Gateway to Michigan’s Harbor Country

Gateway to Michigan’s Harbor Country

A historic downtown, eclectic shops and a trending food scene make West Michigan’s southernmost port city of New Buffalo a popular summer destination.

Discovered by Chicagoans decades ago, the once-sleepy city of New Buffalo, Michigan, now has all that a trendy destination needs: Celebrity sightings, Victorian-era buildings in the downtown housing artisan home goods, contemporary clothing and modern American handicrafts, as well as farm-to-table restaurants.

But New Buffalo — the first in a string of charismatic Lake Michigan beach towns strung along its eastern shore — has retained its small-town charm.

“Our downtown is close to the marina, making it easy to dock your boat and walk the block or so into town,” says Jim Oselka, general manager of Oselka’s Snug Harbor, which was founded by his grandfather Paul Oselka in 1957. Initially, Snug Harbor had 200 or so slips; the number is now up to 1,000, and there are transient slips available. Jet ski and boat rentals with or without captains are available.

Not only is Snug Harbor close to the downtown but it’s also close to New Buffalo Beach and Lakefront Park with its 800 feet of Lake Michigan beach frontage, concession stands, foot showers, boat ramp and lifeguards on duty during the day. Also conveniently close is the Municipal Marina west of the Whittaker Street Bridge, which has 30 slips available to guests for transient use.

“New Buffalo and the surrounding area has something for everyone no matter the time of year or the weather,” says Kimberlee Wendt, executive director of Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce, which covers eight of the small villages and towns comprising what is known as Harbor Country. “We have new restaurants and shops opening as well as long-time favorites that have been part of the community. Our beach is beautiful, and there are lots of options for watersports rentals. And boaters can opt to stay on land as there are many places to stay nearby to what New Buffalo has to offer that doesn’t require a car.”

Marina Grand Resort, located on New Buffalo Harbor, features such amenities as an indoor and outdoor pool, fitness room, rooftop deck for views and catching the breeze, and the Terrace Room, a from-scratch Italian restaurant. There’s even a Ben & Jerry’s hotline that delivers your favorite flavors from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Want ice cream later than that? Well, you’ll have to go pick it up.

Take it aboard

The best of Southwest Michigan — tagged in the early 1900s as the “Fruit Belt” because of its abundance of farms, vineyards and orchards — can be found at Mick Klüg Farm, an urban farm market with produce sourced from the 270-acre Mick Klüg Farm, a third-generation family farm founded in the 1930s. Sisters-in-law Abby Klüg Schilling and Bae Schilling, run the market, which is located behind Starbucks on Whitaker Street in the city’s downtown. Urban-country chic in design, there’s a cute outdoor patio for enjoying ciders, smoothies and lots of edibles for boaters to take aboard.

“We strive to have everything one might need for a day trip, overnight or weekend: Breakfast, quality nibbles and quick meals,” says Bae Schilling. “In addition to farm-fresh fruit and vegetables, we have fresh cut flowers, charcuterie items, pickled items, quick meals (like fresh pasta kits and tomato soups), as well as breakfast meats, eggs, cheeses, jams, honey, syrup, biscuit mix, granola, yogurt and more. It’s everything needed to make a boating experience delightful, delicious and easy.”

A hoppin’ place

Long a farming tradition in Southwest Michigan, the number of hop farms has surged as more and more breweries open. The two breweries in New Buffalo out of the 14 breweries in Southwest Michigan both have an interesting setting.

Billed as the “world’s first Brewery Pizzeria Napoletana in a Civil War era iconic church,” Beer Church Brewing Co. also boasts the largest outdoor bar in Michigan as well. Quaff one of its brews such as a Crème Brûlée Blonde Ale or a hard seltzer (think Frizzante Duro made with cranberry puree) and consider signing up for a private pizza-making party in one of the two wood-fire pizza kitchens. After all, who doesn’t want to drink beer and eat pizza in a church built in 1861? Ghost Isle Brewing may seem like an odd name for a restaurant and microbrewery, but the land has been in the Sima family for almost 75 years and generations of children listened to ghost stories about the place where they frequently played. Whether the stories are true or not, the major spirits found here are its beer and hard ciders. Sip a beer and enjoy the locally sourced food as well as the expansive views of the 156-acre Galien River Marsh.

New Buffalo Explored

Top Photo: Adobe Stock

Marine Facilities & Resources

Oselka Marine

City Transient Marina
100 W. Water Street
cityofnewbuffalomi. gov/municipal-marina

Oselka’s Snug Harbor
514 W. Water Street

The Moorings Association
310 Oselka Drive Suite

Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce

New Buffalo Explored

Jane Ammeson

Flow gently

Third Coast Paddling’s Galien River Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals are available at several locations including the New Buffalo boat ramp on Lake Michigan. You can also opt for kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding along the Galien River Trail as it winds its way through the Galien River Marsh, considered to be one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. The six-mile journey flows into Lake Michigan through a marshland teeming with flora (rose-colored marshmallows and yelloweye forget-me-nots) and fauna (red-tailed hawks, foxes, beavers, deer and great blue herons).

Want to keep your feet dry? Consider the 600-foot elevated boardwalk connecting the marsh to the woodlands that includes a 60-foot-high Marsh Overlook Tower along the trail.

Legendary eateries

When it opened in the late 1940s, Redamak’s was typical of the many roadhouses that once dotted the old two-lane highway known as West Michigan Pike. Back then, its indoor seating capacity topped out at 80 but the demand for its hand-packed burgers and hand-cut fries changed all that. Now with an expansion, Redamak’s accommodates 400 but it’s still not unusual to see long lines waiting outside. Skip the lines and pick up from the take-out window instead.

Reminiscent of the supper clubs of old, Skip’s Other Place opened approximately a half-century ago and is best known for its thick slices of prime rib, steaks, pan-fried perch and walleye.

Oink’s Dutch Treat is more than an ice cream and yogurt shop serving 50 flavors; it’s a retro museum for all things kitschy, from old-time photos and newspaper clippings of New Buffalo to a vast variety of porcine objects: Piggy banks, flying pigs, pig clocks, pig slippers… you get the idea.

Overlooking the marinas, the popular The Stray Dog Bar & Grill features a spacious rooftop patio that opens in May for the summer season. The restaurant serves American fare and has a vast beer list.


For a town with only about 2,261 year-round residents, it may come as a surprise that there are not one but two cocktail lounges.

During the day, David’s Delicatessen & Coffee is just what the name implies. Owners of this New York-style deli, Joe Lindsay and Emma Brewster, pickle the local harvest to use as side dishes and source corned beef from the Detroit-based Grobbel’s, America’s oldest corned beef specialists, which opened in 1883. But at night, the deli transforms into The False Front, featuring music and craft beer, wine, cocktails and creative nightly shots.

The Victorian manse that’s home to the Hummingbird Lounge has all polished wood floors, a fireplace, muted colors, a sleek bar, and a patio set in a garden brimming with flowers. It offers curated food and a craft cocktail menu that changes seasonally, as well as live music. Up your game at the 125,000-acre Four Winds Casino with its hotel suites, spas, six restaurants, 3,000 slot machines and 70 table games. This sprawling gambling mecca commemorates its Native American heritage with high ceilings interspersed with wood beams and Native American-style fabrics and linens.

Whether it’s on water or land, New Buffalo is the perfect destination for all.

Oinks website

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Calendar of Events

St. Mary’s Festival: May 23 – 27
The annual fundraiser for St. Mary’s of the Lake Parish is a family-centric event with rides, live music, games, food and a silent auction.

Music in the Park: Wednesdays, June – September
Seating is available or you can bring lawn chairs and blankets for the free concerts at the Band Shell in New Buffalo Township Park. Bocce ball and a splash pad for kids.

New Buffalo Farmers Market: Thursdays, June 8 – October 5
Farmers and food producers show off their wares at one of two farmers markets in New Buffalo open during the summer season. Enjoy live music and creative food offerings.

Skip’s European Farmers Market: Saturdays, May – October
A sophisticated outdoor market with a variety of food producers, bakers and growers, as well as local artisans and crafters.

Corn & Sausage Roast: August 3
Open to the public and family friendly, featuring live music and food.

New Buffalo Harvest & Wine Festival: October 12
Celebrate Southwest Michigan’s glorious fall bounty. Food trucks, live entertainment, local wineries, distilleries and breweries on hand add to the festivity.

Arts & Crafts Show: October 19
Peruse more than 90 arts and crafts booths, stock up on baked goodies and enjoy lunch at this annual event.

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Goldberry Woods

Situated on the Galien River, Goldberry Woods Bed & Breakfast is technically in Union Pier just about a mile north, but this 30-acre, family-run resort is so unique that it’s worth a call-out. The free use of kayaks lets you float down the Galien River; ditto for the bikes to explore the country roads. There’s a pool on the property as well. You can stay in one of the cottages, suites, inn, the main house, or a vintage camper such as the Fauna Vintage Avion manufactured in nearby Benton Harbor in 1969. The produce grown is organic, ducks and chickens that free range on the property provide the eggs, and Julie Haberichter, owner of Goldberry Woods, makes jams and salsas from what she forages or grows.

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Grape & Grain

Southwest Michigan is wine country, with 15 wineries comprising the Lake Michigan Shore Trail. Grape & Grain Tours offers pick ups from hotels for its tours that include Vine & Dine, a chance to eat and sample wines, Vineyard Adventures, offering a visit to three wineries and a charcuterie box lunch, and its latest, CannaBus-Brews & Buds, with stops at several dispensaries and for lunch.


Boat Lyfe