We’re spoilt in Australia with so many beautiful beaches and coastal towns to explore. Unfortunately, not all beaches are accessible to wheelchair users and if you’ve ever tried to pull a manual wheelchair through soft sand, you’ll know it’s a frustrating exercise – enough to turn you off the beach for life. Just as we were getting to the point of finding beach holidays difficult with BJ, our regular holiday destination, Port Macquarie, was introducing beach wheelchairs to the area. In fact, Port Macquarie was an early adopter of the beach wheelchair. Port (as the locals call it) is a second home to our family so we couldn’t have been happier about this development.
When we recently visited, I looked at the town through a visitor’s eyes (instead of a local, which I consider myself!) and feel it’s an ideal holiday destination for a wheelchair user. The region has plenty of accessible attractions and of course excels with its accessible beaches. So, today I thought I’d share Port Macquarie’s accessible beaches. If you’re looking for a destination with a variety of beaches to explore, then Port Macquarie should be at the top of your list.
As it’s name suggests, Town Beach is located in the heart of Port Macquarie. In my opinion it’s the most accessible of the beaches in the region.
The beach is level making it pleasant for a beach walk with the Sandcruiser.
The beach wheelchair is kept in the surf lifesaver’s storage area under the Marine Rescue building. We find it easy to swap over from BJ’s manual chair to the beach wheelchair, or sometimes I grab the beach chair and just transfer BJ at the car.
Town Beach has accessible parking which is located close to the lifesaving club.
If, after all the fresh sea-air and swimming, you’re feeling hungry you can pop over to the Salty Crew Kiosk which is under the Marine Rescue building right on Town Beach. The menu has a variety of popular items including milkshakes, banana bread, coffee and the currently trendy smoothie bowls and raw desserts. It’s great to see ham and cheese toasties on the grommet’s menu (kid’s menu). BJ would be happy with that.
A stand-alone unisex accessible bathroom is available at the base of the Marine Rescue Building.
We are always visiting in peak times so I simply approach the lifesavers when we get to the beach to borrow the beach wheelchair. As they are often in their towers I recommend calling ahead to organise use of the chair.
If you want to use the Sandcruiser, phone 0422 312 940 during office hours.
Town Beach provides visitors to the Port Macquarie region with the easiest access to the beach but there are two other beaches which also offer beach wheelchairs.
Flynns Beach is our favourite beach in the area. The kids love exploring the rock pools and it’s usually a good beach for swimming. It’s also popular with locals and visitors for it’s family-friendly atmosphere.
A gently sloped timber ramp provides easy access to the sand at Flynns.
There’s only one accessible parking space at Flynns which is at the side of the surf club. It’s in a bit of an awkward position but it’s wide and in a handy spot for getting the beach wheelchair.
Flynns Beach is where AJ learnt to ride her boogie board and the place of many great family memories. A visit to Port Macquarie isn’t complete for us without a visit to Flynns.
The beach wheelchair is available at Flynns Beach when the life-guards are on duty.
Flynns Beach has a stand-alone accessible bathroom and a café serving light meals.
Just 25 minutes south of Port Macquarie is Bonny Hills, the location of Rainbow Beach. This is the third beach in the area with a Sandcruiser beach wheelchair available to borrow when the life guards are on duty.
We like Rainbow Beach because the trees along the beach provide shade which is especially welcomed on hot summer’s days.
Although there’s ramp access at Rainbow Beach, it’s steep. It would be difficult to push a heavier person in the beach wheelchair up the ramp to return to the car park.
Rainbow Beach has accessible parking and an accessible bathroom.
Fat Fish is a restaurant above the surf club which looks out over Rainbow Beach. We’ve enjoyed a delicious breakfast and lunch at Fat Fish. It’s a lovely spot to visit even if you aren’t going to the beach.
The restaurant has a stand-alone accessible bathroom at the side of the building.
If the ramped hill to the restaurant is too much of a push in a manual wheelchair, park half-way up and it will be easier.
If, like us, you travel with your own beach wheelchair, you may enjoy exploring Lake Cathie. Our kids have always enjoyed the family-friendly location for its calm water swimming.
The brown colour seen in the lake after heavy rains is natural tannin from tea trees in the lake catchment area. It’s harmless and many report it’s good for the skin.
BJ enjoys a visit to the Lake as the water depth varies and he can usually fine a spot where he can sit or swim independently. The shallow water is often a lovely temperature too which suits him.
There’s plenty of shade around the Lake with picnic benches, barbecues and accessible bathrooms making it a lovely spot for a day trip from Port Macquarie. If you fancy taking the day off from cooking we can recommend Middle Rock Pizza and burgers from Cougar Cat Café. The Lake Cathie Bakery is a good spot to get a sweet treat to enjoy after lunch.
Fishing at the Lake is a popular past time and we noticed a new addition to the area with a wheelchair accessible fishing platform with rod holder.
We’ve stayed in many apartments, houses and hotels in Port Macquarie. When BJ was younger, we could manage less accessible accommodation but as time has gone on we look for facilities which better suit a wheelchair user.
Beachcomber Resort was kind to our budget and suited our needs well. It is wheelchair friendly rather than fully accessible but we loved the space of the apartment. You can read our full review here.
Several years ago we stayed at Beachside Apartments which is opposite Flynns Beach. Although not in a location which makes it easy to walk to the beach, they do have wheelchair friendly apartment in the complex. You can read my review here.
And our latest find is Reflections Holiday Parks Bonny Hills which is terrific. Review to come soon!
We love travelling to new destinations but there’s something special about returning to a destination which is familiar and caters well to your needs. I know we’ll continue to return to Port Macquarie and the accessible beaches are just one of many reasons.