Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and they are becoming increasingly accessible with the availability of beach wheelchairs and beach mats. Visiting the beach with a wheelchair is completely possible, and can be loads of fun.
Having said that, making a beach visit simple and enjoyable does involving gaining knowledge of your options and making some key choices beforehand. With the below tips, you will be ready to smell the sea breeze this summer.
Beach Wheelchairs and Accessories
There are three ways to access a beach via a wheelchair:
- Hire a beach wheelchair while there (obviously not available at all beaches)
- Use your own wheelchair and hire/use a beach mat while there (as above)
- Buy/hire an all-terrain wheelchair beforehand and bring it along
Hiring a wheelchair at the beach
All-terrain wheelchairs are designed to move across terrain that typical chairs can’t, such as soft sand, mud and so on. These wheelchairs have much fatter wheels and lower tyre pressure than the average wheelchair, for better manoeuvrability in sand. Most beach wheelchairs available for use at public beaches are attendant push. This means they require someone other than the wheelchair user to push them. They can be pushed on both dry and wet sand, as well as into shallow waters. Read further into this article to see how to find beaches that have these available.
Hiring/using a beach mat
Beach mats can be safely used with most wheelchairs, allowing you to cross the sand and turn the wheelchair around without getting stuck. A good number of beaches around Australia have these mats available to roll out, for those who prefer to use their own wheelchair for beach access. Some beaches even offer permanent matting. If you plan to purchase a beach mat prior to arrival instead, our research shows the Mobi-Path is quite popular.
BYO all-terrain wheelchair
A number of coastal areas have beach wheelchairs available for use, and some mobility equipment suppliers hire them out. However, many people are regular beachgoers choose to buy their own. All terrain wheelchairs range from around $3,000 upwards though are more likely to be several thousand dollars. Many are easily disassembled too, making for less hassle when transporting. Note there are great options for self-propel beach wheelchairs, if that is what you prefer. There are even floating wheelchairs!
Beach with a wheelchair – how to find a suitable beach
Now that you know more about beach wheelchairs and mats, you need to find a beach. Not all beaches in Australia are wheelchair accessible, so if you don’t have your own all-terrain chair you need to be picky.
Accessiblebeaches.com mentions these “common barriers” to visiting the beach:
- Physical environment e.g. lack of accessible car parks, footpaths and amenities; no sand or water access; lack of/outdated/damaged access equipment;
- Communication issues e.g. limited or no accessible information publicly available; no accessible signage; little or no access to paid Life Guards and/or volunteer Life Savers;
- Attitudes of others e.g. individual’s and community’s limited understanding of disability; tendency to make assumptions; perception that access and inclusion at the beach is too hard and/or expensive.”
One excellent way to find out about an area’s accessible beach/es is to call the local council. They should have the answers to your questions around any of the above common barriers, so start there and be clear about what you need.
The Accessible Beaches website is a great resource for wheelchair users wanting to plan a trip to the beach. It offers an extensive directory of beaches which are suitable for wheelchair users all across Australia. It also has useful lists of the facilities available at each, ranging from accessible showers to the availability of beach matting and wheelchair hire.
You might want to check this directory against others, such as this Australia-wide one and this Sydney-focused one. Note that none of these websites list all the wheelchair accessible beaches in Australia. Again, use the local council as your first point of call. And while you are at it, ask if they know of any nearby local councils that can also help you out. It is always worth an ask.
Another avenue for your wheelchair accessible beaches research is Facebook. Groups such as The Accessible Group, Accessible Accommodation and The Accessible Travel Club are active with members happy to share information. Search the groups for accessible beach conversations; if you can’t find what you need simply ask the question.
Prepare ahead to get what you need
If you need a beach with a wheelchair/beach mat hire service, secure your hire as far as possible in advance. This mobility equipment gets booked up quickly, especially during summer.
Insurance for peace of mind
Want to keep your wheelchair safe while you are out and about enjoying nature, or even at home? Blue Badge Insurance will be there for you. We offer comprehensive cover for your wheelchair, plus a range of additional benefits. Find out more about our wheelchair insurance here.
Going to the beach with a wheelchair – over to you
Let us know about your favourite accessible beach or your best-buy beach wheelchair by leaving a comment!