The long days of winter are over, and spring is here! As the weather gets warmer, it’s fun to think about hitting the beach this summer.
For mobility-impaired people the beach can be slightly overwhelming. It helps to find beaches that are wheelchair accessible to make your day by the water as stress-free and fun as possible.
In this article we offer tips for going to the beach with a wheelchair and provide a curated list of some of the best wheelchair accessible beaches in the US!
There are several things to consider and plan in advance before going to the beach with a wheelchair. One of them is whether or not a beach wheelchair is right for you. Some beaches have beach wheelchairs available for free or for rent. Check with the beach’s lifeguard station or a local hotel concierge to determine if this is an option.
Tips for Going to the Beach with a Wheelchair
Whether using a beach wheelchair or your own wheelchair, there are several considerations to think about in advance to make your day go as smoothly as possible.
Transportation: Call ahead to ensure there are adequate handicap spaces available if you are driving to the beach. If you are taking public transportation, inquire about how far it is from the beach and whether it drops you off in an area that is safe.
Water Accessibility: Beach wheelchairs make accessing the water a lot easier, but if a beach wheelchair isn’t a possibility for you, ask if there is a path or trail that will allow a regular wheelchair to access the water. While some beaches may categorize themselves as “wheelchair accessible”, that does not always mean “water accessible.
Restroom Accessibility & Staff: Ask ahead if there are wheelchair accessible restrooms and changing areas, and whether there is anyone on the recreational staff who is trained to assist mobility-impaired guests.
Tarps, Mats, or Planks: Some wheelchair accessible beaches provide tarps, mats, or planks to help people in wheelchairs navigate on sand. If this is not available at a beach you want to go to, you can also bring your own. Placing a smooth surface over the sand allows regular wheelchairs to travel more smoothly over the uneven sandy surface.
Inquire at the Local Chamber of Commerce: Sometimes lovely, hidden spots are wheelchair accessible but they aren’t easy to find on the internet. Your local Chamber of Commerce can be a fantastic resource for inquiring about some of the more tucked-away places that are wheelchair accessible and less crowded.
The Best Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in the US
Make a wheelchair-friendly beach your vacation destination! While the full list of all of the wheelchair accessible beaches in the US is quite extensive, here are a few that are known to be both wheelchair accessible and beautiful.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
There are many wheelchair accessible beaches in Florida, but one of the most recommended is Clearwater Beach. Its crystal-clear water makes for stunning views that are accessible from a sidewalk that runs along the beach. Manual beach wheelchairs are available to use at no charge (on a first-come, first-serve basis). Motorized beach wheelchairs are available for rent as well.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Situated on Alabama’s gorgeous Gulf Coast, Gulf Shores is one of the leading destinations for wheelchair users. There are two local companies that rent motorized beach wheelchairs so you can fully enjoy all the beaches Gulf Shores has to offer. At the Beach Club Resort & Spa there are even amphibious beach wheelchairs available for rent that work on the sand and in the water! At the Gulf Shores Public Beach, there are mats available that allow access to the beach and the water even in a regular wheelchair. These specialized mats extend 350 feet onto the sand.
Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach has become one of the most wheelchair-friendly beach destinations in the US in recent years. Manual and motorized beach wheelchairs are available for free at Beach Patrol locations, and they also provide beach access mats at several beach entrances in Miami Beach.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is one of the most famous wheelchair accessible beach destinations in the county. There are more than 24 fully accessible beaches available across the city, including free parking at metered spaces for anyone with a handicapped hang tag or Veteran license plate tag. The city offers free beach wheelchairs and will also deliver them to your location. There are several easy-to-navigate promenades, and the Marsh Walk at Murrell’s Inlet is a beautiful half-mile wheelchair accessible walkway.
Stearns Park Beach, Michigan
Stearns Park Beach, in Ludington, Michigan was voted the fifth most wheelchair accessible walkway in the country, for both beachfront and woodland regions. The wheelchair-friendly walkway allows you to use your own wheelchair, even along the water’s edge. For those who love camping, Ludington, Michigan also has several wheelchair accessible campsites.
Tybee Island, Georgia
The beaches of Tybee Island offer Mobi-Mats to access beaches from walkway ramps, making it possible to travel with your own wheelchair. These mats are accessible throughout the entire tip of the peninsula. The city also offers free beach wheelchairs for beach access and floatable beach wheelchairs for water access.
San Diego Beaches, California
There are over a dozen beaches in San Diego, California that are wheelchair accessible, including Mission Beach, Coronado City Beach, and Imperial Beach. Mission Beach has a busy boardwalk offering shops and places to grab a bite to eat. Imperial Beach is at the city’s southernmost tip, just four miles from Mexico! These beaches offer free motorized and manual beach wheelchairs, ample handicapped parking, and wheelchair accessible restrooms.
Hanauma Bay, Hawaii
If you’re up for a big adventure, check out the wheelchair accessible beaches in Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. Hanauma Bay means “curved beach” because of its 1,800 foot crescent beach that lies below the cliffs of an ancient volcanic crater. A transport shuttle is available to bring you down to the beach for only $1 per person. Beach wheelchairs are offered for free from the beach kiosk.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Several of the beaches in Cape Cod in Massachusetts offer free beach wheelchairs for both land and water. Many beaches have wheelchair-friendly boardwalks and changing areas. Three of the best are Brewster Beach, South Cape Beach, and Old Silver Beach.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach in Oregon is a relatively new member of the best wheelchair accessible beaches in the US. It has free beach wheelchairs as well as handicapped restrooms and changing areas.
More Resources for Handicapped Accessible Beaches
For more information on wheelchair accessible beaches across the United States, here are some great resources:
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Disclaimer: The material contained is for reference purposes only. Alliance Labs, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2021 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.