub and because they have a 24-hour Ben & Jerry’s hotline which they will deliver to your door. I had promised ice cream earlier in the day but we were full after dinner. We headed back to the hotel and instead of heading back out again, we let our fingers do the walking to a pint of Cherry Garcia.

Best of all, though, was the fact that my daughter and I could watch the sunset over the marina from our balcony, then take a dip in the hot tub and return to our room to flip on the fireplace and simply relax. It was divine. The Marina Grand is a sister property to the Harbor Grand, which is just down the street and a wee bit closer to the beach. Marina Grand has suites that can fit up to eight.

What to do

The obvious answer is hit the beach. If you are staying over, check and see what your hotel offers before you pack everything. The Harbor Grand and Marina Grand provide complimentary beach towels and sand chairs at the front desk.

And how you get to the beach is a matter of preference. From the hotel we could walk, but they also have classic beach cruiser bikes (only two wheelers) that guests can borrow.

There are a lot of beach options. The New Buffalo Lakefront Park and Beach fill up on weekends. Also consider Warren State Park a few miles north where you’ll find three miles of shoreline.

If you’re up for hiking, Warren Dunes has six miles of hiking trails and a dune 260 feet high, ripe for the climbing, or consider heading to Galien River County Park where you can follow the Canopy Walkway to a 60-foot-high marsh overlook tower and a marsh boardwalk which leads to a river viewing and fishing platform. Other families love to kayak or stand-up paddle board down Galien River, and Third Coast Paddling can help make that happen.

There are several places to pick your own fruit. Or check out the New Buffalo Farmers Market on Thursday evenings and Skip’s Open Air European Farmers Market on Saturday and Sundays.

Where to eat

There are some old favorites that are absolute musts for returning visitors. Redamak’s has been making burgers for 41 years and they aren’t kidding with the tagline “Come bite into a legend.” My daughter loves it there and will wax rhapsodic about their curly fries. We went on her birthday last year and while they don’t do cake, they put a candle in her burger bun and she was delighted.

If you’re on a girls’ weekend or a romantic getaway, the rooftop deck of the Stray Dog is only for those over 21 years old and a very short walk from New Buffalo Beach. Downstairs is open to all and lots of fun for all ages. If you have a dog lover in your family, you’ll love the décor. There are tons of photos of adorable dogs.

If you love Italian food (and/or have a noodle-crazy kiddo), an expansion and refurbishment of the Terrace Room at the Harbor Grand is almost complete. Outdoor dining on the waterfront terrace is available and the whole restaurant, inside and out, will be completed by mid-July.

If you’re a microbrew fan, travel a few minutes north on Red Arrow Highway to Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, Michigan. There’s a restaurant offering 12 taps of house-brewed beer, including experimental ales, plus a menu of pub grub and a kids menu. There’s even a LEGO table. They also have an annex across the street that features the brews as well as meats and cheeses. They also had a food truck there, and there were several kids there when we stopped by.

Must-have treat

It wouldn’t be summer without a trip to Oinks Dutch Treat for some delicious ice cream. Get into the Pure Michigan spirit with a scoop of Macinac Island Fudge ice cream. Kids will be amazed at the 3,000 pieces of pig and ice cream memorabilia.

These are just our family favorites. Harbor Country has a lot of treasures just waiting to be discovered. Just wandering and exploring is a great way to spend a day there. What are your favorite things to do and place to see?

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