ADA beach wheelchairs usually come in two varieties -- one with elevated leg support and one without -- and some include an umbrella stand and drink holder.

    ADA beach wheelchairs usually come in two varieties -- one with elevated leg support and one without -- and some include an umbrella stand and drink holder.

    - Patrick Farrell for VISIT FLORIDA

    Accessible Beaches and Parks in Florida

    Here are just a few of the beaches and parks in Florida that offer accessible activities…

    Crandon Park Beach and Haulover Beach

    Key Biscayne, Fla -- Frances Osorio Rivera, who lost her lower left leg in an auto accident 6 years ago, gets ready to take her Stand Up Paddleboard for a ride in the calm Atlantic Ocean at Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.

    Key Biscayne, Fla -- Frances Osorio Rivera, who lost her lower left leg in an auto accident 6 years ago, gets ready to take her Stand Up Paddleboard for a ride in the calm Atlantic Ocean at Crandon Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.

    - Patrick Farrell and Peter W. Cross

     

    Non-motorized beach wheelchair rentals at Crandon Park Beach on Key Biscayne and Haulover Beach in Miami allow easy travel over not-so-easy terrain thanks to big balloon wheels.  These two barrier island beaches show off the best of tropical Florida, not the least of which is the glittering blue water of the Atlantic on one side and Biscayne Bay on the other.

    And here’s the good news: beach wheelchair rentals are free at Crandon and Haulover, though you’ll have to leave something of value as a deposit (keys, identification cards, money) to ensure you’ll return the chair. It’s best to call ahead and check availability, too. If the staff knows you are coming, they will have a chair ready.

    Oscar Scherer State Park

    . Rod Thomas of Osprey uses a kayak launch made for disabled visitors so they may launch their kayaks at Oscar Scherer State Park.

    . Rod Thomas of Osprey uses a kayak launch made for disabled visitors so they may launch their kayaks at Oscar Scherer State Park.

    - Scott Keeler for VISIT FLORIDA

    The Lester Finley Barrier Free Trail at Oscar Scherer State Park provides guests with wheelchairs equipped with large tires.

    The Lester Finley Barrier Free Trail at Oscar Scherer State Park provides guests with wheelchairs equipped with large tires.

    - Scott Keeler for VISIT FLORIDA

    Oscar Scherer State Park is a natural pine and palmetto oasis in densely populated Sarasota County. As development sprouts around it, Sarasota to the north, Venice to the south and the towns of Osprey and Nokomis even closer, Oscar Scherer is a reminder of what this part of Florida used to look like.

    The now two-square-mile park started with just 460 acres when Elsa Scherer Burrows left the family ranch to the state in the mid-1950s in memory of her father, Oscar Scherer. Adjoining lands were added in subsequent decades to make the park what it is today.

    The park’s accessibility to travelers with mobility challenges makes it a worthy stop in a visit to Sarasota County. (Also attractive is that nearby Siesta Key beach, named the No. 1 beach in America by Dr. Beach, aka Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman. All-terrain wheelchairs provide access to the beach and those who don’t own can rent them for the day.)

    Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

    Thelma and Jack Wheeler, of Naples, sometimes visit Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary twice a day and are volunteers at the sanctuary.

    Thelma and Jack Wheeler, of Naples, sometimes visit Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary twice a day and are volunteers at the sanctuary.

    - Scott Keeler for VISIT FLORIDA

    Naples has a wild side, just waiting to be explored.

    Naples has a wild side, just waiting to be explored.

    - Peter W. Cross

    Many say there are no seasons in Florida, but you’ll find distinct changes in landscape at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a Southwest Florida gem maintained by the Audubon Society. The rainy season brings more swampy land and animals, plus it connects the area with adjacent wetlands. The winter weather is so pleasant that you might find a traffic jam or two on the boardwalk. And the dry spring changes the landscape again, drying up some ponds. Small fish remain in their small worlds until the rains come again.

    Corkscrew and the Everglades ecosystem can be enjoyed by traversing the 2.5-mile elevated boardwalk through pine flatwoods and then through the wet prairie, around a marsh, and finally into the world’s largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest at 700 acres. This watershed in the Western Everglades is 13,000 acres of natural Florida 15 miles east of Interstate 75 in Collier County and 45 miles northeast of Naples. Development is all around this oasis.

    The visitor center has wheelchairs (and strollers) to loan and those who have their own will find the journey along Corkscrew’s boardwalk quite pleasant, if not utterly amazing.

    Downtown St. Petersburg

    The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.

    The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL.

    - Unknown

    The Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, FL.

    The Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, FL.

    - Uknown

    St. Petersburg has plenty of shine these days. A burgeoning arts community, a funky boutique scene, and multiplying craft beer breweries have brought national attention to the once-sleepy city on Tampa Bay.

    The Sunshine City, pop. 255,000, barely sleeps anymore and there’s hardly a weekend where there isn’t a festival, 5K charity run, art show, craft fair, professional soccer game or concert that bring folks to the downtown waterfront. And if it’s not an organized activity, the growing dining and shopping scene fills the sidewalks along Beach Drive NE with locals and visitors.

    The one-mile stretch from the Dali Museum north to the historic Renaissance Vinoy Resort is negotiable by wheelchair or a traveler with a guide dog. Trek north on Bayshore Drive NE to the Vinoy, and then return via Beach Drive NE, cutting back toward Bayshore at the St. Petersburg Yacht built in 1917 and one of the last remaining historic buildings downtown. At night, the trees of North Straub Park glitter with twinkle lights and paved walkways winding through the picturesque city oasis. It’s nice during the day, too.

    General parking is tough downtown but handicap spots remain attainable in both public and private facilities, and on the street.

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