Top 5 Wheelchair Accessible Beaches in the U.S.

If you are a wheelchair user like me, finding accessible beaches when traveling is like striking gold. Not every beach has the proper accommodations for people that use wheelchairs, so when I do find a beach that I can roll out on, I get super excited! Maneuvering sand in a wheelchair can be so frustrating and no one wants to be left sitting by the pool while the rest of the family is down at the water building sandcastles. My power wheelchair has gotten stuck several times in the sand after failed attempts to roll across it without there being an access mat. Sometimes, even if the sand looks well packed, it can still be too loose and soft for a wheelchair to traverse. So, I have searched far and wide across the U.S. and compiled a list of five of my favorite wheelchair accessible beaches.  

Panama City Beach, Florida 

I love Panama City Beach so much that I have visited more times than I can count on all of my fingers and my sandy toes, and it has gotten more and more accessible each time I have visited. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite beaches in the U.S., as there are several options offered so I can access the beautiful white sand, roll through an accessible maze, ride in a wheelchair accessible pod on the SkyWheel, and eat so much scrumptious seafood that my mouth is watering just thinking about it all. 

  • In Panama City Beach, manual beach wheelchairs can be rented for free on a first-come, first-served basis at Russel-Fields City Pier and Beach, and at St. Andrews State Park. At the city pier, you need to show your valid ID at the ticketing office, and you will be allowed to rent a manual beach wheelchair free of charge at the public beach area next to the pier. 

  • You can also rent powered beach wheelchairs through several local companies that will deliver the wheelchair to your hotel. Some of these companies are Sand Helper and Beach Powered Mobility. You will just need to give them a call and reserve your beach wheelchair prior to your trip and it will be delivered when you arrive. 

  • At St. Andrews State Park, you will find over a mile and a half of sandy beach, where you will be able to soak up the sun. Here, there are multiple Mobi-Mats on the sand. These Mobi-Mats allow you to remain in your own wheelchair and roll across the mat without ever getting your tires stuck in the sand. Often, my family will lay blankets and lounge chairs beside the mat, and we can all enjoy the beach together. While I am comfortably parked on the mat in my wheelchair, my family can be right there beside me, so we can all watch the waves lap against the shore together. 

  • There are also several kinds of manual beach wheelchairs available to rent at the ranger station at St. Andrews. Some of those manual beach wheelchairs include amphibious beach chairs, which can roll on land and go into the water.


Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

The Alabama Gulf Coast is home to some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and the beaches in the Gulf of Mexico are covered with the softest white sand you can imagine. The beaches here are in my top five accessible beaches in the U.S. because of the accessibility.

  • In Gulf Shores, there is a concrete 20-foot-wide promenade that runs along the beach.  I love parking in the wheelchair accessible parking spots located just behind The Hangout restaurant and rolling along this pathway. The views here at sunset are some of the best that I have seen and being able to roll in my own wheelchair to enjoy it is incredible. 

  • The Gulf Shores public beach has several beach access mats that allow people using wheelchairs to remain in their own wheelchair and roll on top of the sand on the mats. This is great since it eliminates the need to transfer into abeach wheelchair and still be able to enjoy the gulf views.

  • If you desire to venture off the mats and go further down the beach, there are three companies in this area that rent beach wheelchairs: Beach Power Rentals, Beach ’N Buggys, and Ike’s Beach Service. These companies offer multiple types of wheelchairs such as manual, power, and amphibious beach chairs for daily use or a weekly rate. Call ahead of time to reserve yours prior to your beach getaway. 


Long Beach, California

During a recent trip to California, I immediately fell in love with Long Beach. This area is located just 25 miles south of Los Angeles and has some of the most accessible beaches. 

  • Granada Beach is located here and has a beach access mat that is smooth and runs close to the water. I love it because here you can enjoy the ocean breeze while remaining in your own wheelchair. 

  • There is also a dog beach next to the mat, known as Rosie’s Dog Beach. I really enjoyed sitting here and watching all the dogs run off leash and splash around in the water. I honestly daydream about this beach often, as I absolutely love both beaches and dogs. 

  • There is also the option here to reserve and use a complimentary manual beach wheelchair. This allows you to roll anywhere in the sand you prefer rather than having to stay on the mat. To reserve these beach wheelchairs, call 562-570-1360 and let them know when you’ll need the wheelchair.

  • Granada Beach also has accessible companion care restrooms near the parking area. This is the perfect scenario to enjoy a day at the beach with your loved ones. I was impressed with the 5.5-mile-long paved pathway that connects this beach to various other beaches. It is very accessible, and I was able to roll from here to Alamitos Beach in my own wheelchair. 

  • Alamitos Beach also had a beach access mat. It did not extend quite as close to the water as the Granada Beach mat, but it was still very nice. This beach also offers complimentary beach wheelchairs. Call 562-570-1360 to request yours. 


South Padre Island Beach, Texas

Along the 3-mile stretch of Gulf Boulevard, you will find the beach in South Padre Island, Texas, which, in my opinion, is one of the best wheelchair accessible beaches in the U.S. 

  • The city offers 6 amphibious beach chairs that can go both on sand and in the water, and they can be used free of charge! Call the South Padre Island Fire Department at 956-761-3040 to reserve one of these awesome beach wheelchairs prior to heading out for the day. 
  • This beach also has plenty of accessible parking spots and ramp access to the beach. I love the 12 Mobi-Mats along this beach in case you prefer to relax for the day in your own personal wheelchair and enjoy the wind on your face from the ocean breeze. 


Lake Michigan Beach, Ludington, Michigan

I loved my visit to Lake Michigan and was blown away, not only at the size of Lake Michigan, but also the accessibility of the beaches there! 

  • Lake Michigan Beach at Ludington State Park has an access mat on the sand. This allows you to be comfortable and remain in your own wheelchair while enjoying the gorgeous views of Lake Michigan. 
  • If you prefer to roll a little further across the sand, the park also offers manual beach wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis at the Beach House and at Ludington State Park’s Hamlin Lake concession stand. 
  • What makes this beach even more unique is its famous lighthouse, North Breakwater Light. This lighthouse sits half a mile out in Lake Michigan from Stearns Park Beach, which also has a beach access mat and offers beach wheelchairs for rent. 
  • There is a wheelchair accessible, half-mile break wall that is smoothly paved and easy to roll on that takes you from the shore to the lighthouse. You may want to take it slow and easy, as there are no sides or guard rails on either side, but what a view once you are at the base of the lighthouse looking back at the beach!

The five beaches listed above have made me love traveling as a wheelchair user even more. When cities take pride in their destinations and make them accessible for all to enjoy, I want to promote them, visit them, and give kudos where kudos are due. So, start planning your next beach getaway today to one or all these incredible beaches and get ready to get some sand on those tires and enjoy the sights and sounds of the waves lapping against these accessible shores.

Cory Lee

Travel Blog Author and Accessibility Advocate

Cory Lee has visited over 40 countries and all seven continents as a wheelchair user. He also runs the award-winning travel blog “Curb Free with Cory Lee”, where he hopes to inspire other wheelchair users to break out of their comfort zone and experience all of the beauty our world has to offer. 

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