The beaches and water of Traverse City, Michigan, turn a Northern Michigan vacation into an outdoors adventure. Boating, paddling and fishing are all easily accessible here. Whether you spread a towel on the beach or launch a craft into the sparkling waters of Grand Traverse Bay, you won’t want to miss the beaches and water of Traverse City.
Beaches of Traverse City
Running in a sandy arc from Traverse City’s Open Space a mile west to M-72, West End Beach has long provided a measure of Traverse City’s summer vital signs. Locals and visitors stake out space on shore, while boaters anchor nearby, creating a boat-to-shore social scene. The region’s most active volleyball action fires up here as well, with the fit and oiled competing nearly every evening all summer long. An easy walk to downtown delivers Traverse City’s restaurants, cafes and a break from the sun.
With its fat strip of sand, playground equipment on the grass, a plenitude of picnic tables (with grills) and a nice bathroom, Bryant Park, ranks high on family beach favorites. Smaller crowds seal the deal for those looking for a quieter beach scene than what’s found downtown. Plan a late afternoon gathering followed by picnic dinner and sunset, and you’ll have a day to remember. At the southeast corner of West Grand Traverse Bay, where Garfield Ave. meets Peninsula Dr.
Tracing the shore of the diminutive bay at Old Mission Village, the Traverse region’s first European settlement, Haserot Park beach presents a sequestered piece of classic summertime. Playground equipment, picnic tables and grills. But also modest sailboats moored in the bay, cottages running along the shore, and an old timey souvenir shop is a short walk up the little two-lane. One bonus: the bay opens to the southeast—protected from the north and west winds.
Families, especially those with little kids, appreciate the warm inland lake water that Long Lake offers. Shade from towering fir trees in the park offer respite for naps and for when the sun gets too hot. Picnic tables keep the meals easy. A small market a halfmile away fills in what you forgot. And of course, there’s that fall-in-love-with-it Long Lake view. About 6 miles west of Traverse City on North Long Lake Rd.
Next to the old Traverse City zoo and adjacent to the Clinch Park Marina, Clinch Park beach is a great place to get your tan on while squeezing in some quality people watching. Over 1500 feet of sand along West Grand Traverse Bay, Clinch Park features picnic tables, lifeguards from mid-June to August (great for younger swimmers), concessions, a splash pad for kids and it is just a short walk from downtown Traverse City restaurants and coffee bars. Head east of Union Street on Grandview Parkway.
East Bay Park
Located on East Bay Boulevard, Easy Bay Park has a lot going for it. Views of the glass tower of the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, a pleasant park area with grills and bathrooms, and a small playground all make this beach ideal for families with young children. The water of this Lake Michigan bay remains very shallow for a long distance out, allowing new swimmers as well as those who are more inclined to wade than free-style, to splash to their heart’s content.
Traverse City State Park
On the other side of busy U.S. 31 from the sprawling Traverse City State Park campground lies a long strech of peach and quiet. The Traverse City State Park Beach, which is accessible via an elevated walkway over the traffic, is one of Traverse City’s most popular beach spots. With picnic tables, restrooms, on-duty lifegaurds and an outlet of Mitchell Creek at the west end of the beach, it is the perfect place to bring a lunch and spend the day. A state park permit is required should you want to park your car there, but foot access is free.
Bayside Park is more than just a sandy beach with clear shallow water–with picnic tables, playground, basketball and shuffleboard courts, this is the go-to awnser to the constant summmer vacation question “what should we do today?”. Just south of the intersection of U.S. 31 North and M-72 in Acme, Bayside is a short distance from Traverse City on East Grand Traverse Bay.
Get on the Water in Traverse City
A sunset cruise aboard this catamaran tour boat is by far one of the most memorable ways to experience the bay. Four cruises daily; or rent the whole boat for you and up to 45 of your closes friends. Cash bar and bathroom on board. 231.947.1730, nauti-cat.com. Get Nauticat tickets at MyNorthTickets.com
Float up to 80 feet above Grand Traverse Bay for a seagull’s view of one of the biggest, cleanest, freshwater bays on earth. Try East Bay Parasail (eastbayparasail.com) or Traverse Bay Parasail (tbparasail.com) for solo and tandem flights.
If you love speed and don’t want to miss an inch of Grand Traverse Bay’s 300 square miles, a powerboat is a must. Sail & Power Boat Rental has ski boats, pontoons and jet ski—plus all the kneeboarding, tubing and waterskiing paraphernalia you’ll need for a perfect afternoon. 231.922.9336, theboatrental.com.
A sailboat is still one of the most nostalgic and romantic ways to experience the water. Bay Breeze Charters has a fleet of more than 20 yachts you can rent. No captain? They’ll set you up. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. 231.941.0535, bbyc.com
Tall Ship Manitou
This 114-foot-long, 1800s-replica schooner seems to have cruised straight out of a Great Lakes history book. The deck beneath your feet, the sails billowed above: unforgettable. Choose from three daily tours (noon, afternoon and the popular evening cruise), each two hours long. 231.941.2000, tallshipsailing.com
Kayaking and Paddleboarding
Paddling the shoreline of Traverse Bay is a summer classic. But if you’re up for something new, try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding. Try these outfitters to set you up: Wet Mitten Surf Shop, wetmittensurfshop.com, Sunset Water Sports, sunsetwatersports.com, The River Traverse City, therivertraversecity.com
Charter Fishing on Grand Traverse Bay
With nearly 300 square miles, a depth of 600 feet and an abundance of lake trout, brown trout, steelhead and salmon the bay offers fisherman all the species of desire. Try these TC charters: Big Kahuna , Daydreamer (fishdaydreamer.com), Reel Fun (reelfun-fishingcharters.com)