Having been born and raised in South Florida, visiting the beach used to be as routine for me as going to the grocery store. However, losing my ability to walk slowly diminished my ability to walk across the sand, and eventually my ability to swim. I went eight years without going to the beach, and thought it was unattainable for me forever. This was until I discovered two revolutionary inventions – the beach mat and beach wheelchair– that reopened the magic of my native Florida beaches to me again. I’m even more thrilled to know that today, wheelchair users have access to dozens of accessible Florida beaches– a number that’s growing every year. Here’s my personal list of Florida’s best wheelchair accessible beaches.
Known for NASCAR and Spring Break, Daytona Beach has a certain reputation among some – one that the city has worked hard to dispel. The city has invested heavily in making the area more family friendly, and beach accessibility is among these improvements. Daytona is somewhat unique among Florida beaches in that the sand is hard-packed; cars used to be allowed to park on the beach, which means that rolling beach wheelchairs across the sand is a breeze.
There is even a company called Beach Mobility Rentals that offers power beach wheelchairs, which I LOVE because I don’t have to rely on someone else to push me around. For persons needing assistance, beach wheelchairs are also available for use from any of the four lifeguard stations. There is a limited supply, and they are available first come, first served at no charge. People can check them out from a lifeguard station and use them for a couple of hours, depending on the waiting list. The beach wheelchairs are available at the following lifeguard stations:
- Flagler Avenue, New Smyrna Beach
- Dunlawton Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores
- Beach Headquarters, Daytona Beach
- Cardinal Avenue, Daytona Beach
Siesta Key Beach
It’s hard to hide my bias towards the white sand beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast, and especially the wide and friendly beaches of Siesta Key. In 2016, the city installed a Mobi-Mat on the sand, which almost goes down to the water. Fortunately, you can use the free beach wheelchairs to make it down to the water’s edge. Just make sure you check one out before 3PM, and they’re available on a first-come, first served basis.
The parking lot is large and has several van-accessible parking spaces with ample ramps to the concessions and beach access areas. There are also accessible restrooms located in the concession area, as well as ramp access to an observation tower. You won’t be too far from Myakka State Park, where later during your visit you can go on a fully accessible airboat ride!
This Florida beach, located roughly halfway between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, was the first in the state to roll out a wheelchair beach mat. In 2009, four mats were installed in the commercial district at Tyler, New York, Johnson and Connecticut streets. Later, four more mats were installed at Oregon, Harrison, and Carolina streets, and Keating Park at Magnolia Terrace.
Hollywood Beach also offers some great beach mobility rentals through Sun and Fun Cycles, which has partnered with cruise mobility vendor Special Needs at Sea. The Joy on the Beach (J.O.B.) Wheelchair features innovative, air filled balloon wheels that make it easy to roll the beach’s sand; the beach wheelchair can also be rolled into the ocean’s open water for leisure as the inflatable wheels provide flotation. Hollywood Beach also has a fantastic wheelchair friendly boardwalk for cruising.
Fernandina Beach, a resort community of 8,800 residents on Amelia Island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Amelia River, is Florida’s second oldest city and the State’s first resort area. With its 50-block downtown historic district, golf courses, parks and nature areas, beaches, and a resident shrimping fleet, the community welcomes visitors and vacationers from all corners of the country.
The city has constructed a beach walkover at the Main Beach, and constructed an accessible viewing area connected to the accessible beach path, allowing as many as eight people using wheelchairs to sit together on the beach and enjoy an unobstructed view of the surf. The city plans to construct two additional walkovers at opposite ends of the city at the North Park and Seaside Park Beaches to provide wheelchair users access to the beach nearest them. The city also purchased two beach wheelchairs for those wishing to join family and friends near the water on the sandy beach. The City of Fernandina Beach has a Mobi-Mat semi-permanently installed at the Main Beach boardwalk access ramp. This environmentally-friendly ADA-compliant matting provides safe and easy access for wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers to maneuver on the beach sand.
The Parks & Recreation Department has three beach wheelchairs available for reservations at the Atlantic Recreation Center. A refundable security deposit of $100 per chair, paid with a current and valid major credit card (Visa or MasterCard), and driver’s license are required. Please call the Atlantic Recreation Center at 904-310-3350 for availability and reservations. Accessible parking near beach access can be found at North Beach Park Access: #12N, Dolphin Street Access: Main Beach Park, Seaside Park Access, and Mantanzas Access: #34.
Located towards the western end of the Florida panhandle, Pensacola Beach is one of a long string of beautiful white sand beaches on the Emerald Coast. As of June 2019, some of the most popular areas of Pensacola Beach now have better access for people with physical disabilities, thanks to the installation of new Mobi-Mats. The non-slip matting has been laid down over the sand along portions of Casino Beach, Park West, the beach in front of the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk and two areas of Quietwater Beach.
Beach wheelchair rentals are available at Johnson Beach at the Perdido Key Area, at Opal Beach in the Santa Rosa Area, and Langdon Beach at the Fort Pickens Area. Ask a ranger or volunteer for information on using a beach wheelchair in these areas. You can even rent a rare motorized beach wheelchairs from some companies like Access Mobility of Pensacola.
One of the most iconic beaches in Florida, if not the entire United States is Miami Beach. Fortunately for wheelchair users, it’s also one of the state’s most accessible! In June 2014, the city debuted the first fully adaptive beach and playground for disabled residents and visitors. There are also beach wheelchairs which assist users getting into, and out of, the water along with plans for hand cycling on the boardwalk. Beach Wheelchairs are available first-come, first-serve from 9 am to 6 pm during the months of February through October and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the months of November through January. We recommend you call ahead at 305.673.7714.
Miami Beach even offers the free use of a powered beach wheelchair! You can swap out your wheelchair for the beach version at Beach Patrol at 1001 Ocean Drive and South Pointe Park. Wheelchair access to the beach is via Mobi-Mats, which are available at select entrances. Please contact the City of Miami Beach for more details about beach wheelchair usage and Mobi Mat locations.
Are you ready to book a fantastic beach vacation in sunny Florida? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travelfor assistance!