Aug 21, 2023 - Things to Do

A day tripper's guide to Harbor Country

kid running in sand

There's no need to rent a place when you can buy a day pass to Warren Dunes State Park, with its 3 miles of beach and great hiking. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Even if you can't swing a whole weekend in Michigan's Harbor Country, you might be able to sneak in a day trip that feels like a full-fledged vacation.

  • I recently visited on a weekday and found wide-open beaches and no waits at places usually mobbed by pesky Illinois people on weekends.
  • Here's my recommended itinerary.

🌅 Top of the morning: Head out early to beat the traffic and catch a gorgeous sunrise over the lake on our side.

  • Hit Fluid Coffee Shop in Michigan City for avocado or ricotta toast with a strong cortado, or one of their intriguing "botanicals" like the Life Potion with ceremonial matcha, blueberries and milk.
coffee shop
Fluid Coffee Shop in Michigan City. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Stop at nearby Lange's Old Fashioned Meat Market for picnic supplies like snack sticks and the one-of-a-kind soft jerky and honey log (like cold meatloaf).

Pete Lange butchers and smokes unique specialties at his shop in Michigan City. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

If you want a full breakfast, stop for a Reuben at David's Deli or eggs Benedict at Jackie's Cafe where famed Chicago chef Jackie Shen has alighted.

eggs benedict
Eggs Benedict Florentine at Jackie's Cafe in New Buffalo. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

☀️ Mid-morning: Make Warren Dunes State Park your home base. There's an $11 day pass that lets you in and out from 8am-10pm.

  • Swim the 3 miles of shoreline, hike 6 miles of trails or hoof it up the steep dune before the midday sun starts to roast your noggin.

🍺 Noon: Sample a flight of four beers or ciders ($10.50) at Greenbush Brewing in Sawyer along with a quinoa beet salad and some of the best smoked brisket I've ever eaten.

  • Pick up a big box of Michigan blueberries or stone fruits from Sawyer Garden Center around the corner.
beer and salad
Beer flight and salad at Greenbush Brewing. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

🌳 Mid-afternoon: Use your Dunes parking pass to cool off in Warren Woods State Park with a hike through towering old-growth beech and maple forests.

  • Or mix it up if you like with some browsing in trendy Three Oaks.
Warren Woods. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

🍇 Early evening: Sample three Michigan wines and three chef-chosen bites ($25) on the lovely patio at Shady Creek Winery in Michigan City. We loved the Brussels sprouts and avocado rolls.

woman with wine
Visitors choose wine flights at the bar and carry them to their table using this thing. Photo courtesy of Colin McMahon.

✨ Sunset: Finish the day back at Warren Dunes with a gorgeous Michigan-side sunset over the lake.

sunset over lake
Sunset at Warren Dunes. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more