Return-to-office plans are rolling out in companies across America—and corporate events and in-person meetings are undergoing a renaissance. With business leaders and event planners searching for ways to reinvent networking opportunities, there’s been a surge in teambuilding activities that look holistically at the mental and emotional well-being of employees. Companies are opting to hold meetings in the open air—and along the open water. They’re doing so with good reason: research backs up the importance of that change.
Marine biologist Dr. Wallace Nichols noted “a mildly meditative sense of being more connected to yourself, more connected to your environment, more connected to the people around you” when spending time in, on, or even just near the water. The benefits of that phenomena, coined by Nichols as “blue mind,” are something to consider when planning a company retreat. Writes Nichols, “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, [and] increase innovation and insight.”
Let these 9 water-centric ideas inspire your next group think-tank:
- Hawks Cay Resort (Duck Key, Florida). With crystal waters and white sand beaches, it’s no surprise that the Florida Keys are one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. Hawks Cay Resort expertly packages Duck Key’s natural beauty with open-ocean conferences, seaside team dinners, and group kayak excursions.
- Forest Suites Resort (South Lake Tahoe, California). Lake Tahoe is North America’s largest alpine lake—and its teal waters and wooded banks give visitors a chance to experience nature at its most untouched. The Forest Suites Resort’s five meeting rooms can hold groups up to fifty, and Skunk Harbor cove is a great daytime excursion for the more adventurous set among them. A hidden beach about 20 minutes from the hotel, it’s accessed via a 1.6-mile hike or bike trail, and the reward at the water’s edge is worth the work.
- Turtle Bay Resort(Oahu, Hawaii). Visiting Turtle Bay is an experience unto itself. Sampling a few of the resort’s oceanside activities? Even better. Nearly every offering brings groups closer to the Pacific swells of Hawaii’s North Shore. Step into the surf with the premier Jamie O’Brien Surf Experience. Or complete a teambuilding scavenger hunt that culminates in a beachside barbeque at one of three breathtaking locations—Kawela Bay, Bay View Beach Lawn, or Kulima Point.
- Spruce Point Inn (Boothbay Harbor, Maine). Looking to immerse your team in the culture of coastal Maine? Try the Spruce Point Inn. With harbor cruises, whale-watching excursions, and an authentic Cabbage Island clambake, the Inn works with local watermen to ensure your group a peaceful and productive stay.
- Sanderling Resort (Outer Banks, North Carolina). Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound, the Sanderling Resort offers water views from every meeting spaceyou’re your group is looking to step away from the boardwalk and the busier beaches, charter a group fishing tour in the waters just off the Outer Banks.
- Margaritaville Lake Resort (Montgomery, Texas). Lake life blends into business at Texas’s Margaritaville Lake Resort. Overlooking Lake Conroe, the resort’s conference rooms boast 72,000 square feet of meeting space. If you’re eyeing waterfront amenities beyond the 9-to-5, consider setting up your group—or select VIPs—in one of the property’s 32 waterfront cottages.
- Skamania Lodge (Stevenson, Washington). Just 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon’s famed Columbia River Gorge, groups at Skamania Lodge will find inspiration in the Pacific Northwest’s natural beauty. Stretching over 80 miles, the Gorge’s hiking trails lead to 50 waterfalls for exploration. Groups should stop on their way to admire Multnomah Falls, the second-highest waterfall in the U.S. The event spaces at the Lodge are just as impressive: the Skamania Lodge is the proud recipient of the Platinum Choice Award from Smart Meetings.
- Stonewall Resort (Roanoke, West Virginia). As West Virginia’s only lakeside conference center, Stonewall Resort’s 300 marina slips offer boat rentals for daytime excursions, fishing, and birdwatching. And if you’re looking to jumpstart a teambuilding trust exercise for the group, try whitewater rafting in the Gauley River with exhilarating class IV and V rapids.
- The Abbey Resort (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin). Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Abbey Resort’s 90 manicured acres have meeting spaces for retreats and events of many sizes—from the intimate Waterfront Board Room to the grand Harbor Ballroom. And the 20-plus miles of lake shoreline offer ample opportunities for birdwatching, fishing, and guided waterway tours.