Going to the beach is a quintessential part of Aussie and Kiwi culture, from swimming and splashing about in the waves to playing on the sand, it’s a great way to spend time with family and friends.
While Australia and New Zealand are home to hundreds of beautiful beaches, for many people with disabilities the seaside can only be experienced from a distance - the sand is often an inaccessible terrain difficult to traverse and the exquisite feeling of being immersed in the cool, salty water that so many take for granted, is merely something to be imagined. However, with the advent of accessible beaches, that is all changing.
Many local councils are adapting beaches to make them inclusive by introducing something as simple as beach matting and specially designed beach wheelchairs. Beach access matting is a portable rollout mat that creates a stable and visible access path to the beach. Anyone can use the matting, but it is particularly helpful for people who usually can’t get onto the beach and move across the sand such as users of wheelchairs, walkers, mobility scooters, or strollers and people with sensory issues who don’t like sand between their toes, for example. Beach wheelchairs often have large armrests that become floatation devices in the water, enabling the chair user to become immersed in the refreshing water.
Take a look at some of the many wonderful accessible beaches that Australia and New Zealand has to offer:
WILLIAMSTOWN BEACH, VIC
Picturesque Williamstown beach is only 15 minutes from Melbourne and not only does it have permanent beach matting that reaches all the way to the shoreline, it also has free use of a Mobi-Chair beach wheelchair that can be booked via the Williamstown Surf Life Saving Club. It also has excellent lead up pathways and a great café right next to where the matting is too!
MT MARTHA BEACH, VIC
Mt Martha beach is located on the Mornington Peninsula, renowned for its beautiful coastline, gourmet food and wineries, and now an accessible beach! Including beach matting that reaches all the way from the concrete to the waterline, two Mobi-Chairs for hire and accessible shower and bathroom facilities, isn’t it time you made a trip to Mt Martha?
BURLEIGH HEADS BEACH, QLD
Famous for its stunning beaches, Queensland is leading the way in beach accessibility. The breathtaking Burleigh Heads beach has a Sandcruiser beach wheelchair and a floating beach wheelchair for hire, and with an accessible bathroom at the Burleigh Heads Life Saving Club and ample parking, Burleigh Heads beach is a great place to enjoy the water.
BONDI BEACH, NSW A
rguably Australia’s most famous beach, iconic Bondi beach with its sandstone cliffs and rolling waves has accessible beach matting and two Sandcruiser all-terrain beach wheelchairs to hire from the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club. There are also plenty of cafes nearby and it’s great for people watching too!
MOUNT MAUNGANUI BEACH, NZ
The coastal resort town of Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty provides beach matting stretching from the dunes to the water’s edge, enabling waterfront access for people with mobility challenges. An accessible beach buggy and beach chair are also available for hire via the Tauranga council.
CANTERBURY BEACHES, NZ
Christchurch and the greater Canterbury region in New Zealand’s South Island is known for its stunning beaches. With both adult and child beach chairs that can be hired and used at any beach in the region, and a simple booking system, every beach in Canterbury is accessible.
Changing beaches to make them inclusive is rewarding for the community as a whole but making them completely accessible means more than providing beach matting; implementing disability-friendly bathrooms, car parking and ramps could make beach areas virtually totally accessible so that everyone can enjoy the beach!