White-sand beaches as far as the eye can see are the stuff dreams are made of. In Gulf Shores AL, for those who depend on a wheelchair or have limited mobility, those dreams just became reality. Thanks to the installation of an AccessMat, it’s now an easier trek through Alabama’s soft, sandy beaches to the water. It’s a game changer for vacationers in wheelchairs, young-at-heart visitors and others with limited mobility!
The City of Gulf Shores is working to improve accessibility to beaches. The AccessMat on the west end of the main Gulf Shores Public Beach area is the first of its kind on Alabama beaches. City leaders say they hope to add more mats for easier beach access in the future. The 200-foot mat stretches from the sidewalk towards the water and then runs parallel to the Gulf of Mexico for 150 feet. It is part of the Gulf Place Revitalization Project on the main public beach that also includes a boardwalk, green spaces, shade structures and restrooms.
Wheelchair traveler and blogger Cory Lee of Curb Free with Cory Lee lists the Alabama Gulf Coast as one of his favorite destinations. He had this to say about the addition of the mats in Gulf Shores, “The Alabama Gulf Coast is already one of my favorite destinations in the U.S. because it offers many accessible attractions and activities, but the new AccessMat makes me love Gulf Shores and Orange Beach even more. The area has offered powered beach wheelchairs for years now, which are fantastic, but the AccessMat opens the beautiful beaches up to more visitors than ever before. With the mat, wheelchair users will be able to enjoy a day on the beach without arranging anything (like a beach wheelchair) in advance. Spontaneity is not something that I often get to experience as a wheelchair traveler, so I thoroughly appreciate this wonderful addition. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is way ahead of most other beaches when it comes to accommodating all visitors, regardless of their abilities, and that’s why I’ll continue to visit the area.”
In addition to the AccessMat, motorized beach wheelchair rentals by Beach Power Rentals are also available in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. These custom-made beach wheelchairs allow users to have the freedom and mobility to fully experience Alabama’s white-sand beaches! Oversized wheels on the motorized beach chairs make easy work of riding through the soft sand in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. In addition, the seat is padded and partially reclines. Starting at $60 a day, vacationers can wheel through the sand and enjoy a day at the beach with family and friends.
While you may want to spend all of your time up close and personal with sun, sand and surf, there are plenty more wheelchair friendly Gulf Shores attractions. Be sure to save some time to experience all Alabama beaches have to offer!
Nature lovers will enjoy a ride through the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails. Twenty-five miles of paved trails wind through six distinct ecosystems from Orange Beach to Gulf Shores. Restroom facilities are available along the trails. Really dive in and learn about the flora and fauna with a two-hour guided tour available through the City of Orange Beach. For just $15 per person, you can hear about the history of the area, as well as experience the pristine woodlands and natural habitats of the Backcountry Trail. Don’t forget your camera! You may find Lefty, the resident alligator, soaking up the sun in the nearby water.
Ready to get wild? Then, you’re ready for the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores AL. The zoo was named “The Little Zoo that Could” by the Animal Planet after evacuating all its residents before Hurricane Ivan in 2004. While small, the zoo is home to more than 500 exotic animals including lions, tigers, primates, leopards and more. In addition, animal encounters allow you to get up close and personal with baby kangaroos, lemurs and even reptiles! Fair warning! If you visit with the lemurs they may just borrow your camera for selfies! The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo offers wide and smooth pathways to allow for foot traffic, wheelchairs and strollers. Admission starts at $8 for children ages 3 to 12 and $11 for adults. Seniors 55 and older are $8.
If the water is calling your name, board the Explorer by Cetacean Cruises for a two-hour dolphin and nature cruise. The Explorer is a pontoon boat with easy access to its deck from the marina. Knowledgeable tour guides motor you through the Intracoastal Waterway for an entertaining Orange Beach dolphin cruise. Meet the dolphin pod that calls Wolf Bay home. The guides will even tell you how to identify each dolphin and show you photos of their unique fins! Yes, they all have names and are identifiable! Two-hour dolphin and nature cruises are $20 per person and you can book your cruise online. Book Tip: Find a coupon on their website to save $5 on your cruise!
History lovers can’t resist a visit to Fort Morgan. Fill your camera with Instagram-worthy photos at this historic fort. If you’ve heard the famous cry by General David Farragut, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” then you already know a little something about Fort Morgan. This famous order was given during the American Civil War. The fort played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 and was used during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. After you cruise the grounds, visit the onsite museum for an in-depth look at the area’s military history. Re-enactments and guided tours are also held regularly. Check their calendar for the latest event information. Admission to Fort Morgan is $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 are admitted free.
Barefoot, an eight-bedroom beach house with direct beach access is a short drive from downtown Gulf Shores in the Fort Morgan area. The spacious Fort Morgan beach house has an open floor plan, allowing for easy flow from the kitchen, dining and living room spaces, as well as the beachfront deck. It also boasts an elevator! Few Orange Beach and Gulf Shores AL beach houses have elevators, but this added amenity gives easy access to the main floor bedroom and living spaces. The wheelchair-friendly suite on the main floor features a tiled shower with no lip, making it easy to roll into. Beach Power Rentals can also deliver a motorized beach wheelchair to your Fort Morgan rental so you can enjoy the sun, sand and surf with ease.
For more information on Gulf Shores attractions, Orange Beach restaurants and fun ways to spend your beach vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast, browse our blog for more great information.