Visiting Indiana Dunes & Friendship Botanic Gardens

Mt. Baldy Indiana Dunes by FlowerChick.com

Visiting The Indiana Dunes

Indiana is a Great Lakes State in common travel parlance, but it’s different than other Great Lakes States like Michigan, Wisconsin, or even Illinois …

Unlike those three states, Indiana has precious little shoreline on a Great Lake, in this case Lake Michigan. Stretching from the Illinois border to the Michigan border, Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline is a scant 45 miles …

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But what a shoreline it is, for a variety of reasons as we’ll see …

Indiana Dunes and Lake Michigan by FlowerChick.com

Much of Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline is part of America’s newest National Park, the Indiana Dunes National Park. Formerly a National Lakeshore (receiving that designation in 1966), the Indiana Dunes were bestowed National Park status in early 2019 …

Geography of the Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes State Park by FlowerChick.com First time visitors to the Indiana Dunes might get a bit confused about the footprint of the state park and national park. It’s completely understandable as they’re both in the same area. But on paper, they’re completely separate entities …


In a nutshell: Indiana Dunes State Park has just under 2200 acres and is surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Park which consists of about 15,000 acres. The National Park is non contiguous and because there’s no admittance fee, there are no specific entrance gates. On the other hand, Indiana Dunes State Park has a defined entry and exit location where a nominal access fee is collected …

The entire area (state and national parks) lies along Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline. The dunes were created by nature over thousands of years and are an impressive sight. Wind sweeping down Lake Michigan deposited sand at the shoreline and over time, the sand became large hills and ridges, some topping out at 200 feet …

Since sand is quite porous, sand dunes are incredibly changing natural features. The dunes here are constantly shifting, changing configuration, and covering trees and plants as they move. As an example, Mount Baldy  in the National Park (pictured at the top of this post) is moving inland at the rate of approximately four feet per year …

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Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park sign by FlowerChick.com Before there was an Indiana Dunes National Park, there was an Indiana Dunes State Park. This Indiana landmark also long predates the area’s former National Lakeshore status by 40+ years. One of Indiana’s most visited parks, it’s located at the north end of State Route 49 near the Lake Michigan shore …

In our estimation, the most interesting feature about this park is the diverse landscape. Most people focus on the sand dunes and adjacent beaches which, to be sure, are spectacular. But the topography of Indiana Dunes State Park includes wooded wetlands, black oak forests, marshes, and tree graveyards (trees that have been buried by sand) …Indiana Dunes Black Oaks by FlowerChick.com

A renowned birding area, Indiana Dunes State Park is a migratory stop for hundreds of species of birds. Not to be outdone, many types of amphibians call the park home. Plants can be found here that seem out of place under ordinary circumstances – the prickly pear cactus #ad being just one example …

Indiana Dunes State Park Trails by FlowerChick.com

Visit the park any time of year and you’ll encounter hikers enjoying the challenge of the varied terrain found here. Ten trails, all well marked, are available to hikers. Most are accessible from the park’s Nature Center, the perfect place to orient yourself. Trails vary in length from under a mile to over five miles, and from easy to rugged.

Perhaps the best known trail in the park is Trail 8, which goes over the top of the three highest dunes. Known as “The Three Dune Challenge”, this 1.5 mile trail is difficult to climb. It’s almost vertical in sections, and made more challenging because you’re climbing in sand …

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The tallest dune is Mt. Tom, which tops out at 192 feet. The other two dunes in the challenge, Mt. Holden and Mt. Jackson, both top 175 feet, meaning it’s over 500 vertical feet to complete the task. We opted for a more moderate hike, blending Trails 4 and 7, which took us to a beautiful Lake Michigan beach and also to the top of Mt. Tom …

Dune Challenge at Indiana Dunes Park by FlowerChick.comState

With ten trails to explore and all sorts of natural attractions, Indiana Dunes State Park is a destination to revisit again and again. The park is so diverse it’s impossible to experience it all in one day. Our suggestion is to reference the very helpful Indiana Dunes State Park brochure available at the Nature Center and the Dunes Visitors Center off Route 49 about a mile south of the park’s entrance. The brochure outlines the trails in detail, contains a very useful park map, and contains all sorts of helpful information …

Indiana Dunes State Park by FlowerChick.comIndiana Dunes State Park, like the National Park, is open all year around. You’ll find seasonal activities no matter your interests and extremely convenient access to Interstate 94.

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Indiana Dunes National Park

America’s newest National Park stretches across Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline from Michigan City on the east to Gary and Lake Station on the west. The Park is non contiguous, meaning sections of land in the area are excluded from the footprint.

Indiana Dunes National Park by FlowerChick.comIn 2019, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore became Indiana’s first national park. The 61st National Park is actually a series of sites along the southern shore of Lake Michigan which include 15 miles of beaches, more than 50 miles of trails, dunes, bogs, historic sites, camping, and more.

As noted above, Indiana Dunes State Park is a separate entity, located amidst the National Park boundaries …

Indiana Dunes Visitors Center by FlowerChick.comIf it all sounds a bit confusing, never fear! Your best bet is to visit the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center located just north of I-94 on Route 49 (it’s Exit #26). Open daily, the Visitor Center is your orientation headquarters. Here you’ll find guides, brochures, helpful advice, comfort facilities, and even a gift shop. The Center also shows two short orientation films on demand in their on site theater …

From the Visitor Center, you’re ready to explore both Parks (State and National). If you’re a beach lover, there are seven large beaches to choose from. The west section of the National Park features popular West Beach, and the Park’s eastern edge is highlighted by spacious Central Avenue Beach …

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If you’re not a beach type, there are plenty of activities to keep you engaged. Here are a few of our favorite sights and locations within the National Park:

The Century of Progress Homes  These five model homes didn’t start out in the dunes. They came over after the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, titled “A Century of Progress.” The houses starred in the Homes of Tomorrow exhibit, where nearly 50 million people could gaze upon the future of residential architecture and the stunning home conveniences on the horizon.

The Century of Progress Homes in Beverly Shores by FlowerChick.com

At the Fair’s end, developer Robert Bartlett saw the houses as a marketing opportunity. He bought and transported them by barge across the lake to Beverly Shores, a resort community he was developing on the Indiana shore.

The Florida Tropical Home of the Century of Progress Homes in Indiana by FlowerChick.com

     The Florida Tropical House

You can visit the cluster of five landmark homes today:  the Florida Tropical House, the Armco-Ferro House, The House of Tomorrow, The Cyprus Log House, and the Rostone House. 

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Once a year, you are able to tour the inside of the homes by purchasing a ticket on the Indiana Landmarks website (usually held in late September or early October). The tours are so popular … they usually sell out in an hour.

Mt. Baldy Indiana Dunes by FlowerChick.com

Mount Baldy & Beach – Mount Baldy is a sand dune located in Indiana Dunes National Park. It’s a wandering dune that moves and shifts every year, and is called a “living dune.”  Due to erosion and safety concerns, the Mount Baldy dune is closed to every day hiking.  It’s being studied closely by National Park environmental staff to help stabilize it.

Fun fact:  Mount Baldy is 126 feet above the water level of Lake Michigan

The trail is open to the beach and visitors can enjoy the Mount Baldy beach which is open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00pm.  From there, you can take in great views of the dune and lake …

Insider Travel tip:  Make sure to pick up a free copy of “The Singing Sands” … the official trip planner of Indiana Dunes National Park.  There’s a calendar of events, wildlife spotlight, articles on things to do, great tips, and FAQ’s.

If you’re traveling west to east like we were, make Mount Baldy your final stop in the National Park. Route 12 then winds into historic Michigan City, where there’s plenty to see and do, including the wonderful Friendship Botanic Gardens, which we spotlight below. Read on!

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The Oldest Bar In Michigan City …

Exiting Indiana Dunes National Park to the east, you’ll enter Michigan City, IN. This lakeside town of just over 30,000 is the last Indiana metro area before reaching the Michigan state line …

Michigan City has a rich history dating back to the 1830’s. The town is in a bit of a renaissance and features an expansive beach, zoo, historic districts, and the only lighthouse in Indiana …


Tucked between the busy Blue Chip Casino and Lighthouse Place outlet mall is the Uptown Arts District. This area features a several block area where you’ll find shopping, the arts, dining, special events, and … drum roll … the oldest bar in town!

Ritz Klub This local family owned bar and grill has been a Michigan City staple since 1890, making it far and away the city’s oldest bar.
It’s located at 124 W. 4th Street and you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the flickering beer lights beckoning you to enter …

The Ritz Klub by FlowerChick.com

   Inside the Ritz Klub bar and grill

Ritz Klub is best known for their hefty and delicious hamburgers and cheeseburgers, ground fresh daily and hand pattied. They’re a meal unto themselves, but don’t skip the crispy golden brown french fries as a perfect side. The vibe is “neighborhood comfortable old saloon” and you’ll find families mixing with singles, regulars, locals, and occasional visitors in search of the oldest bar in town (like us) …

Insider Tip: We were thrilled to see the wonderful Yuengling Lager on tap at the Ritz Klub. Yuengling is America’s oldest brewery and they recently entered the Indiana market, where the brewery’s offerings are wildly popular. Sit back, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy a nice cold Yuengling on tap!


More Michigan City Favorites

Brincka Cross Gardens:  Brincka Cross Gardens are located in Michigan City off of Route 20 and Furness Road.  This small haven set back in the woods, is just waiting to be explored!

Lovingly designed by Bill Brincka, an art professor at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Basil Cross, an antiques and fine furniture buyer for Marshall Fields … the couple built their Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home on the property then set to work on an intricate garden project.

I see this place as a sanctuary; one small piece of earth that I manage – not control, but take care of.”  ~ William Brincka

The home on the Brincka Cross Gardens property by FlowerChick.com

The Arts & Crafts style home on the Brincka Cross Gardens property can be rented for events …

Over the decades they designed nearly 4 acres of gardens on this 25-acre site. Brincka was passionate about gardening and actualized his sense of art and design by creating a landscape filled with pleasing colors and shapes. Each plant was carefully chosen to create a sense of delight and wonder.

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Brincka was also a successful hybridizer who created new species, many of which can still be found in the gardens today. There are daylily and rhododendron gardens and over 40 varieties of magnolias. Over 200 kinds of hosta grace the hosta garden.

Trails on the Brincka Cross Gardens property by FlowerChick.com

Walk through the woods and admire the beauty of the trees in every season

After their deaths, Porter County Parks & Recreation purchased the Brincka Cross property and acquired surrounding land … expanding the park to 68 acres.  The gardens are open to the public including 1.5 miles of trails that wind through the woods behind the house and gardens.  Admission is free and the trails are pet friendly.

Brincka Cross Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Lovely mix of tree, shrubs, groundcovers and perennials at Brincka Cross

Lange’s Meat Market: Located on 7th Street just a block from the Lighthouse Place Outlet Stores, this meat market is a throwback to real honest to goodness old fashioned butcher shops … sawdust on the floor and everything! Lange’s is a great place and we’re so pleased to tell you about it …

Lang's Meat Market Michigan City by FlowerChick.com

        Lange’s Meat Market

As soon as you enter, you’ll be greeted with a big smile by welcoming owner Pete Lange, who established the market in 1992. A self described people person, Pete will likely hand you a sample of one of his signature items you’re sure to love like Lange’s famous meat snack sticks, available in several varieties. You’ll notice a display case showcasing prime beef, steaks, house made natural casing hot dogs, smoked jerky and more …

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Visit during the traditional holiday season and you’ll encounter fans of the meat market picking up their smoked hams and turkeys, along with lamb, veal, and the aforementioned steaks. A popular place, Lange’s is a Michigan City must stop destination and a place where personal service takes precedence …

On this visit, we picked up mild snack sticks for a friend and a package of natural casing hot dogs which put store brand hot dogs to shame! Visit Lange’s online via the title link or better yet, make it a point to stop in next time you’re visiting Michigan City and the Indiana Dunes …

Beach Bum Jewels: I’ve always been intrigued by beach glass or sea glass. It’s defined as pieces of glass that made the journey to shore after being discarded into bodies of water. Along the way they have been tumbled and tossed among the waves and sand for many years before being discovered and re-purposed into something interesting.  Imagine the stories these pieces could tell!

Beach Bum Jewels Michigan City IN by FlowerChick.comAt Beach Bum Jewels, a mother – daughter team, creates unique handmade jewelry from the beach or sea glass:  including earrings , pendants, rings, bracelets, necklaces and more. They do not alter the beach glass … leaving it the same color and shape as when it was found. Some was located on the shores of Lake Michigan and others on beaches elsewhere around the country.

What a cool shop! There’s a wonderful selection of jewelry as well as other beach inspired items including local art, paintings, wooden signs, pillows, beach bags, hand-painted wine glasses … lots of neat gift items.

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Can you keep a secret?  ; ) I bought a beautiful pair of earrings here (blue in color) for my annual holiday party with my grade school girlfriends. We always have an earring exchange … usually purchasing the baubles on a trip we’ve taken during the year.  I’m sure the lucky recipient will cherish them!

Fun fact … Orange is the most rare color of beach glass and white is the most common.


Visiting Friendship Botanic Gardens Michigan City IN

Friendship Botanic Gardens is a local treasure … an oasis of formal gardens mixed with nature trails tucked in an old-growth forest surrounding Trail Creek in Michigan City, Indiana.  It’s located on 105 acres off of Route 12 very near Lake Michigan … just a few minutes east of the Indiana Dunes National Park.

Chinese Bridge over the creek at Friendship Gardens by FlowerChick.com

     The photogenic Chinese Bridge at Friendship Botanic Gardens

Trail Creek twists and turns through the gardens (nearly 2,000 feet of the creek) and eventually runs into the waters of nearby Lake Michigan. The creek separates the Symphony side of the grounds from the Celebration side, with a bridge for visitors to walk over and see the water from above. It is a peaceful setting that can be enjoyed in many ways including fishing, picnicking and sightseeing the local wildlife.

Friendship Botanic Gardens Images: Click To See

The Garden encourages people to “forge a lifelong connection with nature,” and Trail Creek provides a great water resource that both humans and animals can enjoy.  Speaking of animals, leashed dogs are welcome on their 3+ miles of trails. I spotted a very happy black lab and an enthusiastic border collie while walking the grounds!

Friendship Botanic Gardens MIby FlowerChick.com

 Colorful perennial gardens abound at Friendship Botanic Gardens

Friendship Botanic Gardens: Past, Present, & Future

Friendship Botanic Gardens has a long and unique history. As you’ll discover, the gardens of today are a rewarding example of a community pulling together to save and refresh a beloved cultural asset …

For starters, the gardens have been a part of Michigan City since 1936. One of the more unique botanical sites we’ve visited, Friendship Botanic Gardens is a combination of open spaces, formal gardens, and woodlands spread over 100+ acres …

Trail Creek at Friendship Botanic Gardens by FlowerChick.com

       Peaceful overlook of Trail Creek – relax and enjoy nature

The idea for a botanical garden in Michigan City has roots dating back to Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition, essentially a World’s Fair (my mother in law, a Chicago native, attended the Fair as a child). One of the many exhibits was a garden assembled and overseen by three brothers who owned a plant nursery in nearby Hammond, Indiana …

Friendship Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Original sign at Friendship Gardens

The garden was called International Friendship Gardens, with the theme “Peace & Friendship To All Nations”. The entire concept so impressed two prominent attendees from Michigan City and soon after, they approached the three brothers to develop a similar set up in their hometown …

Plans moved ahead quickly, and in 1936, International Friendship Gardens opened to the public at the current site in Michigan City. Early donors to the garden included the King of England, Queen of the Netherlands, and the King of Persia. These and other world leaders sent plants, seeds, and statuary to help establish the original garden …

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Decline and Rebirth

Over ensuing decades, stewardship of the gardens passed from the original benefactors to other passionate local citizens. The job of maintaining and updating the 105 acre site proved too daunting a task though, and by the mid 1980’s the gardens were a shell of their former selves in a sad state of neglect …

Sensing a need for broad based community involvement, a Board of Directors of local citizens was formed. Directors offered a specific expertise, along with unbridled enthusiasm to reinvigorate the gardens and save them for future generations.

Friendship Gardens Michigan City IN by FlowerChick.com

                            Beautiful vistas at Friendship Gardens!

By 1995, the gardens became a public non-profit organization. Over the ensuing 25 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars of capital improvements have been made to the grounds. A full and part time staff are employed to ensure the continued vibrancy of the gardens, along with a group of dedicated volunteers …

In 2015, the gardens name was officially changed to Friendship Botanic Gardens. Happily, the gardens are now an important northern Indiana visitor destination (and beyond!). It’s really a pleasure to experience such an enriching site that’s ever evolving and improving due to cooperation between the public, corporate interest, and municipal support …

International Garden at Friendship Botanic Gardens by lwerChick.cm

The International Path of Nations has African, German, Irish, Italian gardens & more

While I was meandering the Friendship grounds, crews were setting up for a wedding reception in the Celebration Pavilion.  I asked a volunteer how many weddings they host yearly and he said at least 50 – 60.  No wonder it’s so popular … with the gardens as a lovely backdrop and a giant illuminated fountain rising up from Lake Lucerne on the southern portion of the grounds. Perfect for bridal photos and making memories!

The Bridal Cabin at Friendship Botanic Gardens Michigan City IN by FlowerChick.com

 The charming Bridal Cabin awaits the arrival of the bride and her attendants

Close to the entrance of the gardens, I stopped at the Butterfly Garden. Even though it was late September … it did not disappoint. I saw various butterflies sunning on the perennial flowers such as coneflowers, rudbeckias, and blue mistflowers.  A beautiful sight!

Butterfly Garden at Friendship Botanic Garden in Michigan City by FlowerChick.comGardens

              A Monarch butterfly resting on a blue mistflower

The Mothers’ Memorial Garden was very touching and well-tended.  Many cottage garden type flowers were planted in this area as a tribute to all mothers. An engraved bench graces this space and beckons for you to sit and reflect.

Mother's Memorial Garden at Friendship Botanic Garden by FlowerChick.com

Another don’t miss section of Friendship Botanic Gardens is the Children’s Garden … which keeps getting bigger and better each year.  There are interactive play areas, sensory displays to excite kids about the prospect of gardening, and a secret garden cabin with a glass viewing window that looks directly into the fascinating inner workings of a real honeybee hive. Fun for all ages!

In summary, there’s a lot to see at Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City, IN. Plan to spend several hours here, pick up a map at the Visitor’s Booth and then hit the trails … you can even bring your dog friends for some fresh air and exercise.

Delphinium at Friendship Botanic Gardens by FlowerChick.com

Gorgeous purple delphinium in bloom in the Mothers’ Memorial Garden

Across The Border Into Michigan

Friendship Botanic Gardens is less than five minutes to the Indiana – Michigan border and southwestern Michigan. A familiar destination for visitors, this part of Michigan boasts inviting harbor towns and a relaxed ambiance. As you enter Berrien County, the first prominent Michigan town you’ll reach is New Buffalo, a historic harbor community we’ve enjoyed for decades …

New Buffalo MI harbor by FlowerChick.com

The Scenic New Buffalo Harbor in October

New Buffalo is named after Buffalo, New York, as you might expect. Having been to both many times, we see the similarity. Both are harbor locales adjacent to a Great Lake. You’ll find unique shopping, great independent restaurants, and welcoming locals in each. Buffalo, NY is much larger, but New Buffalo, just like its namesake, is a destination well worth exploring …

From Michigan City, Route 12 hugs the general outline of Lake Michigan and takes visitors to the outskirts of New Buffalo’s charming, lively downtown. Rt. 12 turns inland as you leave New Buffalo, heading east to the fun village of Three Oaks and beyond to Fernwood Botanical Gardens in nearby Niles …

5 New Buffalo Favorites

New Buffalo is popular with tourists, but it’s not really accurate to call it a tourist town. Featuring a natural Lake Michigan harbor and inviting downtown, New Buffalo retains an historical charm while appealing to modern visitors …

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This general area of far southwest Michigan is commonly referred to as Harbor Country. Small towns and natural attractions dot the landscape from the Indiana-Michigan border to St. Joseph further north along the shore …

Farmstand in New Buffalo MI by FlowerChick.com

   We Love Visiting Farm Stands!

In warmer months into the fall, you’ll encounter local markets offering the bounty of the region’s climate and proximity to Lake Michigan. Numerous types of produce thrive here due to soil conditions and moderating lake effects. In fact, many small wineries are based here and vineyards are common sites as you move slightly away from the Lake Michigan shore …

If you’re looking for a relaxed small town atmosphere with interesting shopping and local dining, New Buffalo is a perfect destination. We’ve watched the town evolve over the past few decades and while several new upscale establishments have taken hold, there’s still a certain southwestern Michigan small harbor town vibe …


Here are some of our New Buffalo favorites, ranging from places to eat and drink to shopping to natural attractions. The bold titles are web links to make it easier to explore each listing at their web presence. We love New Buffalo and Harbor Country and hope you share our enthusiasm!

POSH Upscale Consignment Boutique:  POSH is the area’s premier consignment shop serving New Buffalo, La Porte, St. Joseph and surrounding areas. They offer very gently used ladies apparel, jewelry,  handbags, shoes, accessories and much more. A nice mix of high end designer apparel mixed with good quality more affordable brands.

Posh Consignment New Buffalo by FlowerChickOn our most recent visit, I picked up a colorful scarf and two pieces of vintage costume jewelry … including an interesting daisy pin that actually moves. Perfect for Flower Chick!

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A young woman I work with recently confided to me that she’s always wanted a Louis Vuitton purse and a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps … I told her about POSH and how I’ve spotted both there at reasonable prices … now she’s planning a shopping trip to New Buffalo.  She’s hoping to drop her fiance off at a local tavern so she can shop to her heart’s content.  I’m here to help : )

Barney’s Market: Adjacent to both Route 12 and New Buffalo’s downtown, Barney’s is where locals and visitors shop for groceries and more. Here you’ll find a full service deli with everything from freshly made deli salads to meals on the go …

Barneys in New Buffalo by FlowerChick.com

    Inside of Barney’s Market 

We especially like Barney’s wine and beer section, where you’ll discover many choices from area wineries and small breweries. This is a great place to buy and bring home a bottle or two, along with many other locally made products …

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Galien River County Park: We were very impressed by this very unique county park located just north of downtown New Buffalo on Red Arrow Highway …

Galien River Park sugn by FlowerChick.comGalien River County Park is just upstream from the river’s mouth a short distance away at Lake Michigan. Featuring a mix of wetland and upland habitats, the park features a boardwalk and upper canopy walkway for up close and personal viewing opportunities …

A bird viewer’s paradise, the benches and scenic overlooks give visitors the feeling of being immersed in nature. We strolled the length of the marsh boardwalk, which allows you to be literally in the marsh without getting wet. You’ll have to experience it to believe it!

Along the boardwalk, there are several interpretive panels outlining the parks geographical features, including how the marsh was formed and continues to evolve. The upper canopy walkway provide a spectacular overhead vantage point and there are also numerous hard surface hiking trails to experience the upland features …

Galien River Park by FlowerChick.com

 Wetland View from the Boardwalk – Yes It’s Really That Green!

Galien River County Park is open from spring to late fall during daylight hours. There’s no admittance fee and you’ll find ample parking at the trail head entrance. To really experience the variety of nature just a few miles apart, visit this park and Warren Dunes State Park in the same day. You’ll be amazed at the difference in landscapes and how Mother Nature works her magic …

Nelson’s Saloon: A hub of activity in downtown Three Oaks, Nelson’s is a prototypical small town tavern gathering spot. Boasting a popular Friday fish fry and approachable casual menu, you’ll feel right at home the moment you walk in …

Nelson's Saloon in Three Oaks by Flower

Enjoying the scene inside Nelson’s 

Situated in the heart of town, Nelson’s has been a Three Oaks landmark for decades. It’s not a large place, but it’s comfortable and friendly. Nelson’s is known for their great burgers and there’s always local sports showing on the tv’s behind the bar …

Paddling Michigan: Rivers, Towns, & Taverns

Insider Tip: You might not expect a tavern to feature a great dessert item, but Nelson’s has a standout. Be sure to save room for a slice of their peanut butter pie … it’s got a cool refreshing fluffy texture and it goes well with … well, just about anything!

If you’re a fan of traditional casual places, Nelson’s Saloon will be right up your alley …

Insider Tip: Looking for a spot to photograph the sunrise or sunset over Lake Michigan? This quiet spot near the New Buffalo Water Filtration Plant offers a spectacular vantage point. On very clear days when there’s no lake fog or marine layer, you may be able to see Chicago’s skyline in the distance, some 70 miles away …

New Buffalo Overlook by FlowerChick.com

We discovered this overlook (above) on Google Maps, which refers to the spot as the New Buffalo Overlook. It’s located two blocks north of Route 12 at the western end of Shore Drive. There’s no official parking or amenities but it’s a great place to snap a photo!

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Visiting Warren Dunes State Park Sawyer MI

The Warren Dunes have long been a beach destination for Chicagoans and the surrounding area. We’ve been visiting here for over 40 years and like countless other folks, Warren Dunes holds a special place in our hearts …

The park is one of Michigan’s most visited state parks and draws visitors from the immediate area, Indiana, Illinois, and beyond. It’s located on the famous Red Arrow Highway in Sawyer, MI just a few minutes north of New Buffalo …

Before we delve into the Warren Dunes in depth, we’re compelled to talk a bit about this area’s famed Red Arrow Highway. This stretch of road runs from New Buffalo all the way to the Kalamazoo County line and it holds a charm all its own …

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Discover Red Arrow Highway

Picturesque. Mom and Pop Shops. Cuisine. Antiques. Wine Tasting. Home Decor.

These are just some of the words and phrases used to describe the iconic Red Arrow Highway as it winds through Michigan’s Berrien County and beyond …

Red Arrow Highway sign by FlowerChick.comA two lane bi-way, Red Arrow Highway’s eleven miles in Harbor Country stretch from New Buffalo to Warren Dunes State Park, passing through seven lakeside communities along the way. Extraordinarily scenic, the Highway is home to a wide variety of local businesses that beckon you to pull over and visit …

Red Arrow Highway draws its name from the American Army’s 32nd Infantry Division which uses a red arrow as its insignia. The main thoroughfare closest to Lake Michigan in the southwestern part of the state, the Highway is well known to both locals and visitors. It was recently named as one of America’s most scenic drives by USA Today, and no wonder … Red Arrow Highway struts its stuff in all four seasons!

The northern edge of the Highway in Berrien County is the entrance to Warren Dunes State Park …
Warren Dunes Map FlowerChick.com

What To See In Warren Dunes State Park

Back in our teenage and college years, the expansive beach at Warren Dunes was a preferred destination, even with Chicago’s beaches nearby. We loved looking out the horizon and faintly seeing Chicago’s majestic skyline in the distance …

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If you’re planning to hit the beach, you’re in luck. This beach is one of the very best in the Midwest. It’s clean, very wide, and the main swimming area stretches out along the Lake Michigan shore for about a mile. There’s a seasonal snack bar (which has just been upgraded) just steps from the beach front and plenty of parking …

Warren Dunes Stae Park Michigan by FlowerChick.com

                 The long expanse of beach at the Warren Dunes

Immediately behind the beach, a few hundred yards from the lake, is one of the tallest sand dunes in the area. This is Tower Hill, and adjacent is Mt. Randall. What makes these dunes unique? For one, they’re taller than any of the Indiana dunes. We found that fact somewhat surprising considering this park’s location on Lake Michigan’s eastern shore as opposed to the Indiana Dunes location at the southern shore. Wind and waves work in mysterious ways to be sure!

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Tower Hill and Mt. Randall are two of the prominent activities in the park. All through the spring, summer, and fall seasons, hikers and beach goers climb to the top for the spectacular views. Young and energetic? Run down the dune after climbing atop … the carefree sense of freedom will send your spirits soaring!

Warren Dunes by FlowerChick.com

As well known this park is for its beach, there’s excellent hiking here too. There are over a dozen trails here, and several combine to highlight the best the park has to offer. Combining Trails 1,3,4, and 14 take you on a 4+ mile loop. You’ll experience the Lake Michigan shoreline, tops of stately dunes, the Warren Dunes State Park Natural Area, and more …

While in the park, it’s likely you’ll encounter wildlife. As we slowly drove our vehicle around the park exploring, we came within feet of a deer going about her business. A few moments later, we encountered a delightful flock of wild turkeys, all following one another to and fro …

Wild turkeys at teh WArren Dunes by FlowerChick.com

A Flock of Wild Turkeys at the Warren Dunes!

If you’re a camping enthusiast, Warren Dunes is well known for their camp sites and amenities. If you’re visiting just for the day, there’s a nominal access fee charged at the front gate …

We discover more about Warren Dunes every time we visit. The pristine beach and natural characteristics of the park draw us back again and again. We’re betting it will be the same for you!

In The Warren Dunes State Park Vicinity

There are literally dozens and dozens of visit worthy local businesses along and just off Red Arrow Highway. In the immediate vicinity of Warren Dunes State Park, three stand out and we’re happy to spotlight them here …

Falatic’s Meat Market: If you’re visiting the Warren Dunes, you can’t miss Falatic’s. It’s located 1/4 mile south of the state park’s entrance on the same (west) side of Red Arrow Highway …

Locals and visitors alike know Falatic’s is the perfect stop to pick up something for your grill, smoker, or oven. Established over 40 years ago, this family owned authentic butcher shop specializes in fresh cuts of meat. It’s not a large place, but Falatic’s has an extensive selection – more than 100 different items.

Falatics Meat Market by FlowerChick.com

 Falatic’s Colorful, Whimsical Exterior 

Some of Falatic’s many specialties include brats, sausages, rib eye and T Bone steaks, pork, lamb, and well, you get the idea. Insider Tip: One Falatic’s item not to be missed is their pickled herring. It’s made in house and if you like herring like we do, it’s as good as it gets …

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You can also pick up frozen fish at Falatic’s including whitefish and lake perch. We brought home some natural casing hot dogs which pair extremely well with any of this area’s many locally brewed beers …

Stop in and experience a traditional time honored butcher shop just a stone’s throw from Warren Dunes State Park …

Luisa’s Cafe & Harbert Swedish Bakery: We love local bakeries and this spot is in our estimation the best bakery in southwestern Michigan …

Luisa's Swedish Bakery Harbert by FlowerChick.com

It’s Delicious at Harbert Swedish Bakery!

Warm and inviting, Luisa’s Cafe & Harbert Swedish Bakery is, as the name implies, a combination cafe and bakery. Walk inside and you’re in the midst of a traditional bakery with freshly baked goods beckoning your taste buds. Immediately to your left is the wonderful Luisa’s Cafe, which serves a breakfast and early lunch menu featuring fresh locally sourced ingredients …

The bakery itself has a long, long history in this area. It was a stand alone bakery until around 2001 when it was purchased by current ownership who added the cafe. A very popular place appealing to locals and visitors, it’s located right on Red Arrow Highway just minutes south of the Warren Dunes …

Insider Tip: You’ll be tempted by many of the bakery’s baked fresh daily items but don’t miss taking home a loaf or two of their fabulous Swedish style breads. We bought a loaf of Swedish rye and it was sooooo good! Grocery store bought bread just doesn’t do the trick anymore so we’re already planning our next visit to this wonderful bakery …

Of course, you can also enjoy tried and true favorites like donuts, pastries, coffee cakes, and more. Stop in and you’ll see why this place is so beloved in the Warren Dunes area and beyond …

Sawyer Home & Garden Center: They say life is for learning. Well, we learned (or reinforced) an important life lesson on this visit …

Simply put, the lesson is to listen to the locals … they won’t steer you wrong. We found out how much that rings true after our visit to the wonderful Sawyer Home & Garden Center just five minutes from the Warren Dunes …

Sawyer Home & Garden Center MI by FlowerChick.com

Wonderful Selection of Michigan Produce at Sawyer Home & Garden

We were tipped off by an in the know merchant in nearby Three Oaks, who suggested Sawyer Home & Garden Center as a great spot to pick up local produce and locally made specialty food and drink. We spent almost an hour here and barely scratched the surface! There’s a bountiful selection of seasonal produce, home and garden items, local wine and beer, and much more.

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Located just three minutes off Interstate 94 in downtown Sawyer, this family owned destination is a must see for visitors to the area. A one stop shopping experience if there ever was one, Sawyer Home & Garden Center is part local market, traditional garden center, gathering place, home goods store, cafe, and specialty retailer. You’ll need at least an hour to experience it all …

SAwyer Home & Garden Center by FlowerChick.com

Exterior of Sawyer Home & Garden

We visited in the heart of apple season and treated ourselves to several varieties of Michigan grown apples, along with apple cider and a bushel full of locally grown produce. There’s a great selection of Michigan wine and beer, seasonal gifts, and items for your home you never knew you couldn’t live without …

We’re kicking ourselves for not visiting here before on our many trips to the Warren Dunes area, but rest assured, this home and garden center is now firmly entrenched in our southwest Michigan travel agenda. Lesson learned … Listen to the locals and you’re sure to discover a gem!

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Summary

This was a spectacular weekend trip! Visiting the Indiana Dunes and Friendship Botanic Gardens is a full two days at least, and adding in Warren Dunes State Park adds another day, especially if you make time to check out our recommendations …

A long weekend is the perfect amount of time to set aside to briefly experience these Indiana and Michigan natural attractions for the first time. You’ll be able to narrow down what interests you most in the Indiana Dunes and explore more in depth on a subsequent visit …

Indaina Dunes State Park view from highest point by FlowerChick.com

View from Mt. Tom’s Highest Point – Indiana Dunes State Park

We’ve been visiting here for decades and still haven’t experienced everything. With the new National Park status, expect more and more improvements and opportunities to explore this one of a kind area …

Also, gardeners should definitely put nearby Fernwood Botanical Gardens on your agenda. It’s a short 20 minute drive via Route 12 east of New Buffalo …

You’ll love visiting this area in the fall. Crowds are sparser, the weather is generally cooperative, and plant life is still thriving and putting on a show …


Have you been to the Indiana Dunes or Warren Dunes State Park? If so, what are some of your favorite activities and places to experience? Reach out via our Contact form – we love hearing from our readers.

Stay tuned for more Midwest garden destinations in the very near future … thanks for reading!

Friendship Botanic Garden Michigan City by FlowerChick.com

Experience the serene Friendship Botanic Gardens in Michigan City, IN