Recently, many people have begun to rediscover their love for nature. As Floridians, we are lucky to have access to beautiful beaches, parks, and other, wheelchair accessible spaces. These places are perfect for having fun, while continuing to practice social distancing. So pack your PPE masks, umbrellas, sunscreen, and phones! Here are some accessibility tips to help you make the most out of Florida’s great outdoors.
When most people think of our subtropical state, they likely imagine picturesque palm trees, beaches, and the open ocean. Let’s begin by exploring some of these natural treasures, and take a closer look at some amenities that are accessible for wheelchair users.
Click here for a list of wheelchair accessible beaches, located in counties along the Florida’s Gulf coast. Unfortunately, information isn’t available for every beach.
You’ll notice that some locations offer accessible mats. Once thought impossible, Mobimats allow wheelchair users to roll themselves onto the beach! Click here to learn more about these incredible mats. If you are a wheelchair user who’s itching to get shoreside, need, here’s a pro tip: before making the trek out to your favorite, accessible beach, give your city/county a call to make sure that Mobimats are available. Accessible beach mats are rolled up during sea turtle nesting season, which may affect your beachly adventures.
Have you ever seen one of those wheelchairs that sport big, balloon tires? If you want to feel the salt on your skin, these beach wheelchairs can be a great way to cruise the dunes. There are several locations in Pinellas County, including Fort DeSoto Beach, where you can rent a tropical chariot. The best part is that you can usually borrow these at the low price of... free! These chairs make it easy for wheelchair users to glide over pesky sand with ease.
Though Gulfport Beach is missing from the aforementioned list, a Mobimat was installed 2019. Treasure Island Beach also boasts a Mobimat, which you can learn more about by clicking here. But what else does Pinellas County have to offer? Click here to explore some more Florida beaches, learn more about St. Petersburg’s accessibility.
More Outdoor Spaces To Explore
Since the St. Pete Pier was recently remodeled, it is very accessible, and features lots of room for social distancing. From there, you can even enjoy the beautiful views of Tampa Bay and Downtown St. Pete. Thanks to its flat terrain, the entire pier is easy for wheelchair users to explore. The ramped area makes it easy to get closer views of the water, and who wouldn’t want that? It is a pier, after all. While seeking out St. Pete’s secrets, you can check out a variety of local art projects and learning centers, including the murals, the Bending Arc, and the Discovery Center!
If you’ve been searching for a National Historic Landmark, look no further than Bok Tower Gardens. Located in Lake Wales, Florida, this beautiful attraction was originally founded as a bird sanctuary by Edward and Marie Bock. It boasts over 100 species of birds and encompasses more than 200 acres. The “Singing Tower” Looms a whopping 205 feet tall. Almost all of the area is wheelchair accessible, including handicapped parking and restrooms. It’s is open to the public year-round, so make sure that you don’t miss out!
If you are a person who likes variety, Florida’s state parks offer some of the most diverse environments. Whether you need to cool off in our natural springs, or want to venture along scenic trails in search of wildlife, there’s a little something for everybody. Wheelchair users should keep in mind that clear, paved, or gravel-covered paths are the easiest to tread. And if you have a cognitive disability, some parks provide literature that will tell you everything you need to know about high-traffic areas, as well as the sights and sound that you can expect.
Click here to learn more about the accessibility of Florida state parks.
Click here for another great resource, covering the 5 most accessible
parks in Florida.
parks in Florida.
Click here for a map, which can help you find more accessible, Florida State parks.
Myakka River State Park is near Sarasota, and offers some unique experiences for wheelchair users. In addition to experiencing their Birdwalk, you can even take a tour of the park by an accessible tram or boat. This river is Florida’s first state-designated, wild and scenic river. It flows through a vast expanse of unspoiled wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands that make up Myakka River State Park. Click here to learn more.
If you are a fan of wildlife viewing, the Little Manatee River State Park is famous for it! The park protects over 2,400 acres of habitat for hundreds of common, Florida species, in addition to dozens of rare and listed species. Make sure to venture into this park at sunrise or sunset, when it’s best for wildlife viewing. Don't forget to bring a pair of binoculars, a camera, and a trail map!
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located about 2 hours north of Tampa, and has accessible walkways for viewing different breeds of Florida birds, in their natural habitat! There’s also a manatee viewing area. Click here to learn more.
If you are searching for an accessible park near Gainesville, the Ochlockonee River State Park is just north. Sporting a renovated boat launch area, it provides access to the Ochlockonee River, as well as surrounding creeks and waterways. Paved sidewalks lead to a floating boat dock, paved ramp, and even a separate kayak launch that’s wheelchair accessible! Sidewalks lead from the parking lot of the day-use area to a number of fun areas, including: two picnic pavilions, the swimming beach, playground, river shoreline, as well as an accessible outdoor shower and drinking fountain. Click here to learn more.
With all of these wonderful parks at our disposal, what are we all still doing inside? Let’s get out there and enjoy all of the accessible activities that Florida has to offer!
Mary Carol Peterson