Family Road Trip Guide: New Buffalo, Michigan

Less than four hours from Detroit sits the classic beach vacay not to miss.

New Buffalo is a picture-perfect summer vacation. It’s got everything: The most beautiful beach, the classic ice cream parlors, the quaint downtown and the family-friendly activities for every age, from visiting an adorable train museum to kayaking. Go for a weekend or stay all summer.

Spoiler alert: Most likely, you’ll be tempted to purchase a summer cottage here. Do it.

Getting to New Buffalo, Michigan

Load up the kids and hit the road. I-94 is nearly a straight shot to New Buffalo, which is located about 200 miles from downtown Detroit. If you leave on a Friday for a long weekend, add some extra drive time because it’s a hot destination for families coming from the west, particularly Chicago, but also all other directions, too.

What families love about New Buffalo, Michigan

The best thing about New Buffalo is its public beach. Park in town for free and walk 7 minutes over the bridge to get to this stunner. It’s super clean, there’s a beautiful playground in the sand, a concession stand, bathrooms and outdoor showers.

Walk to the Oselka Marina from the beach to rent jet skis, yachts (they have captains who will take you up and down the coast), tubes and more. For stand up paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing, rent equipment from Third Coast Paddling, and head to the Galien River just upstream from Lake Michigan (walking distance from downtown New Buffalo).

Oink’s Dutch Treat in New Buffalo, Michigan. Photo credit: Danielle Braff

Downtown New Buffalo is packed with tourist-y stores that my 13-year-old described as “very preppy and VSCO,” and she was pleased with the selection of relatively inexpensive pastel-colored hooded sweatshirts, comfy shorts and shell necklaces.

If you have choo-choo fans, be sure to check out the New Buffalo Railroad Museum, 530 S. Whittaker St., which is a tiny roadside museum open on weekends and holidays through October, packed with railroad cars, model trains and lots of train artifacts.

Able to get away from the kids for a few hours? Wineries are plentiful in southwest Michigan. To pack them in efficiently, take a wine tour via Grape and Grain Tours.

Nearly everything here is within walking distance — or a 5-10-minute drive, which makes getting to the hotel for naps and snacks super easy.

Where to stay in New Buffalo, Michigan

The brand new Neighborhood Hotel Grand Beach is ideal for families vacationing here. We stayed in a three-bedroom suite, which had a bunk bed room, two rooms with king-size beds, a stocked kitchen, living room and two bathrooms. It even has an outdoor pool and a fire pit with complimentary s’mores.

Neighborhood Hotel Grand Beach in New Buffalo, Michigan. Photo credit: Danielle Braff

It is a five-minute drive from everywhere — and while I was tempted just to stay in the hotel and read because it was so calming there, I was dragged out after a very restful night.

In addition to Airbnbs (there are tons in this area), Holiday Inn Express & Suites is a great budget option.

Places to Eat in New Buffalo, Michigan

It’s very casual and beachy in New Buffalo (translation: don’t bring your dress-up clothing), but the food is fantastic.

Our favorite spot is The Stray Dog Bar & Grill, a massive waterfront restaurant that appears to be packed from opening until closing hours. Be prepared to wait, though they will text you when your table is ready so you aren’t stuck there. Stray Dog has options for everyone, and they do it all very well. We sampled the BLT, the chicken sandwich, a Poke bowl and plenty of cocktails and kiddie cocktails. Our brood went home very happy.

Redamak’s is another legendary spot in New Buffalo: It’s a family-owned restaurant that’s been in business for 47 years. Here’s our best advice: Come with a huge appetite and order a burger. These were some of the best burgers ever. Juicy and large, plopped down on top of crinkle fries. Pair them with a shake (we are partial to the Chocolate Monkey shake, which tastes like a sippable banana split) and you’ll be in a delightful food coma for many hours.

Of course, you can’t visit New Buffalo without stopping for some ice cream at family-owned Oinks Dutch Treat, a totally kitchy spot in downtown New Buffalo. Expect to wait in line, but it’s worth it.

Content sponsored by Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers.


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