Located along the southern curve of Lake Michigan’s coast, Michigan City offers small town charm just an hour from Chicago.
From state parks with majestic dunes, quaint harbor towns to the artistic community of New Buffalo, Michigan City is a great place to stop by for your vacation
So shall we dive into the top things to do on a getaway near the shores of Michigan City?
Climb the Dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park
Address: Indiana Dunes State Park, 1600 N County Line Rd, Chesterton, IN 46304
Indiana Dunes State Park consists of massive sand dunes, lush forests, and secluded beaches along Lake Michigan.
Hiking up the towering dunes is a must-try if you want to see incredible views. Following the Dune Succession Trail is a great fun experience as it ascends over 70 feet to the top of large dunes via stairs and boardwalks.
At the top, enjoy the panoramic vistas from the forested ridge of Lake Michigan and surrounding dunes. You can go down from the backside of the dune to stroll along the beach below.
For a more challenging hike, tackle the Dunes Nature Preserve Trail loop. This route winds over high dune ridges, passing unique sand formations like successional blowouts, sand cliffs and so on.
Sections involve climbing extremely steep dunes using your hands and feet. After an invigorating trek, you can choose between relaxing on the beach or having a picnic.
With diverse hiking options, Indiana Dunes State Park provides you incredible scenery as you journey through various ecosystems.
Bike the Vandalia Trail
Address: Vandalia Trail, Trailhead at 100 W Railroad St, Michigan City, IN 46360
Stretching 98 miles across Northern Indiana, the Vandalia Trail provides an excellent exercising opportunity for cyclists near Michigan City.
This extensive rail-trail follows a former railroad corridor, passing through rural landscapes, forests, and prairie environments between South Bend and the Michigan border. The crushed stone trail surface is suitable for all kinds of bikes from road bikes, hybrids, or mountain bikes.
Convenient trailheads with parking allows the ease of accessing the route in communities along the way, including Michigan City, La Porte, and Knox.
The flat, straight trail allows a scenic and leisurely ride. Rent bikes in Michigan City or bring your own.
If you are up for the challenge, tackle a short 10 mile out and back or make it a multi-day trip doing the full 98 miles.
Highlights include crossing the Kankakee and Yellow Rivers on antique rail bridges, spotting wildflowers in spring, and taking in views of Indiana Dunes National Park.
With its length, accessibility and varied scenery, the Vandalia Trail suits cyclists of all abilities for an engaging ride immersing in Indiana’s natural beauty.
Go Wine Tasting on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail
Address: Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, Runs along Indiana/Michigan border
The Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail offers a relaxing experience to trye local wines near Michigan City, Indiana.
You should follow country roads between wineries bordering Lake Michigan to take in sweeping vineyard views.
Tabor Hill Winery should not be missed. It is set on a hilltop with scenic vistas and live music on weekends. Their restaurant, Vista, provides gourmet farm-to-table cuisine paired perfectly with Tabor Hill vintages.
At Four Winds Casino just across the border in New Buffalo, MI, you can stop at the Copper Rock Steakhouse and Brewery to taste some fantastic locally made wines.
Or you can choose to relax on the cozy patio at Lemon Creek Winery while sampling their refreshing fruit wines like blueberry, cranberry, and raspberry.
Many wineries offer behind-the-scenes vineyard and cellar tours to learn about the winemaking process.
The Lake Michigan Shore region’s unique climate and soils are ideal for grapes like Traminette, Riesling and Chardonnay.
With idyllic settings and award-winning wines, tasting along the trail promises a tranquil and flavorful experience. Most wineries are open daily for tastings, tours, and meal pairings.
Shop and Dine in New Buffalo
Address: Downtown New Buffalo, Shopping district centered on Whittaker St, New Buffalo, MI 49117
Located just across the state border in Michigan, the small beach town of New Buffalo provides a perfect spot for strolling, shopping, and dining near Michigan City.
You can start on Whittaker Street, the main drag lined with colorful boutiques, galleries, cafes and eateries. Then, you might want to browse for one-of-a-kind jewelry and gifts at boutiques like New Buffalo Design and Fire Glass Studio.
At last, you should check upcoming exhibits at the Krasl Art Center housed in a striking modern building overlooking the nearby beach.
When hunger strikes, I suggest you to try wood fired pizza with farm-fresh toppings at Pizza Hut of New Buffalo.
You can sit out on the patio with your pup at Redamak’s for their famous cheeseburgers and Bloody Marys. You can also grab breakfast sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, and coffee at the hometown favorite, Stray Dog Cafe.
Nearby, kids will love running free at Watermark Park with playgrounds and interactive fountains. New Buffalo’s charming walkable downtown and proximity to beaches like New Buffalo Township Beach Park make it a fun Michigan side trip.
Kayak to Watch the Lighthouse
Address: Trail Creek, Lighthouse located in Michigan City’s harbor, Washington Park has kayak rentals and launch site
For a unique perspective of Michigan City’s historic lighthouse, you should try to paddle out by kayak along Trail Creek. You can rent kayaks from local outfitters like Jurassic Paddle sports and launch from Washington Park into the protected shallow creek.
Frist, let’s head downstream towards Lake Michigan and catch close-up views of the 87 foot tall lighthouse built in 1837. Then you can drift closer to see its striking catwalk and lantern room architecture. And finally, marvel at how this iconic tower has guided ships entering Michigan City’s port for over 180 years.
Paddling inland up Trail Creek, you can return to Washington Park through peaceful grasses and reeds swaying in the shallow water.
The 5 mile Trail Creek section from Washington Park to Lake Michigan has slow current, making it suitable for beginner paddlers. Experienced kayakers can venture further along the lakeshore.
With opportunities to spot herons, swans, turtles and other wildlife, the lighthouse kayak outing combines scenic nature viewing with Michigan City history. Finish up your paddle by relaxing on the beach at Washington Park.
Hike the Cowles Bog Trail
Address: Cowles Bog Trail, Trailhead parking at Furnessville South Moon Rd, Chesterton, IN 46304
Located in Indiana Dunes State Park, the 1.5 mile Cowles Bog Trail offers a moderately challenging hike through unique wetland environments.
As you wind through woodlands, you’ll be surrounded by the rare boreal bog habitat containing carnivorous plants and orchids.
After rain, part of the trail can get swampy so wear suitable shoes. The route crosses floating boardwalks over the open expanse of Cowles Bog, explained by interpretive signs as an ancient glacial lake.
Look for pitcher plants and sundews thriving in the acidic bog waters.
The trail then emerges from dune forests onto the expansive Cowles Bog beach along Lake Michigan.
Walk the sandy shoreline while enjoying lake views and sounds. Benches are positioned perfectly for gazing over the bog’s contrasting habitats – forested dunes and open wetland meadow.
With diverse ecosystems and scenic overlooks, the Cowles Bog Trail in Indiana Dunes State Park provides an unforgettable hike immersed in Midwest nature.
From towering sand dunes to local wineries, charming small towns and scenic trails, attractions near Michigan City deliver outdoor adventure, culture, and natural beauty.
Spend an unforgettable Lake Michigan getaway hiking, biking, or kayaking with refreshing swims in between. The options for exploration are abundant.