We’re a nation known for our outdoorsy nature, so with summer just around the corner it would be remiss of me not to put together a list of Sydney’s accessible beaches and activities to enjoy. We’d love to continue to build upon this but in the meantime, here’s the information we have to date on accessible Sydney beaches and wheelchair accessible activities. These lists take a while to research so a big thanks to my friend Sue for her assistance with putting this together.
ACCESSIBLE SYDNEY BEACHES
The Northern Beaches are located between Palm Beach and Manly. Northern Beaches Council have been leaders in making their beaches accessible but have gone the extra mile and established some accessible beach-side playgrounds too. The council also loans out beach wheelchairs free of charge from Collaroy, Manly, Bilgola and Newport. To pre-book or check availability of Freewheelers for Collaroy and Manly, call Northern Beaches Council on 02 9942 2354 or email [email protected] Keep an eye on the website as the application form, along with terms and conditions are due to be added shortly. Contact the individual surf-lifesaving clubs at Newport and Bilgola to check availability and reserve a beach wheelchair.
Collaroy is a favourite picnic spot for our family. It’s a lovely beach and not only is there a beach wheelchair to use (for free), but an accessible playground in Bruce Bartlett Reserve and an adult-size change facility at the Surf Lifesaving Club.
The playground has a Liberty Swing (MLAK key locked), a wheelchair accessible carousel, musical instruments and much more which can be accessed by wheelchair users.
The beach wheelchair is available during life guard patrolled hours 7 days a week, for the 7 months of the beach season.
Take a look at our review of Collaroy Beach.
The recent addition of an adult-size change facility with hoist at Collaroy Beach will hopefully help those who need it have a carefree day when visiting the Northern Beaches. The MLAK key-locked facility faces the beach and is in the Life-Saving Club building.
The bathroom facility has a height adjustable shower head with flip-down shower seat as well as grab rails throughout. Please note, you need to have your own sling to use with the hoist.
You can either pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the picnic tables or pick up some take away from the variety of stores on the opposite side of the road.
BJ loves Manly Beach because it’s busy so there’s excellent people watching to be done and plenty to do to fill a day. BJ often catches the ferry to Manly with a support worker, takes a soccer ball to play with, enjoys a fish and chip picnic under the pine trees and does the Shelly Beach walk. The long beachfront promenade is fully wheelchair accessible and extends for miles. It’s an easy level walk. When we are at Manly on a weekend we love to wander through the markets, AJ loves getting a Henna design on her hand or foot and I like picking up some fresh bagels.
There’s a beach wheelchair available free to loan from the Manly Life Saving Club.7 days a week, 12 months of the year.
From Manly Beach there’s a lovely short coastal walk to Shelly Beach. Take a read of our full review to learn more.
North Steyne Major is an inclusive playground with a pod swing, carousel, sensory play boards and an accessible Butterfly see-saw. The playground is located between Denison Street and Steinton Street, Manly Beach.
ACCESSIBLE BATHROOM FACILITIES
There are several MLAK key-locked stand-alone accessible bathroom facilities along the promenade at Manly.
If you fancy staying on the Northern Beaches the accessible accommodation at Novotel Manly provides a good spot to base yourself. We sadly only stayed one night but loved the central location of being right opposite Manly Beach. You can read our full review here.
Newport is a popular haven for picnic goers, making the most of large grassy spaces on the beach front, under the shade of huge pine trees.
Amongst the trees is the fully inclusive Bert Payne Park. Including an award-winning play recycling truck, there are jeeps, play panels, wheelchair accessible trampolines, and 3 sets of swings to encourage role-playing and good old-fashioned fun. Read about the features of Bert Payne Park on this website.
For those wanting to hit the sand and sea, Newport Surf Life Saving Club owns a beach wheelchair. It is loaned out by contacting them on 02 9997 6274 weekends or 02 0418 628 362 weekdays. For further information email them at [email protected]
There is a MLAK key locked stand-alone accessible bathroom.
Accessible parking is available though we feel there could be more spaces considering the size of the car park.
I haven’t visited Bilgola Beach for years but it’s a quaint beach that is nestled between 2 cliffs. I think we’ve got into a bit of a rut with Manly and Collaroy to be honest. However, we love the Northern Beaches coastline and how lovely is it to have choice with accessible facilities.
The beach wheelchair at Bilgola is available 7 days a week. To organise borrowing one from volunteer surf lifesavers contact them on 02 9918 2337.
Bilgola has a unisex accessible bathroom with MLAK key lock.
Accessible parking is also available.
EASTERN SUBURBS BEACHES
We often head to the Eastern Suburbs’ beaches for the gorgeous views, access to beach wheelchairs and coastal walks. We have made many a spontaneous family trip to eat an ice cream on the beach as the sun sets!
Bondi Beach is popular with our family. Many Sydney-siders avoid it because it’s so busy but we enjoy the vibe and the kids are always happy to run into our favourite life savers from the TV show Bondi Rescue.
We now take our own beach wheelchair to Bondi but there is a beach wheelchair to borrow for free from the life guard tower.
The promenade that runs along the top of the beach is wheelchair accessible and the beach can be accessed by ramps. The ramp at the northern end of the beach is the least steep.
Bondi Beach has a beach wheelchair which is free for visitors to use. You can either book this through Waverly Council or knock on the lifeguard’s tower door (the tower is located around half-way along the beach with access from the boardwalk) and if they are not dealing with an emergency they will bring the chair to you. We left BJ’s manual chair in the tower for safe keeping while we used the beach wheelchair.
A stand-alone unisex disabled bathroom is available in the Bondi Pavilion which is behind the lifeguard tower. A MLAK key is needed to access this toilet.
The ladies and men’s toilets also have a larger stall in each for easy access which do not require a MLAK key.
Bondi beach gets incredibly busy on a hot summer’s day so parking could be an issue even with a parking permit. We went on a mild day and there was plenty of parking. There are disabled parking places right near the promenade.
Coogee Beach doesn’t have a beach wheelchair but we love the Coogee Coastal Walk which is accessible. The boardwalk hugs the coast most of the way and we spotted all kinds of wildlife during our walk including a turtle in the ocean. You can read our tips on where to park and join the walk here.
We’ve only visited Maroubra Beach once but really liked having such a large beach to explore with the beach wheelchair and found this combined with the coastal walk in the area made for a lovely day out.
A beach wheelchair is available for public use at Maroubra Beach. Access is through the Lifeguards who store it in their office at the pavilion. It is available during normal patrol hours of 7am-7pm during summer and 7am-5pm during winter.
Stand-alone accessible bathroom facilities are available.
We enjoyed exploring the area and doing the 2.4km accessible North Maroubra to South Maroubra Coastal Walk. On the day we visited we only had BJ’s beach wheelchair with us so that’s what we used for the walk and it was fine.
You can read more about the coastal walk and our day at Maroubra in our full review.
Further South you’ll find Cronulla Beach which is 26km south of the city. We haven’t visited Cronulla Beach but it’s popular because it’s the only southern beach which is patrolled year round.
For use at South Cronulla, Sutherland Shire Council offers short term loans of a beach wheelchair free of charge. Between 8am-4pm in Summer and 10am to 2pm in Winter, the chair is available 7 days a week. Terms and conditions can be found here: http://www.sutherlandshire.nsw.gov.au/Community/Community-Support-Services/Beach-Wheelchair
Bookings are required either through calling Cronulla Lifeguards on 9544 5399, or filling in a booking form online whereby a lifeguard will reply to confirm a booking. The online form can be found here.
If accessible car parking is required, discuss this with the lifeguard officer at the time of booking. The officer can arrange a permit for parking in the accessible space next to the Surf Lifesaving Club at South Cronulla.
ACCESSIBLE BEACH PROGRAMS
DISABLED SURFING OPEN DAYS
The Disabled Surfers Association of NSW holds events at various beaches throughout the year, to create surfing opportunities for individuals with special needs. Hands On Days are usually very popular. There is the option to become a member (currently $20 per year). Members can access every branch and members events on the calendar. Fees also help pay for special equipment such as soft long boards and aquatic wheelchairs. More information can be found here
Saturday 24 February 2018 – register from 9am for a 10am start at Collaroy Beach
Sunday 18 March 2018 – special event, invitation only at Palm Beach
Nippers is a structured activities program teaching surf awareness and safety skills in a fun way. Activities include a theory element of understanding the surf including rips, and a practical side which may include relays, beach flags, wading in the water, and balancing/paddling on boards. Standard Nippers programs are usually geared towards children, however special needs Nippers can cater up to young adults depending on the program on offer. The activities are modified and special equipment can be used. Socialising and being within a team environment is often encouraged.
Various Surf-Lifesaving Clubs offer special needs Nippers programs. Listed below are some that are available within Sydney.
Starfish Nippers includes Fingal Bay SLSC http://www.starfishnippers.com.au/
Special Nippers are held at Maroubra Beach. Contact Tim or Murray after 11am on 0411 129 426. http://www.maroubraslsc.com.au/get-involved/special-nippers
Newport have Dolphins and Marlins groups integrated into their regular nippers program, with all programs running concurrently through the season. From ages 6 to young adults https://www.newportsurfclub.com.au/special-needs/ Here is more info for Newport:
North Steyne SLSC in Manly offer Ripper Nippers, which is an 8 week program for 6-13 year old children. https://northsteyneslsc.com.au/nipper-special-needs/
South Curl Curl has a Rippers Disability Nipper Group https://www.hwns.com.au/news/house-with-no-steps-and-surf-life-saving-nsw-launch-a-new-wave-of-nippers
BJ loves sailing regularly with Sailability. Using a variety of watercraft, Sailability offers competitions and recreational programs. Clubs within Sydney include Cronulla, Manly, Penrith Lakes, Pittwater, Rushcutters Bay, Kogarah Bay, Gosford and Middle Harbour. See here for more details http://www.sailabilitynsw.org/home.aspx
WHERE TO HIRE A BEACH WHEELCHAIR TO TAKE ON HOLIDAY
It is wonderful to see more and more surf-lifesaving clubs and councils loaning out beach wheelchairs within Sydney. We recognise though that due to individual needs, a specific type of beach wheelchair may be required that is not otherwise available. And others may desire to use a beach wheelchair at beaches where there are no loan arrangements in place. We are really enjoying the freedom of BJ having his own beach wheelchair. We are able to take it on holidays, to any number of beaches, and even to water-play areas.
Hiring a beach wheelchair may be helpful to people holidaying at a location where there are no beach wheelchairs available to loan. We’ve discovered some organisations who loan chairs for trial usage.
Based in North Parramatta, their contact details can be found here.
Royal Rehab in Ryde have a range of different accessible equipment for use at the beach, through their Beach and Ocean Access Program. Email Return to Sport for more details. [email protected]
Especially useful for holidays, Achievable Concepts is located at Caves Beach, however they are able to deliver their Platypus All Terrain Beach Wheelchair along the coast of NSW at a price. The hire rates are currently $75/day or $250/week. Contact them on 0490517960 or email [email protected]
If you’d like to read more ideas on staying cool this summer check out my blog full of ideas here.
We’d love to add to this list if you know of other accessible summer activities in Sydney please let us know.