Harbor Country Festivals and Events
BERRIEN SPRINGS, MI
Harvest Festival, September 7, 2013. Celebrate the harvest at Lemon Creek Winery with wine tasting, great food and live music. www.lemoncreekwinery.com
MICHIGAN CITY, IN
Lake Shore Art Festival, August 17 - 18, 2013. Featuring more than 100 fine artists and craftspeople from around the country. Demonstrations, food and kid’s activities.
NEW BUFFALO, MI
Saturday Nights Alive, Saturday nights through August 31. Free outdoor performances from 6-8 p.m. Saturdays on the corner of Whittaker and Merchant.
Skip’s Open-Air European Farmers Market, Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., through October 6. Asparagus, blueberries, locally made salsas and more. Live entertainment, too.
New Buffalo Yacht Club Breakfast, Sundays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tony Bennett in concert, August 23, 2013 at Four Winds Casino.
Apple Cider Century Bike Tour, September 29, 2013. Routes of 15- to 100-mile bicycle tour of orchards, forests and wine country.
Greek Festival, August 30 - September 1, 2013 at the American Hellenic Center. Greek food and dancing, with free admission.
New Buffalo Harvest & Wine Fest, October 12, 2013. Local wine tasting, farmer’s market, music.
Harvest Days 2013, October 11 - 14 throughout Harbor Country. Scarecrow contest, pumpkin carving, hay rides, corn maze and more.
THREE OAKS, MI
Three Oaks Gallery & Town Walk, Saturdays through November 30. Galleries, businesses and restaurants stay open late, featuring art, music and friendly faces.
Journeyman Distillery Tours & Sampling, Saturdays and Sundays through December 31. See how whiskey is made and sample some of the offerings.
- Harbor Country harborcountry.org
- City of New Buffalo, Michigan cityofnewbuffalo.org
- New Buffalo Business Association newbuffalo.org
- New Buffalo Township newbuffalotownship.org
- City of Three Oaks 3oaks.org
- New Buffalo Harbor http://www.newbuffalo.com/public-dock.shtml
- Oselka Marina oselkamarina.com
- The Moorings mooringsassociation.com
Welcome to Harbor Country
Welcome to the first port in southwest Michigan: New Buffalo, featuring the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, fabulous farm-to-fork cuisine, cultural treasures and a world-class casino. Add in a combination of watersports, hiking and golf, among other fun recreational activities, and you’ve discovered the perfect summer/fall beach town for all your boating pleasures!
Captain Wessel Whittaker of Buffalo, New York ran his ship aground on the Lake Michigan coastline in 1834. He fell in love with the landscape, describing it as “a natural harbor surrounded by dunes and tall trees, where a river flowed from the surrounding woodlands.”
Whittaker knew a good harbor when he saw one. He returned a year later, founding the town and calling it “New Buffalo.”
What really makes New Buffalo special for boaters is the convenience; you can literally dock and walk. Almost everything is close by the marina. Even the Amtrak Station that can take you to Union Station in Chicago or Michigan City, Indiana is but a few steps away.
Hit the beach or the town?
Beach vs. town: That all depends on your appetite. If you’re looking for boating or beach gear, Sweetwater Boating Supplies has it all. From rope, bottom paint and cleaners to suits, flip-flops and more, they’ll even blow up your inflatables.
Headquartered at Oselka Marina is Basas Marine. In business for 40 years, their main facility is a full-service dealership in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Complete with ship’s store and parts department for all major brands, Basas offers everything for your boating needs. If you’re thinking of selling or are in the market for a new boat, check out their inventory at basasmarine.com.
Stop for sandwiches at David’s Deli and be sure to try the specialty of the house, one of three Reuben sandwiches; there’s even a fourth for breakfast. Take advantage of the free WIFI while you’re sipping a cup of Intelligentsia coffee. Everything is made from scratch, so it’s all fresh and delicious.
“Many people make New Buffalo their docking home,” commented David’s Deli co-owner Emma Brewster. “And every year, that population keeps on growing.”
Another wonderful place is the Grateful Diner. Stop for breakfast and lunch as well fresh and fresh-frozen meals, home-baked muffins, cookies and cupcakes. Recommended is their Banana Custard French Toast with house-made French bread, bananas, toasted coconut, hazelnuts and maple syrup. Their egg scrambles are equally outstanding. What makes Grateful Diner unique is that everything is locally sourced and cooked by Chef Sam Luna, formerly of Mesa Luna in Three Oaks. With its funky Grateful Dead décor and outstanding menu, this is a place you’ll want to visit repeatedly, so you can become acquainted with all of its delightful culinary creations.
One of the most popular restaurants and watering holes in New Buffalo is The Stray Dog. This waterfront restaurant continues to pay homage to its friend Jack, who was once a stray dog himself. The Jack Fund donates proceeds to various animal charities from the sale of t-shirts.
For casual, upscale dining with spectacular waterfront views, head to Bentwood Tavern inside the Marina Grand Resort. Boaters and locals alike enjoy what local celebrity Chef Jenny Drilon calls “artisan comfort cuisine.” The menu boasts wood-fired pizza, fresh fish, steaks and more, sourced from farm to table (whenever possible).
After dinner, relax over a glass of wine on the rooftop deck and watch the fabulous sunsets.
The charming Lake Country Inn resembles a southern plantation but was really built in 2005, so it boasts all the contemporary amenities such as cable TV, free WIFI, HD internet TV and high-speed internet. Of course, continental breakfast is served every morning. It’s also located right in the middle of downtown, so it’s the perfect place to stay.
Lake Country Inn owner and avid boater Dr. Mark Traill feels that New Buffalo is the best part of Lake Michigan.
“The water is better here because it’s lower and warmer,” he says. “From New Buffalo, with smooth, calm water, you can be at Chicago’s Monroe Harbor in an hour.”
Betting on fun
Four Winds Casino is one of those places that just keeps getting bigger and better, with outstanding entertainment venues, a new Hard Rock Café and 4-star hotel, and, of course, all kinds of gaming. Complimentary shuttle service meets every incoming train at the Amtrak Station (half a block from the marina).
For those of you ready to hit the links, head over to Whittaker Woods Golf Club. It offers an 18-hole championship public course with a par of 72 described as a “great, playable golf course for everyone.”
Squeak in some more exercise by climbing the dunes at Warren Dunes State Park, which rise some 240 feet above the shoreline. It’s worth the challenge, because on a clear day you can see the Chicago skyline from the top of Tower Hill.
Harbor Country also offers myriad hiking trails and guided nature walks in the Harbert Road Nature Preserve and Warren Woods. Michigan blueberries are the absolute best! Come pick your own at Big Head Farm in New Buffalo or Blueberry Patch in Sawyer.
The newest recreation on the Great Lakes is stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
“This is really an ancient art, which gained popularity in Hawaii in the 60s,” says Third Coast Surf Shop owner Ryan Gerard. Unlike surfing, a stand-up paddler doesn’t need to ride a wave. All that’s required is to paddle on open waters — in harbors, lakes or rivers.
“We rent stand-up paddleboards on the beach and at the Galien River and teach you how to do it,” Gerard says. “With virtually no current, a good paddler can fly.
“For the beginner, the flat water is perfect for learning,” he explains. “Many of our boaters learn the sport, love it and then buy a paddleboard to keep on the boat.
“Stand-up paddling lets you see both the lake and the coastline from a new perspective… and it’s a blast!” Gerard maintains.
The shop also rents kayaks, offers lessons and guided tours, and sells an extensive line of apparel and accessories. Interestingly, the shop’s name came from the 17th century French explorers who dubbed the Great Lakes “The Third Coast.”
Three Oaks: A hidden gem
Roughly 8 miles from New Buffalo is a little community that’s big on heart: Three Oaks. Within a few short blocks you’ll find Drier’s Meat Market, Vicker’s Theater, Journeyman Distillery and Acorn Theater.
Celebrating its 100th year, Drier’s Meat Market is on the National Register of Historic Places. Walk inside and you’ll think you’ve stepped back in time. With all of the original equipment, some of which is still in use today, it’s certainly something to show the kids. There’s even a script from the series “Dallas,” signed by star Larry Hagman, who played infamous oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, as part of the memorabilia.
Now comes the tough part: What to bring back? Choose from steaks, smoked meats, hot dogs, sausages, bacon, cheeses and relishes. But no worries; whatever you decide, they’ll be happy to freezer-pack it for you before you head back to the boat.
Right down the street is Vicker’s Theatre, also celebrating more than 100 years in business. Here you can see a movie and talk about it afterwards, making it a cultural experience that will “open your minds, enrich your lives and entertain your spirit,” says owner Judy Scully.
Just down the road is Journeyman Distillery, which offers tours of the distillery and a chance to sample some of the handcrafted organic whiskey and spirits being produced. Right next door, Acorn Theatre has revitalized the area with a diverse range of live entertainment, musical Sunday brunch, open mic opportunities, traditional theater series, and more.
“We get talent from New York to Hollywood,” says co-owner David Fink. “Performers like this venue because it affords them a very intimate space with the audience,” adds Kim Clark, who also co-owns the theater with Fink.
Be sure to peruse the wine shop inside the theater.
Heard it through the grapevine
Considered the “Napa Valley of the Midwest,” the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail is like bottles of bubbly waiting to be uncorked. There are more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms in the area, providing sampling, cooking classes and vintage celebrations.
This quadrant of Michigan is known for its grapes, with soil and water conditions mimicking the great Loire Valley in France. Many of the Michigan winemakers studied in Europe and brought back these secrets to their own vineyards
One of the most fun (and safe) ways to sample the wines is to tour with companies that whisk you from one winery to another. Fruitful Vines will pick you up at the Amtrak Station and take you around to four wineries either by Vino Coach or Wine Wagon. Gravity, in Baroda, is one of the newest wineries on the trail, and certainly one of the most contemporary. Their approach to wine tasting is a little different; with their flights, each wine is paired with a gourmet chocolate or cheese.
The oldest winery in the area is Lemon Creek in Berrien Springs. They’ve been producing wines since 1855 and are known for producing the first Cabernet Sauvignon in the state. Experience it first hand at Lemon Creek’s annual Harvest Festival Saturday, September 7.
Domaine Berrien Cellars, also in Berrien Springs, focuses on handcrafted, estate-grown and bottled wine, best known for its dry reds and Rhone varietals.
“We were the first winery in Michigan to grow and vinify Syrah,” says master winemaker Wally Mauer. “Our winemaking philosophy is very minimalist and old-world — we let the grapes express themselves in a varietally-correct manner.
“There’s a real sense of community among the wineries,” Mauer adds. “We work together to support each other and everyone benefits.”
If you find yourself falling in love with Harbor Country, well... you may want to stay! As a luxury real estate leader, Crawford Group Sotheby’s International Realty has offices in Illinois and Michigan. Get inspired by their lifestyle-living website, crawfordgroupsir.com. With their large network of exceptional waterfront property offerings, make every day a vacation.
Whether you’re looking for family fun, a romantic interlude or a friendly beach town, the “Gold Coast” of Lake Michigan is waiting to welcome you with glasses raised!