How to have an accessible beach break
Enjoying the British summer on one of the island’s fantastic stretches of coastline cannot be beaten when the sun is out. Whether you choose to enjoy it with traditional ice cream, a punnet of local strawberries or the ultimate fish and chips on the beach, planning an accessible beach holiday can be more difficult than you imagine.
Unfortunately sand is not the easiest terrain to manoeuvre on, and often beaches can be remote, away from parking, facilities and other essentials. Finding the right beach, accommodation and activities can be a struggle, but we have created a guide to help.
The UK has plenty of beautiful beaches, whether you prefer the endless Cornish dunes, the golden expanse of the south east or a wilder alternative up in Scotland. However finding a beach that has the facilities you need can be a problem. While the South West has a lot of accessible beaches, the south east has some lovely seaside towns that have done their best to make the area accessible. Wales has also made great efforts to make its coastline inclusive.
Where you go is also dependent on how you get there. If you are reliant on public transport, towns such as Brighton or Bournemouth could be a wonderful choice, whereas rural Wales is more difficult to access and would eat into your vacation time.
Getting to the beach
This should be your first consideration. Is there somewhere to park close by? You may not wish to traverse miles before you see the first scrap of sand, especially if you are bringing windbreakers, picnics and other paraphernalia to enjoy your day.
Is your beach of choice lower than the town? Often a town is perched on the cliffs while the beach is a few tantalising metres below. If there is a ramp, lift or road to reach the sea shore, then this isn’t a problem, however if there is only Victorian style steps then you will have to rule out this beach.
Does the beach have the correct facilities?
Not all beaches are made equal, and while some have the newest in mobility related modifications, such as accessible beach huts, others are sadly lacking. Many beaches have now got access to beach wheelchairs. These all terrain wheelchairs that can take you smoothly to the sea, without the snags and manual effort of a typical road wheelchair. Candy Harrington is an accessible travel author and founding editor of Emerging Horizons, she spoke to us about her own experiences abroad:
“In regards to accessible beaches, there are different levels of accessibility. The most accessible beaches I have found are in San Diego – not so much for the beaches themselves, but because of the power beach wheelchairs that are available for use there. These are much better than the standard beach wheelchairs as they give folks independent access to the beach.”
Checking online can quickly reveal which beaches have access and facilities. Often local government pages highlight any accessibility positives. Alternatively pages such as the Beach Guide have useful top line information to help you narrow down your search.
The proximity and facilities of your accommodation are critical to the success of your trip. If you want to be near the action, staying in a seaside town is a good idea. Immediate access to the beach increases the hours you can spend on it. It also reduces the amount of travelling you have to do to dine out or enjoy other activities.
Ensuring accommodation has the correct facilities can be difficult. While some companies such as Airbnb list a property as accessible, they often do not specify what that means. There are designated disabled travel sites that help you if you are reliant on technology such as a home stair lift. Disabled holidays is a company that offers holidays both in the UK and abroad and ensure that your accommodation fulfils your requirements.
If you are looking for a little peace and quiet, a more rural location may be better suited. The extra travel time should be taken into consideration.
Though being on the beach for an entire week with nothing but the best-selling book of the summer may sound like a wonderful plan initially, you may be looking for other activities by day three. Choosing a place with lots of accessible attractions is a great way to mix things up. It would also be a good idea to make sure there is an indoor attraction in case the weather is not as clear as you hoped for on your holiday.
There are a few sporting options for those with limited mobility, and these could be incorporated into your beach holiday. Surfability is based in South Wales and offers surfing lessons for those with disabilities. We spoke to Benjamin Clifford about what this surf school can offer:
“At Surfability UK we are very passionate about making the beach accessible for disabled people and for disabled people to be able to experience the Ocean and surfing. Most of our surfing sessions are run from Caswell Bay on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea. Caswell is a very accessible beach, it has good facilities with lots of disabled parking bays, an accessible toilet and ramp access to the beach. Swansea council also has beach wheelchairs which can be borrowed. There is a cafe and takeaway on a flat promenade above the beach. Many of the hotels in nearby Swansea have wheelchair friendly rooms and there is a fully accessible holiday home based on the Gower called Bramwood."