The BEST things to do in New Buffalo, MI! There is something for everyone in this charming beach town along the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan!
New Buffalo is located in southwest Michigan, close to the Indiana border. This charming little town sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is just over an hour from downtown Chicago.
New Buffalo and the surrounding area offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Lake Michigan is the perfect summer beach getaway for us Midwesterners. “Unsalted and shark-free”, you could argue that visiting Lake Michigan in the summer is even better than visiting the ocean!
In this post, I will tell you the best things to do in New Buffalo (and the surrounding area, which includes Michigan City, Indiana, and Indiana Dunes National and State Parks).
Where to Stay
Looking for a place to stay? We love the New Buffalo/Michigan City area. We currently have two Airbnb rentals (4BR & 5BR) with epic game rooms. You can view our direct booking website here.
There are many other great vacation rentals in the area and a variety of hotels to choose from as well. Everything books up very quickly during the summer months, so make sure to plan ahead!
31 Awesome Things to Do in New Buffalo, Michigan & The Surrounding Area
1. Go to the Beach
We will start with the obvious one first! The main draw to the area is the beautiful Lake Michigan beaches. There are many different beaches to choose from in the area. I listed them from west to east and provided a few details about each.
(Gary, IN, $6 admission) Spacious, clean facilities, views of the Chicago skyline, gets busy, good hiking trails, popular for swimming – has lifeguard area
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk
(Portage, IN) – has an enclosed pavilion with food, drinks, and restrooms, fishing pier, handicap-accessible/stroller-friendly trails, kayak launch, kind of surrounded by factories
(Porter, IN) – long stretch of shoreline, snacks and beverages available, bathrooms, foot wash area, picnic tables, dunes to hike on
Indiana Dunes State Park Beach
(Chesterton, IN) – camping available, picnic areas, showers, snack bar, 3-dune challenge hike, there is a fee to enter the state park
(Beverly Shores, IN) quieter as it is along a residential street
(Beverly Shores, IN) – between Kemil Beach and Lake View Beach, Century Progress homes can be viewed from the beach, limited parking
Lake View Beach
(Beverly Shores, IN) – great for picnics, restrooms & drinking water available
Central Avenue Beach
(Michigan City, IN) – 1/4 mile wooded trail from the parking lot, pebbly surface, shallow water is good for kids, a great place for biking and hiking
Mount Baldy Beach
(Michigan City, IN) – a bit of a steep hike to get to/from this beach, but you are right by Mount Baldy, which is the largest living dune in the area
Washington Park Beach
(Michigan City, IN) – 2 miles of beautiful beach, iconic pier and lighthouse, picnic tables, shelters, grills, lifeguards on duty, $15 parking per vehicle
New Buffalo City Beach
(New Buffalo, MI) – 800 ft of public beach, well maintained, lifeguards, concessions, restrooms, $15 parking per vehicle
Warren Dunes State Park Beach
(Sawyer, MI) – nice beach with stunning dunes, concessions, Kayak/SUP Rentals, dog-friendly, hiking, food trucks, must pay an entrance fee for the state park
Our favorite beaches to visit are Washington Park Beach, Kemil/Dunbar/Lake View Beaches (they are all basically connected), New Buffalo City Beach, and Warren Dunes State Park.
If I had to pick one favorite, I would say Warren Dunes State Park.
2. Stroll Down Whittaker Street in New Buffalo
We love to check out the shops and restaurants along Whittaker Street in downtown New Buffalo. Start where it intersects with Buffalo Drive and head north toward Lake Michigan.
Wander into the cute shops along the way as you make your way toward Oselka Marina and New Buffalo Beach at the end of the street. There are great restaurant options along this street as well.
3. Snap a Picture by the Mural
One of our favorite stops along Whittaker Street is the Michigan Mercantile building. It is a beautiful building with a stunning mural running along the entire side and backside. There is a Starbucks in the building. There is outdoor seating, as well as a farmstand back behind the building that sells fresh produce and curated goods from May to September.
4. Check a National Park Off of Your Bucket List
Indiana Dunes was authorized as a National Lakeshore in 1966. On February 15, 2019, it became the 61st U.S. National Park.
If you are a National Park junkie like us (or even if you aren’t), we would recommend a visit to Indiana Dunes National Park while you are in the area.
It can be a little bit confusing when visiting because Indiana Dunes National Park and Indiana Dunes State Park are somewhat intertwined.
Many areas within the State Park charge admission ($7 for Indiana residents, $12 for non-residents). Admission to the National Park sections is $25/car (good for one week), or you can use a National Park Pass if you have one.
Head to the Visitor Center to learn more about the history of the dunes and nature in the area. Don’t forget to snap a picture by the National Park sign!
5. Go to the Washington Park Zoo
The Washington Park Zoo is right by Washington Park Beach in Michigan City. The zoo has a nice variety of animals, and there is an observation tower with great views of Lake Michigan.
Parking is $15, but it is good for the whole day and the Zoo shares a parking lot with the park and beach.
We personally think the Washington Park Zoo is a great value – it has a lot to offer for the price compared to other zoos we have been to.
6. Visit Chellburg Farm
Chellburg Farm is part of Indiana Dunes National Park. Visit the historic farmhouse, barn, sugar shack, and garden. Feed the animals, do chores, and learn about the history of the farm!
7. Stroll Through Friendship Botanic Garden
Friendship Botanic Gardens is a peaceful oasis of gardens and wooded nature trails. Whether you are looking for a tranquil escape, family fun, or educational opportunities, there is something in the gardens for everyone. There is a new children’s play and exploration area that was recently added, as well as a health and wellness garden where you can work out alongside a creek!
8. Go Hiking
Some of our favorite hiking trails in the area:
- Dune Succession Trail – located at West Beach ($6 admission), wooden steps, Chicago skyline, great views of the dunes and Lake Michigan, probably our favorite trail in the area
- Mount Baldy Trail – living dune that moves 5-10 feet per year, must have a guided ranger tour to take the summit trail, but you can take the beach trail
- Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Trail – stroller friendly, we usually always see wildlife on this trail, the downside is it is surrounded by factories :/
- Galien River County Park – nice boardwalk trails over the marsh and river
- Warren Dunes State Park – ($10 admission) nice mix of hiking over the dunes and through the woods
- New Buffalo Beach Trails – short trails over the dunes + a new elevated boardwalk that was recently added
- Oselka Marina – we love walking around the New Buffalo Beach and marina areas
9. Take on the 3 Dunes Challenge
The 3-Dunes Challenge is only a 1.5-mile hike, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Hiking up steep sand dunes is no joke, but it is a fun challenge and you will be rewarded with great views.
The 3-Dunes Challenge consists of climbing Mt. Tom (192 feet), Mt. Holden (184 feet), and Mt. Jackson (176 feet). You will feel a sense of accomplishment after conquering this challenge!
10. Go on a Sailing Excursion
If you want to get out on the waters of Lake Michigan, check out New Buffalo Sailing Excursions. They offer different sailboat packages. What a fun and unique way to enjoy the beautiful waters of the lake.
11. Oasis Splash Park
This free splash park is located near Washington Beach and Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City. The hours of operation are kind of wonky and there are closures when the weather is bad, so make sure to check the website to make sure it will be open when you go.
12. Michigan City Lighthouse and Pier
We have been to the New Buffalo/Michigan City area many times, but the lighthouse and pier at Washington Park Beach in Michigan City never get old – we visit every time, even in the colder months as long as it is not too icy.
Beautiful and iconic Lake Michigan views! The pier is also popular for fishing if that is something that you are interested in.
13. Test Your Luck at a Casino
There are 2 large casinos in the area – Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City and Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo. In addition to gambling, both casinos have restaurants and frequent events and entertainment. Blue Chip Casino also has a spa.
14. Go Out to Eat
There are many great places to eat in the New Buffalo/Michigan City area!
Here are a few of our favorites in the area:
Stray Dog – One of our favorite restaurants in the area, we have never had a bad meal at Stray Dog in New Buffalo. The food is delicious, the service is excellent, and the ambiance is very cool! The only downside is that the rooftop is 21+, so you can’t sit up there with kids.
Beer Church Brewing Co. – Enjoy wood-fired pizza and brews at this unique dining location inside a former church in New Buffalo. They recently expanded their outdoor “beer garden”. All of the outdoor seating is 21+.
Sunset Grille – Right on Washington Park Beach in Michigan City. Great place to get drinks or a quick bite to eat. No frills, and a basic menu, but you are treated to epic views throughout your meal.
Brewster’s Italian Cafe – delicious Italian food with nice outdoor seating, usually need reservations
Bentwood Tavern – good food, dine waterfront next to the marina
See our full New Buffalo Restaurant Guide here:
15. Save Room for Dessert
Oink’s Dutch Treat – Our favorite ice cream shop in New Buffalo – make sure to go inside & check out the unique decor
Nancy’s – Nancy’s in New Buffalo is a great place to stop for a quick lunch near the beach. We love to get ice cream from here too. The strawberry shakes are really good. There is plenty of outdoor seating & a buffalo!
Twisted Frozen Yogurt – Self-serve frozen yogurt shop conveniently located on Whittaker St. in New Buffalo
Bubble’s Ice Cream Parlor & Pie Shoppe – Sweet treats with a classic diner feel in Michigan City
Cabo’s Ice Cream & Food – Spacious, bright & cheery, you can get ice cream & tacos from this delicious Michigan City establishment. What a combo!
16. View Historic Homes
The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress Homes are part of Indiana Dunes National Park. These 5 unique homes along the lakeshore were extremely modern for the time period and were built to give people hope for the future during the Great Depression.
They are tours offered a couple of times a year, but you can drive by and view them from the outside anytime. The homes are located in Porter, Indiana. Click here to learn more.
Barker Mansion is another historic home in the area, located in Michigan City, Indiana. They offer tours, lectures, and events.
17. Shop at the Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets
If you enjoy shopping, you’ll want to check out the outdoor outlet mall in Michigan City. It has more than 84 retailers, including Nike, The North Face, Coach, Michael Kors, Crocs, H&M, Under Armour, and much more!
18. Art Galleries
Browse paintings, photography, sculptures, and more, inspired by the natural beauty of the Midwest.
- New Buffalo Art Gallery is a small gallery located on Whittaker Street. It is free to visit.
- Lubeznic Center for the Arts is a small art gallery in Michigan City, Indiana with changing exhibits. Admission is free.
19. Wine Tasting Tour
Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail consists of 21 different wineries that you will find tucked along scenic farmland and orchards.
Most of the wine is locally grown, produced, and bottled. Enjoy lunch, wine tasting, and entertainment as you “winery-hop” along the trail.
20. Fishing Charter
Get out on Lake Michigan and fish for salmon, steelhead, trout, perch, and walleye.
21. Old Lighthouse Museum
Visit an original 1858 lighthouse station, learn about the Great Lakes and local history, and visit the gift shop at this historic museum in Michigan City.
Admission ranges from $2-$5 depending on age. Click here for hours and more information.
22. Rent Kayaks or Paddleboards
Multiple companies in the area offer paddleboard, kayak, and double kayak rentals. There are options to paddle down the Galien River or to paddle on Lake Michigan on a calm day.
Here are a few of the rental companies:
- Third Coast Paddling (New Buffalo Marsh, Galien River, Lake Michigan)
- Michigan Water Trails (Lake Michigan near New Buffalo Beach or Galien River)
- Outpost Sports (New Buffalo)
23. Captain Mike’s Fun Park
Captain Mike’s Fun Park is a bit further north in Bridgeman, Michigan. It is right next to Warren Dunes State Park, which is a beautiful park/beach.
Captain Mike’s has batting cages, mini-golf, water bumper boats, trampoline basketball, a game room, go-karts, bumper cars, and more!
24. Have a Lakeside Picnic
Lake View Beach is perfect for a lakeside picnic. The parking is very close to the picnic tables. There are many picnic tables available, as well as restrooms and drinking water.
Enjoy a picnic lunch while gazing out at the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan!
25. Treat Yourself at Evolve Spa
Evolve Spa is the area’s leading full-service spa, specializing in massage therapy and skincare. They offer individual massages, couple’s massages, reiki, aromatherapy, facials, tummy wraps, body scrubs, nail treatments, and more.
If you’re in pain and looking for relief or want to treat yourself or someone you love, Evolve Spa is a great option!
26. New Buffalo Railroad Museum
Located on the grounds of a former trainyard, the New Buffalo Railroad Museum is home to exhibits and collections that recall New Buffalo’s heritage as a railroad hub.
Stroll through a Chessie Box Car and Troop Pullman Sleeper Car and operate the hand-crafted model train exhibit that models what New Buffalo looked like in the early 1900s.
Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
27. Go Golfing
There are many great public and private golf courses in the New Buffalo area. Fun fact – Michigan has more private golf courses than any other state!
The Whittaker Woods (18-hole) is the most popular in the area. The only local course we have personally golfed (so far) is Grand Beach Golf Course (9-hole).
More options within 30 miles of New Buffalo:
- Beechwood Golf Course (LaPorte, IN)
- Birch Tree (New Carlisle, IN)
- Briar Leaf Golf Club (LaPorte, IN)
- Brookwood Golf, Inc. (Buchanan, MI)
- Indian Lake Hills Golf Course (Eau Claire, MI)
- Pebblewood Country Club (Bridgman, MI)
- Pipestone Creek Golf Course (Eau Clair, MI)
- Lake Michigan Hills Golf Club (Benton Harbor, MI)
- Michigan City Municipal Couse (Michigan City,IN)
- Plymouth Park Golf Course (Niles, MI)
- The Oaks (St. Joseph, MI)
- Valley Hills (Rolling Prairie, IN)
28. Bike Riding
New Buffalo has many great bike trails and routes, including some that are part of the “Backroads Bikeway“, a series of 12 self-guided tours on paved roads in the area.
The routes follow secondary roads past picturesque farmland, parks, steams, and forests throughout Berrien County.
There are some great bike trails in nearby Indiana Dunes National Park as well.
A few popular area biking events include The Apple Cider Century Tour (held on the last Sunday in September) and the Pedal Across Lower Michigan (a week-long bicycle tour that begins in New Buffalo and ends on the shores of Lake Erie).
29. Go Sledding or Cross-Country Skiing
Do not overlook visiting New Buffalo in the winter! Whittaker Street is beautiful at Christmastime.
Bundle up and take a winter hike, or go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Sledding on the dunes at New Buffalo City Beach is another fun winter activity!
30. U-Pick Farms
Southwest Michigan is well-known for its blueberries. The Lake Michigan climate makes the area perfect for growing blueberries.
There are many U-pick blueberry (as well as other fruit) farms near New Buffalo. Make sure to check the website or Facebook page of the farm you plan to visit to make sure the produce is ready for picking. \
Farms within 25 minutes of New Buffalo:
- Billy Boy’s Blueberry Barn
- Blueberries of Indiana
- Starbuck’s Blueberry Farm
- Klug Blueberries
- Lehman’s Orchard
- Dinges Fall Harvest
- Shuler Dairy Farms
- River Saint Joe
31. Hang Out with Clydesdales
Sandy Acres Clydesdale Farm is somewhat of a hidden gem in LaPorte, Indiana (about 10 minutes from New Buffalo).
Our toddlers (and us adults) had so much fun visiting the Clydesdales, donkeys, goats, and kittens at this little family-run farm.
Call or text to set up a tour. See prices and more info here.
I hope you found the perfect things to do in the city of New Buffalo and beyond!
Whether you are spending a long weekend or a week, there are so many outdoor activities and indoor attractions to check out in the area. Not to mention delicious food, dessert, & drinks.
I hope you enjoy your time visiting this charming lakeside town. Happy travels!