The best accessible beaches in New Zealand
Kiwis love to spend time at the beach, but how do you get there if you are in a wheelchair?
If you’ve ever tried to roll, push, or pull a manual wheelchair in soft sand, you know it’s a difficult task and not particularly enjoyable. As a family, we are well aware of the difficulties and constantly seek family inclusion.
We love to travel to New Zealand, but we always have to plan our trips with accessibility in mind. Our oldest son, Finlay, is a wheelchair user and unable to self-transfer; he depends on us for assistance and on a mobile lift for all transfers. He’s a difficult character to accommodate, but we love a challenge and he loves to get out and about.
Thanks to our local community, our son has a Hippocampe all-terrain beach wheelchair, which folds into a convenient take-anywhere flight bag. It now has large balloon wheels which make it easier to walk through the sand to access the water. This chair has given us and our son access to many other beaches that were once out of reach.
* Are you part of a Paralympic team? What happens when wheelchair users travel together
* We need beach access for everyone, and this includes people with disabilities
* Traveling with a disability: how I explored 13 countries in a wheelchair
Solutions exist to provide better access to the beach and better inclusion for all. One of the biggest hurdles is funding, which leads to a lot of community advocacy to create awareness of the need. Then it takes local philanthropy, fundraisers and disability advisory groups on the councils to join us.
In recent years, beach access in New Zealand has started to improve with the help of organizations like the Halberg Foundation, which have made great strides in equipping boards and surf rescue clubs with ‘equipment adapted to improve access to leisure activities.
Beach mats have finally arrived in New Zealand from overseas, and city councils are now rolling them out on their beaches. All of a sudden, our beaches are starting to open up to wheelchair users, people with walkers, and people with sensory issues who find walking on sand extremely stressful.
What makes a good accessible beach?
- Well maintained mobility parking near the beach access.
- Disabled changing rooms with shower (in addition to a changing room with height-adjustable changing table and hoist on rail for caregivers).
- A well maintained access mat to allow wheelchairs and walkers to traverse softer sand.
- A variety of beach wheelchairs to meet a range of needs.
- Shelter from the sun, whether it’s trees, umbrellas or a pop-up tent.
- A concrete or similar launching ramp.
- Hassle-free reservation system to access adaptive equipment.
Top 10 accessible beaches in New Zealand
Now, how do you put together a Top 10 accessible beaches in New Zealand? I decided to build on the âaccessibility winnersâ that people were doing within their own communities to make their beaches welcoming to everyone and create inclusion.
Mount Maunganui in Tauranga must be the model to make things happen, thanks to the city council’s strategy on disability. They will be rolling out three beach access mats over the summer months, one at Pilot Bay, one at the Cenotaph and another at Cutter’s Cove. Two beach chairs are on loan from the Hibiscus Surf Club and the PÄpÄmoa Surf Club. They have all-inclusive disabled changing rooms with ample parking. Both beaches are flanked by wide, well-maintained waterfront trails, restaurants on wheels, and even the loan of a motorized TrailRider to get to the top of Mt.
WaihÄ« Beach in the Bay of Plenty has a new Beach Access Mat that will be rolled out from this Labor Weekend until the end of April. WaihÄ« has the famous Goldfields Rail Trail, many accessible local restaurants and a long, scenic beach. This beach offers for rent two beach chairs, the Sandcruiser and the Hippocampe. These chairs are awesome; we have the Hippocampus of course and the Sandcruiser is wonderful for those easy self-transfers from a wheelchair. The two chairs are on loan from WaihÄ« Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.
PÄpÄmoa Beach in Tauranga has two beach wheelchairs for use by the PÄpÄmoa Surf Life Saving Club. This beach is a very popular destination for vacationers and is home to an award-winning, wheelchair-accessible studio, The Studio Nautilus, PÄpÄmoa. It is definitely a place to mark your list of places to visit.
Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s north coast has a beach access mat from work weekends through the end of April. This summer, the beach will host new toilets and changing rooms which will include a changing room. The Changing Place will be life changing for those who cannot self-transfer and need a caregiver to shower and change at the beach. The beach should be equipped with a variety of beach wheelchairs with improved parking for mobility. An extension of the playground will be completed and will include a wheelchair swing in time for summer.
Days Bay Beach
Days Bay Beach at Lower Hutt has a Beach Access Mat available throughout the summer, with beach wheelchair rentals through the Lyall Bay Surf Club. The Local Access and Inclusion Advisory Group worked hard for two years to make this happen. It has been a game changer for the local disability community.
North Beach New Brighton in Christchurch will have two beach wheelchairs during the summer period at the North Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. There will also be a mobile winch to help people get into wheelchairs and a beach mat that will also be deployed. A hoist is something that is rarely considered, so kudos to the North Beach Residents Association for including one.
Tokerau Beach, Kaitaia has a beach wheelchair for loan through Tokerau Beachboys. Gary and Mary, originally from Hawaii, took to the beach and partnered with the Halberg Foundation to provide surfing for people with disabilities of all ages. They lend the beach wheelchair to anyone who wants to access the beach. Changing rooms are well equipped at the Surf Rescue Club. There is good access to the beach with the use of the boat launch.
Ocean Beach at Hawke’s Bay is a long, wide, accessible beach that is extremely popular during the summer months. An all-terrain beach wheelchair can be booked through the Napier City Council website, with pickup at Kennedy Park, to be picked up for use at the beach. He has a refundable deposit of $ 50.
Lake Tikitapu Beach (Blue Lake), Rotorua is a beautiful beach, especially when the sky is clear to appreciate the color of the lake. As a family we have visited Rotorua several times but were never able to follow any leads due to wheelchair access. Now with the TrailRider we were able to take Finlay around the entire lake and access the beach along the way. It was a very special time for us and one day we would like to return with a picnic to this very place. It is again thanks to the Halberg Foundation for funding and the Rotorua City Lakes Council for facilitating the use of the TrailRider in Rotorua.
WaipÅ« Cove Beach has recently increased its access tenfold with concrete paving from the surf rescue club to the access to the boat launch. They now have two new beach wheelchairs to use on work weekends and then again from November to Easter. Beach wheelchairs can be booked through Camp WaipÅ« Cove. It is a magnificent beach to be made accessible with a mobility park right at the entrance.