So, you want to visit an accessible beach on one of the U.S. coasts? Well, good news! We’ve done the research and have found some beautiful accessible beaches along both coasts.
What Does a Good Accessible Beach Look Like?
The first sign of a good wheelchair accessible beach is one that has at least one access mat. If you’re using a standard manual chair or an electric chair, these mats will make it easy to travel from the parking lot, over the sand, and to the water.
Of course, there are beach wheelchairs designed specifically for loose beach sand. These are often available for rental, though it is definitely a good idea to call in advance to make sure they are available. These are usually push-only chairs. All-terrain wheelchairs like the GRIT Freedom Chair exist in the category between manual chairs and beach-specific chairs–while deep sand is still tough, they can help you navigate all of the terrains a beach may present.
A truly accessible beach will be one with hard-packed sand and accessible facilities. While some beachgoers want nothing more than some sandy R&R, maybe you’ll want to go grab some food, or enjoy a nearby museum or art gallery. Accessibility should apply to the beach itself, and also to the surrounding attractions, too.
Three of the Top Accessible Beaches on the East Coast
Scusset Beach State Reservation – Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts
Home to the Scusset Beach State Reservation, Sagamore is a must-visit beach on the East Coast. The beautiful 1.5-mile stretch of shoreline opens into the Cape Cod Bay and features breathtaking views of ships passing in the canal.
At Sagamore, there are beach wheelchair rentals, but you are also welcome to bring your own! Beach mats along with an accessible bathhouse make Sagamore Beach a great place to visit for the weekend. Alternatively, if you want to test your skills with the rod and reel, you’re in luck. The property has an accessible salt-water fishing pier. Perfect for a sunrise or sunset fishing trip.
Pensacola Beach – Pensacola, Florida
There are quite a few reasons why Pensacola Beach is considered one of the best accessible beaches around. It is known for being a peaceful, tranquil escape, so if you’re looking for a mellow location, this might be the spot for you!
Motorized wheelchairs are available from Access Mobility of Pensacola. Manual wheelchairs can be found at Scooter Hut Beach Rentals and The Fun Store. There are plenty of rental options so you can find the device that will work best for you.
The beach also boasts dolphin tours, parasailing sessions, and accessible nature trails. These trails can be found at: Perdido Key, Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve, and the Davis Bayou Area. Pensacola is one of those wonderful places that has far more to offer than just the beach itself.
Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Public Beach – Gulf Shores, Alabam
Head on down to Alabama to find an idyllic place to get away and unwind. Beach wheelchair rentals are available in advance or after you arrive, and there are a handful of shops that offer the chairs you’ll need. If you don’t own your own all-terrain or beach wheelchair, renting helps ensure that you get the most out of your trip.
Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Public Beach offer a wide variety of other activities, too! Some of these activities include: Ziplining, fishing, birding, coastal crafters, and historical museums.
If you’re looking for some nature adventures, destinations like the Wade Ward Nature Park and Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge are nearby. Orange Beach & Gulf Shores Public Beach have much to explore, so they were easy to add to this list.
Three of the Top Accessible Beaches on the West Coast
During the last few years, beaches on the West Coast have taken significant strides toward making their beaches accessible. They made these changes for wheelchair-using visitors and those with limited mobility. As a result of these updates, there is now a wealth of beach access by wheelchair options on the West Coast.
Fourteen Beaches – San Diego, California
San Diego, California, is filled with not one, not five, but fourteen accessible beaches. Because of this, San Diego is the number one accessible beach city on this list. From rental (or free-to-use) wheelchair options, to mats, to plenty of off-the-sand activities, San Diego is a wonderful destination for all.
Beaches along the San Diego coastline, like Moonlight Beach and Pacific Beach, feature access mats. These make the trek to the shoreline much easier, and give you more time to soak in those lovely Californian views.
If you’re interested in venturing off of the beach, try the Silver Strand Bike Path. This 7-mile paved path lies between Coronado and Imperial Beaches, and is an elegant way to enjoy the seaside outdoors. Start planning your San Diego trip by getting more details on all 14 beaches.
Cannon Beach – Clatsop County, Oregon
Cannon Beach in Oregon offers not only a breathtaking beach, but also a city with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program. This program helps the community by lending free wheelchairs to its visitors. They also have information on other wheelchair-friendly areas of the city.
Beyond the beach itself, you can also elevate your trip by heading to some local, natural wonders. Check out Haystack Rock, Tufted Puffins, and Ecola State Parks.
Also check out the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, one of the fifteen art galleries, or the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. Here, visitors can dive into the story of Lewis and Clark’s expedition across the United States.
Numerous Beaches – Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, the City of Angels, is known for its star-studded community and year-round sunshine. Slightly lesser-known but just as noteworthy are their wheelchair accessible beaches. Locations like Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Long Beach, and Alamitos Bay all have accessible beaches, facilities, and wheelchair rental options for their guests.
Pelican Cove Park has nature trails and picnic areas; Manhattan Beach allows fishing. Plan your LA County trip with specifics on their accessible beaches.
Should I Take My Own Equipment?
While most of these locations offer rental options, it is not uncommon for facilities to have a limited number of rentals available. Because of this, many folks opt to bring their own wheelchair for the beach. Taking your GRIT Freedom Chair to the beach will allow you to enjoy every element, terrain, and adventure the beach can offer, all without worrying whether or not a chair will be available.
We hope this list gets you started, but some extra research will make sure your beach day is everything you want it to be. There are many accessible beaches around the United States, so rally your friends or family and head out there! If you’d like more information on the best equipment, or you’d like to connect with other folks in the community, check out the Beyond the Pavement Facebook Group.