The Great Lakes are amazing. I’ve been to Lake Michigan, Superior & Huron, and every little town on the lakes are incredible. I love the laid back, “coastal” vibe, and at times it feels like you were transported to New England. There is a fantastic, one-day road trip route from Chesterton, Indiana to St. Joseph, Michigan, and these are the stops you need to make.
No road trip is complete without an awesome breakfast! Northside is my all-time FAVORITE restaurant. Every single one of my friends can attest how much I love this local diner. The food is always delicious and the wait staff are always so nice! You absolutely have to start the trip in Chesterton with a breakfast from here.
My recommendation: French Toast OR a Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel
Next stop is part of the Indiana Dunes National Park. Mt Baldy is a living sand dune on the Indiana coast. I remember climbing on top of it in my childhood, but you can no longer do that. It’s closed for public safety and to help preserve the dune. It moves 20 feet every year! There is a half milk hike to the side of the dune, and you can walk along the beach in front of the dune. It’s still an incredible sight even if you can’t run around on top of the dune anymore.
Here is an aerial view from the National Park Service.
Dune Billie’s Beach Cafe
Next up, it’s time for a coffee break! Drive along US 12 into Michigan City. You’ll have to get off the path a bit and wind back until you stumble across the cutest little cafe. It’ll probably be packed with people because it’s so yummy! Grab an iced mocha and then you’re ready to hit the beach.
Michigan City Lighthouse
The beaches of Michigan City are just like the rest of Indiana’s coastline, except it has a gorgeous coastal lighthouse stretching into the water. People line up along it to fish, boats coast past it and plenty of people can be found swimming along the shoreline. It’s a great place to sip your coffee and catch a time lapse of the boats and the water.
New Buffalo, Michigan
As you keep driving, 15 minutes later you’ll cross the border into Michigan! The cute little town of New Buffalo is pretty iconic, known for its shore lines and quaint town. You have to stop at Oinks for an ice cream cone before hitting the beach!
There are really cute shops here, so park the car and window shop along the Main Street here. End your time in New Buffalo at the Stray Dog, a delicious restaurant with rooftop seating. Grab an ale & an appetizer and enjoy the sunshine!
St Joseph, Michigan
The next part of the drive is simply that: a drive. US 12 turns into Red Arrow Highway and this easy, two-land Highway is a relaxing drive. There are antique stores to stop at along the way. You’re also on Michigan’s Wine Trail, so if you see a winery stop off and have a tasting!
The last stop of the day is in a town called St Joseph. I love this town because of its variety of restaurants, shops & shorelines. There are often cool events happening here, and it has an iconic lighthouse (which looks a lot like Michigan City’s).
This is the best place to stop and stay the night and keep exploring the next day. There are many rooftop restaurants, and lots of things for families to do, including a children’s museum.
Hopefully you enjoyed this sweet summer day as much as I did! I love the Great Lakes and this is a cute area, and a perfect day trip.