The Run Down

We've got a short trip planned to Southwest Michigan for a quick weekend getaway. You'll layout on dunes along Lake Michigan's coast, drink whiskey while putting on a 30,000-square-foot putting green, get some hiking in, and explore shops along a country highway.

1. Stay @ The Neighborhood Hotel

2. Visit @ New Buffalo Beach

3. Eats and Golf @ Journeyman Distillery

4. Shop @ Alapash Mercantile

5. Hike @ Warren Dunes State Park

6. Eat @ Whistle Stop Grocery

1. Neighborhood Hotel
(Grand Beach)

You’re about an hour and a half from your weekend home away from home. Tucked inside the village of Grand Beach, a small 300-person residential community along Lake Michigan, you’ll pull up to the Neighborhood Hotel’s main house.

It feels like arriving at summer camp. Guests are outside using the shared fired pits. Next to the fire pits, an intense shuffleboard match is underway, and kids are carrying out chocolate and marshmallows from inside to roast s’mores.

This is different from your regular hotel. It’s like one giant house with several apartment-style rooms. There’s no lobby or guest check-in. Just punch in the door code, and you’ll find yourself in a shared common area. It’s a big family room and kitchen open to all guests.

It’s a place to spread out, play board games, and plan the rest of your trip.

The shared kitchen is stocked with a popcorn machine, and anywhere you go, whether in your room or the common areas, you’ll find all the supplies needed to roast s’mores in the firepits outside.

The main house spans two levels and has 12 rooms, each with a kitchenette supplied with all the essentials you’d have in your kitchen back at home. Seriously, there were multiple times where we thought, do we need to run out to the store to pick up x,y,z condiments? And then you rummage through the kitchenette, and then it’s just there.

From our room, you could look out below to the firepits along the front yard. Logs, matches and a fire starter can are all provided.

This isn’t just a summertime spot. If there’s fresh snow on the ground, strap on these hotel-provided snowshoes and start trekking around.

After you get settled, you can explore the area and a couple of little beaches within walking distance. All are accessible to the public.

2. New Buffalo Beach

After thoroughly exploring the area around the hotel, you can take a five-minute drive to New Buffalo, where you can continue your outdoor beach escapades at this beach in downtown New Buffalo. You’ll drive in and see stairs descending a series of dunes dotting the coast.

Built-in stairs make the dunes easy to traverse. As sundown approaches, the crowd starts to descend toward the beach. From the top of the stairs, you can see some locals going to all the secluded spots tucked into the dunes.

3. Journeyman Distillery

At some point during your trip, make your way over to Journeyman Distillery. Just a short 15-minute drive from the hotel, this is a local whiskey distillery in nearby Three Oaks, Michigan. But not only is it a distillery, but it’s also home to a 30,000-square-foot putting public putting course.

While a massive production facility takes up most of the building, the rest is reserved for their bar and dining room.   

In terms of food, they’ve got burgers and the like, but now that you’re in Michigan, you’re out of deep-dish land and in a place where Detroit-style reigns supreme. It’s got all the hallmarks of a great Detroit-style pizza. You have a buttery, crispy focaccia crust with an airy, chewy middle. Not much more you can ask for. 

After you eat, head to the back of the distillery, where you’ll find Welter’s Folly. This is their 18-hole professional putting green, inspired by the famous Himalayan putting green in St. Andrews, Scotland, where Journeyman Distillery owner and founder Bill Welter resided.

Here are some notes to keep in mind.

– Open seven days a week starting in the spring (closed in the winter). See hours here.
– $9 putting fee.
– No charge for children under 12.
– Cocktails permitted on the greens.

4. Alapash Mercantile

Journeyman Distillery is on a small art and shopping campus. Just a few steps away, you’ll find a local theater, and across from that, Alapash Mercantile, a converted greenhouse turned home goods store.

Like many other places in New Buffalo, this is run by a Chicagoan who’s found a home in this corner of Southwest Michigan. Marco Chavrry is a Peruvian artist who has called Chicago home for years. You may have seen some of his shops along Damen Avenue in the mid-2000s, but now he curates everything you see here.

You’ll find hand-crafted terrariums and that one-of-a-kind piece you can take back home to remind yourself of this trip years from now. 

5. Warren Dunes State Park

This is a re-tread from another guide, but it’s worth another visit since you’re close by. On your trip, head to Warren Dunes State Park, just a 25-minute drive from the hotel. This is home to rugged dunes and miles of hiking trails. If you’ve been to the Indiana Dunes, you might think this is more of the same, but that can’t be further from the truth.

While the Indian Dunes have a varied ecological footprint, Warren Dunes State Park can sometimes feel more vast, like you’re exploring a beautiful barren lunar landscape.

Here are some notes for your trip:

– The entrance fee to the park is $10 per vehicle
– The main parking lot is next to the beach and Pikes Peak, the tallest dune in the park
– You can find restrooms and water fountains here before you set off on your hike
– Here’s a link to the trail map to help get your bearings. This parking lot is at marker #1

The hike begins on a vast stretch of sand with a gradual incline.

That gradual incline can sometimes turn into a steep incline.

If you’re ambitious, you can take the Mt. Randal Loop Trail, which is 4 miles, circling almost the entire 1,952-acre park. It’s about a two to three-hour journey that includes long stretches along Lake Michigan, takes you deep into forests, and has you traversing steep climbs up mountains of sand.

The soft sand had most hikers going barefoot. Don’t leave the shoes in your car, though. After a while, the sand can get a bit taxing, and a pair of shoes will give you additional support and help you complete the long trek.


6. Whistle Stop Grocery

You’ll take a country highway back towards the hotel on the way back from the dunes. Alongside this road, a sporadic cluster of stores emerges, catching your eye, if only for a moment, as you zoom by. An antique shop here, a diner there, but amidst this assortment, one place deserves your attention—the Whistle Stop Grocery.

This is a small grocer in what looks like a quaint country farmhouse.

You’ll find coffees, snacks, pies, and all the summertime treats you’d expect. They also have a sandwich stand where you can order gourmet cold sandwiches. Think BLTs made with ripe heirloom tomatoes and a homemade tuna salad sandwich, like the kind your mom made you on a warm summer day. 

Alas, we’ve come to the end of this guide. We’ve seen just a fraction of what this slice of Michigan offers, but that means more to uncover as you sit and plan your next move.