Leave the lounge chairs at home and reinvent your beach day with three sun-soaked adventures. Survey the city from five stories high, fly across the water on wind power, master the waves from the deck of a massive ship – whatever your pleasure, we guarantee you’ll never look at Grand Traverse Bay the same way again.

A good way to start? Spend a wild weekend on the water with Broneah Kiteboarding’s "Northern Exposure" kiteboarding camp. Brothers and co-owners Matt and Keegan Myers keep class sizes to a minimum – no more than six students per weekend – allowing for one-on-one training time. Kiteboarding is a fast-growing sport, popular in places like Hawaii and Western Europe; it involves a rider strapping his or her feet to a board and holding onto a bar connected to a large kite. By maneuvering the bar, the rider is dragged across the water on the board and can lift into the air to pull stunts – a seasoned kiter can jump as high as 30 feet in the air. Not sure if you’re cut out for kiting? The Myers claim anyone at any age can learn; it’s just a matter of determination and a willingness to respect nature’s elements. By the end of the weekend you’ll walk away with a new hobby, new friends and a deeper appreciation for two of Michigan’s best natural resources – wind and water. (231-392-2212, broneah.com)
Looking for even bigger air? Get high with a sky-scraping ride courtesy of Traverse Bay Parasail. For 15 minutes – a very long 15 minutes at that – brave souls can dangle from a parasail up to 500 feet in the air. Several hundred feet of line is fed out from a boat, allowing those in the parasail to experience a rare bird’s-eye view that stretches from both bays all the way to the city’s limits. If the thought of going it alone gives you the willies, consider sharing the experience with a friend for a tandem flight. Holding hands is optional. Reservations are recommended; no penalties if the weather does not cooperate. Expect to spend about a half hour on the total excursion, from dock to water to dock again. (231-929-7272, traversebayparasail.com)
Balance out all that airtime by planting your feet on the deck of the Tall Ship Manitou, a sturdy and stately replica of a 19th-century cargo schooner. Call ahead to reserve a two-hour midday, afternoon or evening cruise; prices include boxed meals on some excursions. The midday and afternoon cruises are perfect for families – kids can look up at the giant billowing sails and pretend to be a pirate cruising the high seas. If your family is strictly a party of two, sign up for the more subdued evening cruise. Stand with your sweetie at the helm and let the breeze tangle your hair, give the crew a hand, or simply lean into the wind and consider the feeling of freedom that comes with cruising open water. (231-941-2000, tallshipsailing.com)

Finally, rest those sea legs at Boathouse Restaurant (14039 Peninsula Dr., 231-223-4030, boathouseonwestbay.com) for fantastic food and a decidedly delicious view of the bay. Grab a table on the patio out back in the evening, and you’re guaranteed a sweet sunset over West Bay. Your time on the water might be done for now, but with dishes like fried tempura asparagus and crab-topped whitefish on the menu, you’ll be glad you returned to the dry land.

More Ways to Get on the Water!

Quick Links to More Fun in Traverse City!

Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.ebingham@traversemagazine.com

Note: This article was first published in April 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.