Alongside hiking and camping, heading to the beach is an ideal warm-weather activity that can and should be barrier-free. There are a range of options for accessible beaches in Ontario, with adaptable products that make a day at the beach safer and simpler.
A few things to note: this list includes parks with robust, accessible beach features, but there are many more throughout the province. Ontario Parks has a guide for which parks have things like beach mats or at least one all-terrain or water-adapted wheelchair for rent—the tourism authority for Ontario’s Southwest lists which beaches have mats for accessibility. Also, you will need a day-use pass or permit to visit most of these beaches, and that needs to be reserved in advance. The same goes for the adapted wheelchairs; be sure to call ahead to ensure availability.
Features: All-terrain wheelchair, Mobi/water-adapted wheelchair, accessible ramp at beachfront
This underrated park has more than three kilometres of sandy shoreline, with both an all-terrain and water-adapted wheelchair for you to enjoy it all. For an unspoiled shoreline with fewer crowds, Pancake Bay is a great bet.
Features: All-terrain wheelchair, Mobi/water-adapted wheelchair, accessible washrooms throughout
Beyond the lovely beach, this park has accessibility features throughout—all park buildings, like the store and visitor centre, are barrier-free, as is the popular Tulip Tree Trail.
Features: Beach mats (installed permanently over the summer season), two all-terrain wheelchairs, two Mobi/water-adapted wheelchairs, accessible boardwalk at beach areas 1 and 2, accessible washrooms at each beach area
One of the most iconic beaches in the province has lots of barrier-free access, and the park works in close partnership with accessibility officials at the town of Wasaga Beach. The beachfront is pretty large at Wasaga, so the two accessible boardwalks and beach mats (maintained by Parks staff throughout the season) serve as helpful guideposts.
Features: All-terrain wheelchair, beach mats, accessible path from Beach 1 parking lot
Though still quite popular, Pres’quile tends to have fewer visitors than nearby Sandbanks Park, and their beach has great features that are a major draw. There are always beach mats along the path to Beach 1 area, and an all-terrain wheelchair is available for use.
Features: All-terrain wheelchair, beach mats, accessible path to beach
Another low-key but breathtaking Northern Ontario option (about two hours from Thunder Bay), Quetico has an accessible trail that transitions easily onto beach mats. The rugged, unspoiled beauty at this park is second to none—definitely one to keep on your radar.
Features: Two Mobi/water-adapted wheelchairs, beach mats, accessible main washroom/comfort station
We highlighted Bonnechere in a recent piece about accessible camping—the park is currently working to make every feature, down to each picnic table, accessible. With two water-adapted wheelchairs to rent and beach mats, it’s a great option.
Features: Two all-terrain wheelchairs, beach mats, all-comfort stations accessible
You simply can’t have a list about Ontario beaches without mentioning Sandbanks. Yes, it’s popular and can get busy, but the sheer size of the beach and the variety of areas to explore make it a great option. If you’re checking out Dunes Beach (highly recommended), the adjacent Dunes Trail has a one-kilometre-long accessible loop with a maintained boardwalk.
Products for more accessible beach-going
The products mentioned above are available for rent at each park, free of charge, but they can be purchased as well if you’re a frequent beach-goer. Here’s an overview:
Water-adapted wheelchair or Mobi chair
Many parks have these types of wheelchairs available to rent so that users can enjoy the water. They’re buoyant, with features like straps and buckles to keep you in place and things like water-proof pouches or pockets. Usually, these chairs require assistance from another person for use, and lifejackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required to use them at provincial parks.
These wheelchairs are designed to move more easily over uneven, sandy, or rough services, which is useful for navigating a beachfront. They usually have three large wheels, with one positioned in front to help things move smoothly.
These may seem like a basic solution, but having these sturdy mats resting on top of the sand is helpful to make navigating the beach easier. If you don’t have access to an all-terrain wheelchair, choosing a beach with these mats is a good idea – they’re also accessible for strollers.
Other items to consider:
The group AmeriDisability has a great list of products to consider for an accessible beach day, such as:
- A water-resistant wheelchair bag
- Motorized beach wagon (to help move your belongings smoother over sandy surfaces)
- A long-handled lotion applicator for sunscreen
- Fishing pole holder attachment for wheelchairs
- An umbrella attachment for wheelchairs
- Sun protection products for people with sensitive skin conditions, like UV clothing/rash guards, zinc-based sunscreens, and UV-protection sunglasses