Where are the best accessible beaches in Australia?

Disability November 26, 2019

A summer of record temperatures is predicted once again, and for those of us keen to make the most of the warm weather, beach season has already begun. Here at Mable, we see lots of requests this time of year for social support as clients are looking for the right support worker to accompany them as they get out and enjoy the summer. We take a look at one organisation that’s working hard to ensure our beaches can be enjoyed by everyone.


Beach-lover Shane Hryhorec discovered how limited his options were to enjoy the sea and sand when an accident in 2007 left him with a broken neck and requiring a wheelchair. The experience prompted him to establish The Accessible Beaches Campaign, a project with the ambitious vision to make most patrolled beaches in Australia wheelchair accessible by 2020. To date, the organisation has helped activate at least 25 wheelchair accessible patrolled beaches across Australia as well as facilitated five of the largest beach access events in the world.

What makes a beach truly accessible?

It’s about more than just matting, ramps and accessible parking and bathrooms; there are a number of factors that contribute to ensuring a beach is truly accessible. To ensure a quality beach experience for everyone, other facilities need to be incorporated into plans, including access options for people with visual impairment, beach chairs, appropriate shade, adult change tables and visual alarms such as flashing lights to provide warnings to swimmers who are hearing impaired about sharks and swimming between the flags.

Storage options are also important, as is specialized equipment (such as mobi-chairs) to easily transition from pathway to sand to water, as well as disability awareness training for surf clubs and lifeguards. While you will still rarely find a beach that incorporates all of these, the number of beaches with some accessibility continues to grow. This is, in part, thanks to the hard work of Hryhorec and his team.

Storage options are also important, as is specialized equipment (such as mobi-chairs) to easily transition from pathway to sand to water, as well as disability awareness training for surf clubs and lifeguards. While you will still rarely find a beach that incorporates all of these, the number of beaches with some accessibility continues to grow. This is, in part, thanks to the hard work of Hryhorec and his team.


Which state or territories are leading the charge in beach accessibility in Australia?

Despite boasting some of Australia’s most popular tourist and surf spots, there are few, if any beaches in Sydney that are truly accessible. In fact, it’s Victoria that can claim Australia’s only two beaches with 24×7 installations of matting and Queensland that can boast the greatest number of accessible pathways.

Shane is not the only one campaigning about the right for everyone to enjoy a dip in the ocean. In late 2018, Sydney resident Kate Swan gathered a 25,000-strong petition to roll out a permanent 60 metre mat at iconic Bondi Beach. Right now, you can book a beach wheelchair by contacting Waverley council, however matting is rolled out just twice a week.


Where to head for the seaside…

Australia’s beaches span thousands of kilometers and although there’s still a long way to go to improve access for all Australians and visitors, there are some stretches of sand that have great facilities in place.

Whether you’re a resident of one of our cities or from a regional area, if you’re looking to head to the beach this Summer, check out The Accessible Beaches website for a complete directory of the best places to go, including a list of specific facilities available at certain spots.

In the meantime, here’s just a selection of some of the accessible seaside locations:


Victoria

Williamstown Beach and Altona Beach both feature 24×7 Accessible Beach Matting, beach wheelchairs and accessible bathrooms, showers and parking.

MT Martha Beach on the Mornington Peninsula will also feature 24×7 Accessible Beach Matting (until Easter 2019) as well as mobi-chairs on weekends.

St Kilda Beach and Port Melbourne in the city also feature beach matting and mobi-chairs.


Queensland

Burleigh Heads Beach on the Gold Coast features accessible beach matting, bathrooms, parking and beach wheelchairs.

Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast features accessible beach matting and accessible bathrooms.

Hervey Bay features accessible beach matting and a floating beach wheelchair and Port Douglas features accessible beach matting.


New South Wales


Ballina Lighthouse in Northern NSW, Avoca on the Central Coast, Fingal Beach and Toowoon Bay feature accessible beach matting. Newcastle (Cooks Hill SLSC) features beach wheelchairs.


South Australia

Seacliff Beach and Normanville Beach on the Fleurieu Peninsula feature mobi-chairs as well as a slatted access platform.

Semaphore Beach and Largs Bay both feature matting on trial through dunes to soft-sand.


Western Australia

Rockingham Beach has accessible matting and beach trekker wheelchairs.

Geraldtown, Madora Bay and Avalon beaches all feature accessible beach matting, as do Keith Holmes Reserve and Town Beach, Mandurah.


Feeling inspired to head out for some fun in the sun? Post a job to find a support worker on Mable who will help you get there.