The bounty of autumn’s harvest permeates every corner of Harbor Country along the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. Here are 10 ways to savor the fall season in this region, located less than two hours from Chicago:
1) Color on wheels Roll through the colorful countryside with 5,000 fellow cyclists on September 27. The annual Apple Cider Century ride winds through lush meadows and forests. Distances range from 15 to 100 miles. Can’t make it to the event? Rent a bike anytime from Dewey Cannon Trading Company in Three Oaks.
Photo courtesy of Apple Cider Century
2) Fall migration Flock to fall birding destinations like the New Buffalo Public Beach, Galien River County Park and Warren Dunes State Park to glimpse southbound shorebirds and waterfowl. Get tips for prime bird-watching locations at The Berrien Birding Club, or pick up the Berrien Birding Destination brochure at the New Buffalo Welcome Center.
Photo by Charley McKelvy
3) Picker’s paradise Salvaged, upcycled, vintage and antique: One-of-a-kind treasures abound at the Blue Moon Vintage Market in Three Oaks, open the fourth weekend of every month through December. Continue the hunt along Red Arrow Highway at Lakeside Antiques, Dunes Antique Center, Sojourn and Stewart James Antiques and Galleria, among others.
4) Soaring vista Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of fall foliage at the Galien River County Park in New Buffalo. A 300-foot-long walkway through the tree canopy leads to 60-foot-tall Marsh Overlook Tower for views of protected marshland.
5) Something's brewing Sip local wines and brews as you toast the season at the Harvest and Wine Festival in New Buffalo on October 10. During this annual family-friendly event, shop for handcrafted jewelry, savor homemade caramel corn, take a horse-drawn hayride through town and dance to live music.
Photo by Johnny Borter
6) Peaceful retreat Surrounded by mature trees wearing a full blast of fiery oranges and reds, the 2-acre property surrounding Rabbit Run Inn puts on quite a show this time of year. The ecofriendly boutique bed-and-breakfast in Sawyer contains modern amenities like plasma TVs and iPod docking stations. Warren Dunes State Park, myriad hiking trails and Lake Michigan are a short bike away. (Ask innkeepers Rodney and Linda Jo for a bike to borrow.)
7) Spirits of the season In a region known for its wines, Journeyman Distillery stands out as being one of the only whiskey and spirit makers in the area. Housed in a former corset factory once owned by a Prohibitionist, Journeyman provides architectural and historical tours capped off by a free sample. This fall, they're expanding to include the restaurant Staymaker, serving from-scratch pizzas.
Photo by Nick Yoder
8) Farm-to-table Reserve a spot by the fireplace at Mesa Luna in Sawyer. Chef Sam Luna’s fall menu of farm-to-table favorites debuts September 21. Try the savory roasted garlic custard with Michigan mushrooms, Moroccan lamb stew sweetened with local hard squash and Illinois farm-raised roasted half chicken with a medley of Michigan vegetables.
9) Ripe for the picking Pick concord grapes at Dinges’ Farm in New Buffalo from September through mid-October (the longer you wait, the sweeter the grapes). Pick the perfect pumpkin from the patch, then let the kids jump in the bounce house, ride the Dinges Express Train and get lost in the corn maze.
Photo courtesy of Harbor Country Chamber of Commerce
10) Stocked market You'll find the region's premier farmers market off Red Arrow Highway in New Buffalo. Each weekend, Skip’s Open-Air European Farmers Market attracts thousands of visitors with seasonal produce, prepared artisanal food, fresh-cut flowers, and arts and crafts. The market’s ninth annual chili cook-off marks the close of the season on October 11.