Harbor Country and its charming assemblage of lakefront communities have long been Chicago’s favorite getaway destination.
Beaches. Midwest countryside. Easy access.
Downside: it’s easy to get caught up in the same old standbys every Chicagoan knows.
So we linked up with our pal Collette Kemper, who manages New Buffalo Explored — a new travel site run by a group of Harbor Country natives — to bring you the latest and greatest the area has to offer.
Kemper’s a business owner who’s lived in the area for nearly two decades. And while her guide accomplishes to document Harbor Country’s best attractions (in large part due to the wondrous photography of local shutterbug Jodie Bodtke), it’s her willingness to share said insight that makes New Buffalo Explored a website you should bookmark.
Because though there’s no way of stopping a Chicagoan from visiting their go-to haunts, there’s more to the area than, say, Greenbush Brewery. Journeyman Distillery. Sojourn. Redamak’s [Ed. Note: mmm ... Redamak's].
So from a rogue new brewery to a recording studio you can spend the night in, here are a few more reasons you should pay Harbor Country a visit this summer.
Photo: Barry Phipps
“Skyway is the only lodging destination of its kind in the area — a thoughtfully designed storefront living space and recording studio in the heart of wine country. A bit further from the lake (but still only an eight-minute drive to the beach), Baroda has a charming agricultural vibe unique to the region. Beautiful, gently rolling country roads marked with farm stands, wineries and breweries make for easy unplanned adventures, so bring bikes and wander. This is a great spot for creative musing and decompression.” www.skywaybaroda.com
Mt. Randal Loop at Warren Dunes
“This is an amazing hike for beach people, and I think a big surprise for those unfamiliar with the dunescape on our side of the lake. The four-mile loop begins in the woods, but soon opens up to soaring dunes with some pretty steep elevations that offer gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. All trails ultimately lead to a miles-long stretch of undeveloped shoreline and — the big bonus — rarely another human in sight. Sunsets here can be mind-altering, so plan to linger.” www.michigan.org
Whistle Stop Grocery
“The stop for really tasty, fresh, locally sourced provisions for cottage and beach gatherings. A curated market with literally everything you need (including beer and wine). To-go dishes and crazy good baked treats are prepared throughout the day by a talented duo that are alumni of Hot Chocolate. This is food you wish you made, but are glad you didn’t have to.” www.whistlestopgrovery.com
Burn 'Em Brewing
“If the craft beer world has started to look a little too genteel for you, Burn ‘Em promises to bring back some edge. This tiny, gritty outfit is so enthusiastic about beer that fans happily pack their little standing-room-only space. Inspired by food, music and art, the boys at Burn ‘Em pour no less than 10 flavor-focused brews, in addition to more traditional IPAs and an iconic easy-drinking gateway beer for newbies. Visit during one of their many yard parties — the mix of live music, bikers, locals and hipsters restores our faith in humanity. And beer.” www.burnembrewing.com
“Owners Brandon and Lisa Nelson are kind of a vintage and antique dynasty around here, artfully repurposing old buildings and merchandising them with one-of-a-kind treasures. Alchemy is their latest venture, a bank building turned gallery filled with delightfully odd and beautiful art, architectural fragments, furniture and textiles. Everything’s got a story, and thanks to Brandon’s musical side gig, there’s usually a pretty great soundtrack happening, too.” www.facebook.com/alchemyartandantiques
Photos: Jodi Bodtke