Florida’s Top 10 Wheelchair Accessible Destinations for Tourists & Residents Alike

Florida’s Top 10 Wheelchair Accessible Destinations for Tourists & Residents Alike

Florida’s Top 10 Wheelchair Accessible Destinations for Tourists & Residents Alike

Year Round, the sunny State of Florida has a lot to offer wheelchair users, from plenty of wheelchair accessible van parking, to accessible businesses, to beach mobi mats and sand wheelchair rentals. There are a million reasons why Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, and we're about to name our top choices for you. In fact, it's so desirable that Florida residents often will take their ‘staycations’ across the state, rather than traveling outside of Florida. Some of the most beautiful beaches, year-round theme parks with roller coasters, water parks, and gorgeous state parks filled with unique wildlife live in Florida.

Because Florida knows all-inclusive tourism, it’s a great vacation destination for wheelchair users and their families. Keep in mind, you will need your own car or wheelchair accessible van to make the most of your trip – Why? Florida is bigger than it seems on the map, which means the attractions are often spread out. But, if you choose to visit one of these top wheelchair accessible spots, you’ll make the most of your experience.

photo near disney world reads accessible orlando

1.  A VERY Accessible Orlando / Kissimmee

Plenty of wheelchair van parking, transportation options and attractions!

Of course Orlando is one of the top since it’s home to ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’; Walt Disney World. There is also Epcot Center, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, along with two water parks to boot. Disney is known for its exceptional commitment to accessibility and inclusion, and while there are theme park rides that are still not accessible to wheelchair users who cannot walk at all, the overall park accessibility exceeds expectations. Transportation across the Disney properties also is outstanding for wheelchair users. Beyond Disney, the Orlando / Kissimmee area also includes Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and quite a few water parks like Aquatica and Volcano Bay. Orlando is famous for theme parks, but there are many other great wheelchair accessible places to visit in Central Florida too: Mount Dora, Winter Park, and several art museums, are just some to keep in mind for your travels.

A Little About Florida’s Walt Disney World and Universal Studios: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is like being in a real-life fairy tale with characters, parades, fireworks, and enchanting lands to explore. Each park’s attractions, dining, and shopping all relate to the theme of the park. Walt Disney World is very wheelchair accessible, and they’ve even provided resources for guests with disabilities, that can be picked up at any guest services kiosk or desk. Universal Studios lets you choose from a huge array of rides, shows, movie sets, and other attractions. There is even a real-life TV and film production facility to explore. Specific boarding requirements are set for those using wheelchairs at each attraction. Most rides will require the guest to transfer from their wheelchair to the ride, and a park attendant will have your wheelchair ready for you at the end. Universal provides a Rider’s Guide for guests with disabilities.

ProTip: Florida theme parks get very hot in the summer months, even into December sometimes, so be sure to use (and bring) plenty of sunblock, a hat, and your favorite drinks. A portable water mist fan is a good idea too.

Fun Fact: Some people end up shopping for 'new' used handicap vans when visiting from up north because the roads don't get salted in Florida, which means the lowered floors have no rust!

Victorian Home Amelia Island - Wheelchair Accessible Tourism

2. Amelia Island / Fernandina Beach

Plenty of wheelchair van parking, but you’ll typically need to drive to attractions.

Amelia Island may be arguably one of the most beautiful vacation spots in all of Florida, and Fernandina Beach is filled with so many wheelchair accessible, family-friendly things to see and do. There are museums, Victorian homes, beautiful beaches and historic forts to explore. A full weekend is the perfect amount of time to enjoy Amelia Island’s offerings for wheelchair users and their families.

If you appreciate Victorian-era architecture, explore Amelia Island’s riverfront city, Fernandina Beach. There are 50+ blocks on the National Register of Historic Places downtown. The Amelia Island Museum of History is another attraction full of fascinating stories to share with visitors and residents alike, and wheelchair users can enjoy natural and historic Fort Clinch State Park. All City facilities are ADA compliant, and the City of Fernandina Beach has items available to make navigating pools and beaches a bit easier. Main Beach even has a Mobi Mat for wheelchair access. The Atlantic Recreation Center located at 2500 Atlantic Ave., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034 has at least three beach wheelchairs available for rent at no charge by calling the City of Fernandina Beach Parks and Recreation Department at (904) 277-7350. There is also a Mobi-Chair that floats.

Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island Access: Wheelchair accessible beaches are located at North Beach Park off North Fletcher Avenue, Main Beach at Atlantic and South Fletcher, Seaside Park at Sadler Rd. and South Fletcher, and Peter’s Point at South Fletcher toward the Ritz-Carlton.

Wheelchair Van in front of Tampa Convention Center

3. Tampa / St. Petersburg

Plenty of Tampa wheelchair van parking, but you will typically need to drive to attractions.

The Tampa Bay area is one of the largest metro areas in the state of Florida, and offers a plethora of things to do for wheelchair users. Clearwater was voted one of the country’s most beautiful beaches, and has plenty of access. If you’d rather leave your wheelchair in your van, there are beach wheelchairs available for rent at Clearwater Beach.

From museums and zoos to quaint historic areas, the Tampa St. Petersburg area is an excellent choice of vacation destination. In fact, many Tampa area residents have made this area their permanent home just from vacationing to the area in the past. Do you like Cuban food? Roll through historic Ybor city, where you will learn some history about Cuban migration to Florida. The Lowry Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa both offer wheelchair accessible activities for the whole family. The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is a must see for those who are into art. Drive over to one of the most popular beach destinations on Treasure Island, and you’ll find a beach mat located at Gulf Front Park.

ProTip on RAIN: Though it’s the Sunshine State, Florida has a rainy season in the few summer months leading up to autumn. Always check the weather, and pack a poncho that will protect both you and your chair from the rain if you plan on being out and about when showers are probable.

St Augustine Entrance with St Augustine overlay - handicap accessible wheelchair entrance to shops

4. St. Augustine

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling, but you’ll typically need to drive to farther away attractions.

St. Augustine, known as Florida’s Ancient City, is convenient to Jacksonville, Orlando, and Daytona airports. Wheelchair users will find a very accessible city in St Augustine! North Florida keeps a year-round mild climate which can be perfect for strolling St. Augustine’s historic district. It’s got brick-paved streets, little cafes, bars, fun shops, and plenty of bed and breakfast inns. The Castillo de San Marcos is a sight to behold, and even take a ghost tour! The the fort’s lower level includes museum rooms, theater, bookstore and restrooms, which are all wheelchair accessible. The historic Lightner Museum is housed in the former Alcazar Hotel built in 1888 by Henry Flagler. Today it holds one of the best collections of fine and decorative 19th century art in the country. As an attraction for wildlife lovers, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park began in the late nineteenth century as a small exhibition of Florida reptiles and soon became quite the Florida attraction. The wheelchair accessible Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is the site of the first Spanish settlement in the new world.

ProTip: St. Augustine has gorgeous weather, but bring along a sweater or jacket if you plan on night activities, because it gets a little chilly after dark, especially in the early months of the year!

Miami at Sunset reads MIAMI and shows wheelchair accessible open city

5. Miami

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling, but you’ll typically need to drive to farther away attractions.

Miami has served as a refuge for thousands of Cubans and other immigrants from Latin American and Caribbean nations. As a result, this makes Miami one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in North America. The Art Deco architecture, amazing dining experiences and modern galleries are all part of this quintessential Miami culture, plus, there are beautiful beaches to escape to. Miami is bustling, but all the wheelchair accessible options make Miami a must-visit for lovers of all things Florida.

Of course, a trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its famous beaches! Miami Beach offers both manual and motorized beach wheelchairs for free to enjoy their beautiful beaches. Wheelchair access to the beaches is by way of Mobi Mats, which are available at select entrances, South Pointe being one of them. If you contact the City of Miami Beach, they are able to provide details about beach wheelchair usage and all Mobi Mat locations. For animal lovers, Zoo Miami has wonderful wheelchair accessibility, which also includes its monorail and trams. Then, there is Biscayne Bay, which is famous in the heart of downtown Miami. Visitors of Bayside Marketplace will experience the real Miami – a waterfront setting with impeccable international cuisine, shops and even some exotic music.

The Art Deco District at Washington and Collins avenues is often crowded with pedestrians, but fully sidewalked with ramp exits and entrances. Miami’s flagship art museum, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), marries the modern and contemporary, with a variety of international art. Along the road at Shark Valley, you will see all sorts of wildlife including alligators, great herons, egrets, deer, turtles, and so many other critters. The Shark Valley tram tour is wheelchair accessible as well!

Key West beach with wheelchair accessible pavilion over the water

6. Key West

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling, in-town trolleys equipped for scooters and wheelchairs.

Watching a gorgeous sunset while dining on ultra fresh seafood is one of the favorite pastimes in this southernmost city in the United States. At the tip of the Florida Keys and at the end of US Highway 1, Key West is packed with sights and attractions. It boasts a long seafaring and naval tradition since it is situated right at the Gateway to the Caribbean. Key West, also known as the Conch Republic, has a distinct Caribbean feel, with Old Quarter streets lined with palms, tropical plants, and adorable painted wooden colonial houses.

Key West is one of the US cruise ship ports, which means the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to all the stores, restaurants, bathrooms, and attractions in Key West. There, however, are several historic sites and buildings which can’t be modified due to their historic status, but Key West is over-all compact and easy to navigate for wheelchair users. The Old Town Trolley Tour has many of their trolleys equipped with motorized lifts for scooters or wheelchairs, and is a great option for sightseeing. Old Town Trolley Tours does have requirements for advance notice to book tickets for wheelchair users, so be sure to visit their website or call ahead to note which stops are fully accessible. Other accessible sightseeing options within a short distance of Mallory Square include the Mel Fisher Museum, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea, and the Key West aquarium.

Sarasota Siesta Key Handicap Accessible Balcony

7. Sarasota

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling

Sarasota might possibly be one of the overlooked vacation destinations for visitors who are not totally familiar with Florida tourism destinations. The downtown area is gorgeous, filled with so many restaurants and charming little shops. It’s on the water, so there’s always a nice breeze coming from the Gulf to keep temps down. For an afternoon of shopping, you can head over to St. Armand’s Circle, and grab a bite at the Columbia Restaurant, one of the historic locations designated in Florida.

Siesta Key is home to one of the nicest accessible beaches in Florida. It has a Mobi Mat, beach wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and easily accessible restrooms. The world-renowned Ringling Museum is located in Sarasota, and is home to one of the most distinguished art and cultural collections in the United States. For a wildlife adventure, you can head over to Myakka State Park and take a ride on an accessible airboat where you’re pretty much guaranteed to see alligators, waterbirds, and maybe even a few wild boars.

ProTip: Sarasota has a lot of outdoor travel from attraction to attraction and store to store, so be sure to use sunblock, and wear a hat if you are able.

Bridge to Key Largo reads On the road to Key Largo

8. Key Largo

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling

A larger of the Florida keys, and closest to Miami, Key Largo is known for its deep sea fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Key Largo offers many adapted water sports programs for wheelchair users. Some of Key Largo’s fishing vessels are specifically equipped for wheelchairs, such as Key Largo’s Tranquil Adventures, which is even stable enough to accommodate a 400-pound motorized wheelchair. They offer specialized fishing rods, a lift to lower disabled passengers into shallow water for snorkeling and swimming, and have accessible bathrooms. There is a fully-accessible swim with dolphins interaction that is made possible by non-profit centers such as Key Largo’s Island Dolphin Care Center and the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon.

Most of the state parks and marine parks throughout the Keys offer wheelchair-accessible trails for nature watching. There are glass-bottom, snorkel and dive boats as well. Beach wheelchairs are available for guests at Curry Hammock State Park, Bahia Honda State Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It’s recommended to contact your state park you plan on visiting, for availability, or make a request online prior to your visit to make sure there will be accommodations ready and available to you upon your arrival.

colorful water tower on handicap accessible sightseeing tour in ft lauderdale

9. Fort Lauderdale

Adequate wheelchair van parking, compact city rolling, but you may need to drive to farther away attractions.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” with its intricate canal system, gorgeous beaches, and historic attractions. The downtown area includes wheelchair accessible destinations like the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Museum of Discovery and Science, Museum of Art, and boutiques. There are miles and miles of beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, but for the best experience, Sebastian State Beach offers accessibility by way of mobi mats and beach wheelchairs which can be reserved by calling 954-828-4595. Tour the incredible canal system and see Fort Lauderdale from the water on an accessible boat tour like the Tour of Mansions & Yachts with the accessible Water Taxi at Dock #6 or the Jungle Queen. The big deal about Ft. Lauderdale is that it’s home to Port Everglades, a major cruise port, so if you’re booking a cruise, make sure to stay an extra day or 2 to explore what Ft. Lauderdale has to offer.

Cape Canaveral Shuttle Reads Florida's Space Coast wheelchair accessible tourism attraction

10. Kennedy Space Center / Port Canaveral

Adequate wheelchair van parking, but you may need to drive to farther away attractions.

Kennedy Space Center will amaze you with the rockets that first brought astronauts to space. You’ll meet veteran astronauts, and maybe even experience a shuttle launch. Accessible parking, equipment, and shuttle buses are readily available. There is a launch simulation, for when there are no actual shuttle launches, which has an ADA seat with a pivoting grab bar that allows visitors to transfer from their wheelchair. If you are unable to transfer from your wheelchair, there is an accessible observation room available. The IMAX movies at Kennedy Space Center are wheelchair accessible.

Thinking of cruising? Port Canaveral, another major cruise port, has more recreational facilities than all other Florida Ports. It boasts an Exploration Tower and Cove, which is a harbor-side dining and shopping spot. Port Canaveral’s Jetty Park is a 5-acre ocean front beach complete with a campground, fishing pier, boat ramps, picnic areas and a concession pavilion. There are two other Parks located at the Port – Freddie Patrick and Rodney S. Ketcham Parks – which have boat ramps, picnic facilities and viewing areas for manatees and native wildlife.

Are you looking for more accessible Florida travel information?

The state and local governments across Florida provide online wheelchair accessible resources that can make your visit to Florida more convenient.

Florida Special Needs Traveler Guide by TripSavvy

Resources for Special Needs Travel in Florida by VISIT FLORIDA®

If you are traveling to Florida, or you’re a Florida resident heading out, be sure to learn about some accessibility travel tips to make travel more convenient