New Buffalo, Michigan 49117
New Buffalo Michigan is the largest of the eight SW Michigan communities that make up Harbor Country. The State of Michigan's Travel Center is located on Interstate 94 in New Buffalo, serving as the Gateway to Michigan. It is also home to the Four Winds Casino and southwest Michigan's only Hard Rock Cafe.
New Buffalo's central business district includes boutique hotels, fine dining restaurants and casual eateries, and numerous retail shops, as well as the Amtrak station, with six trains daily from Chicago to Pontiac and Port Huron.
At the base of Whittaker Street is the public beach, lake and riverside parks, boat launch and transient marina. New Buffalo’s harbor boasts the largest number of slips on the sunset coast at more than 1,100.
New Buffalo Helpful Links
The City of New Buffalo is governed by a City Council, which employs a City Manager.
New Buffalo Township governs areas outside the New Buffalo City limits as well as the Villages of Grand Beach and Michiana.
New Buffalo History
Wessel Whittaker was having a miserable day. Bound for Chicago out of Buffalo NY, Wessel and his crew aboard the schooner Post Boy thought the end might be near. A savage November storm in 1834 grabbed control of their vessel and hurled it onto the Lake Michigan shore. Aground, and breaking up, the Post Boy was lost. But Wessel and his crew managed to struggle ashore near the current village of Grand Beach. The New Yorkers, en route to St. Joseph to report the loss of their ship, came upon a harbor, which Whittaker was certain could rival the port of Chicago. Captain Whittaker determined that he would return to the scene of his calamity and found his "New" Buffalo. Our courageous Captain, of course, wasn't the first visitor to New Buffalo. The Miami, Iroquois and Pottawatomi Indians all fought for control of the area. The Indians, and the game and fish they cherished, also attracted French traders and missionaries. But it was our Captain who first made New Buffalo into a permanent community.
Whittaker, along with friends and relatives, returned in 1835 and began to develop and promote their dream. Sawmills were constructed and log buildings for every purpose were built. More settlers arrived from New York and the South, with not dreams, but expectations of riches to be harvested here. Soon these pioneers learned the value of tourists. Land travelers between Detroit and Chicago meandered through New Buffalo and spent their tourist dollars here. But in the late 1840's, the Michigan Central Railroad Company completed the stretch of track between Niles and New Buffalo, making New Buffalo the end of the railroad line for travelers between Detroit and Chicago. An unprecedented scale of tourism quickly reshaped the town's character. Hotels, restaurants, and numerous saloons, selling whiskey at five cents a pint, were established.
The population grew as railroad and hospitality workers moved to New Buffalo. Visitor's wallets were lightened and the town flourished. When the rail line from New Buffalo to Chicago was completed in the 1850's, however, tourism declined as our former guests merely waved as their trains passed through town.
Although the railroad continued to contribute to the local economy, it was not until the 1900's and the age of the automobile that New Buffalo re-established its link to tourism. In 1934 the State recognized New Buffalo as "The Gateway to Michigan" and built a tourist information center here, at a time when US 12 was the main southwest Michigan artery, intersecting with the final cross-state destination for the historical Red Arrow Highway. With the advent of the Interstate system, I-94 has now paralleled the Red Arrow route. The current Michigan Welcome Center on I-94 at New Buffalo is the busiest in Michigan.
Local contractor Paul Oselka’s may have matched Wessel Whittaker’s vision of New Buffalo’s harbor. He began dredging the harbor and the channel leading to it in the 1960's. By 1975, New Buffalo's safe harbor became a reality and the new Whittaker Street bridge was dedicated. Not quite a port to equal Chicago's, but Wessel's harbor was finally complete.