Each year, droves of snowbirds from the Midwest descend on the Valley to escape their harsh winters. Isn’t it about time to return the favor?
Lake Michigan, which features more than 200 miles of sandy white beaches, is bursting with waterfront towns that cater to every level of traveler, and the region especially sparkles from May to October. Among the best spots for women seeking fun both with friends on and off the water is New Buffalo in Southwest Michigan’s aptly named Harbor County.
New Buffalo is an especially dreamy getaway for Arizona women, given it is just a short drive from either South Bend Airport or both Chicagoland airports. It also boasts several boutique hotels and resorts nestled right along the water, notably The Harbor Grand Hotel and the Marina Grand Hotel.
The Harbor Grand, which just opened a new spa, has views for days and a sophisticated, modern feel that echoes the accommodations one might find in The Hamptons. There is also an exquisite Italian restaurant on-site in the Terrace Room. Set along the waterfront, after a course or two, and while drinking in the view, it feels as if one is in the Mediterranean.
Like The Harbor Grand, sister property The Marina Grand, which completed a renovation earlier this year, benefits from a prime location along the lake—but in the marina versus the harbor, so it offers views of the most impressive sailboats and yachts on Lake Michigan. Splurging on a suite to share here is well worth it because they have extra-large decks as well as full kitchens. Some are even set across two stories.
Whether staying at the property or not, make it a point to visit Bentwood Tavern, the hotel’s lavish restaurant. The cuisine is primarily New American and is made with farm-fresh ingredients, and the cocktail menu wows.
Speaking of local libations, there are many from which to choose within just a few miles of both hotels, including Journeyman Distillery. Founded in 2010, Journeyman Distillery is set in what used to be Featherbone Factory, known for making corsets and whips during Prohibition. Today, the space is a working distillery that offers tours.
In addition to Journeyman, the region is also home to Beer Church and Ghost Isle Brewery, and they are just a 20-minute drive to Michigan’s wine country. Beer Church was an actual church in the 1800s, while Ghost Isle is equal parts brewery, cider house, and restaurant, and it is located along 156 acres of protected wetlands.
And then there is the wine country, which became popular in the area in great part thanks to Round Barn Estate, a working brewery, distillery, and full-scale winery. The estate features live music regularly, a massive restaurant operation, elegant vineyard cabanas, and the option to mix-and-match a tasting of food, wine, cocktails, spirits, beer, and adult slushies.
Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant, Free Run Cellars, Dablon Vineyards, Lemon Creek, Domaine Berrien, and Gravity Winery are also nearby.
The best way to imbibe in style? On a Fruitful Vine Wine Tour. Likely seen on Netflix’s juggernaut Love Is Blind: After the Altar, Fruitful Vine offers a vino coach, as well as an open-air, expansive trailer called the wine-o-wagon, both with custom tasting itineraries and expert drivers to take the hassle out of planning.
Shopping and dining abound in every direction, as well. Beyond the hotel eateries, those in the know make plans to visit Stray Dog Bar & Grill’s picturesque patio when in town, as well as Granor Farms’ state-of-the-art greenhouse, which features a multi-course dining experience.
As for shopping, there are nearly endless locally-owned options, including Alapash Mercantile, Sojourn, Goods & Heroes, Frolic, and Stockholm Objects.
The only thing more convenient than the vast attractions near the lake is the lake itself. There are 10 public beaches scattered across New Buffalo that offer a combination of grassy and sandy dunes, ample watersport rentals, boardwalks, concessions, and lookout points.
Finally, for those looking to get a little wind in their hair, there is New Buffalo Sailing Excursions, which offers personal cruises on a 31-foot sailboat, including sunset and night sails, and is led by a skilled sailing captain.