Access for All: Wheelchair Accessibility at Beach, Parks, and Attractions in Sarasota County

Sarasota County is an accessible vacation destination for all. Learn about the different parks, beaches and attractions that are fully wheelchair accessible.

There’s so much to see and do in Sarasota County. And for travelers in wheelchairs, there are lots of ways to enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Take our world-famous Siesta Beach, whose powdery white sands helped propel it to the top spot (twice!) on the annual list of best beaches in the United States put out by “Dr. Beach.” To help everyone get access to those sands, the beach offers a Mobi-Mat that begins at the pavilion area.

Over 400 feet long, the mat is five feet wide and made of recycled plastics. It’s checked every day and cleaned as need. Every three weeks it gets “fluffed,” which means the mat is lifted so the sand can be leveled underneath it.

While Siesta is the only local beach with an access mat, other beaches like Lido, Venice, Nokomis, and North Jetty Beaches have wheelchair-accessible facilities including restrooms, concession stands, covered seating areas, and boardwalks. Named for a community activist, Chauncy Howard Park in Venice was constructed specifically as a handicapped-accessible beach park and provides access to Venice Beach. Venice’s Service Club Park also offers handicapped-accessible boardwalks with picnic areas for enjoying a meal with a beach view.

At lifeguarded county beaches (which include Lido, Nokomis, North Jetty, Venice, and Manasota Beaches), beach wheelchairs can be obtained from the lifeguard towers free of charge every day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. At Siesta Beach, beach wheelchairs are available at the beach concessionaire from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone in need of a beach wheelchair outside those hours can contact the Sarasota County ADA Coordinator three days before their visit and make an accommodation request at 941-861-5000 or [email protected].

Many parks and preserves in Sarasota County feature paved pathways that allow all visitors to take in their natural surroundings. Try spots like Maxine Barritt Park and Shamrock Park in Venice and Lemon Bay Park in Englewood, where visitors might spot animals ranging from alligators to butterflies. The Legacy Trail—a former railroad line turned paved trail popular for biking and walking—stretches for more than 10 miles from Culverhouse Nature Park in Sarasota south to the Venice Train Depot and features several access points along the route. The Venice Train Depot is also a starting point for the Venetian Waterway Park, which features five miles of paved trails on either side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Urfer Family Park in Sarasota features both paved trails and ADA-approved fitness stations. At West Blalock Park in Venice, paved pathways travel past the dozens of trees that make up the Monty Andrews Arboretum, which was created to teach the public about Florida-friendly plantings. And in North Port, wheelchair-accessible concrete pathways wander through the 16-acre Garden of the Five Senses, which features a small waterfall, native plantings, and other displays designed to give visitors a sensory experience.

Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey offers a number of accessible amenities, including campsites and picnic pavilions. Traveling through a hardwood hammock along a tidal creek, the park’s Lester Finley Trail is a barrier-free trail that includes a handicapped-equipped fishing pier. With a round trip of about half a mile, the trail is shaded by a tree canopy and passes two butterfly gardens.

At the Ringling complex in Sarasota, paved pathways connect the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and Ca’ d’Zan mansion. Because of the historic nature of Ca’ d’Zan, smaller wheelchairs are provided at that site that can better navigate the circa-1926 structure.

The Ringling also offers complimentary tram service throughout the property, and wheelchair-accessible trams are equipped with a ramp. (The steep slope of the ramp may require assistance from a companion.) Electric scooters, unfortunately, cannot be accommodated on any of the trams.

Selby Gardens in Sarasota is fully wheelchair accessible, with paved sidewalks throughout the site and ramps at all buildings. There are even ramps and an elevator in the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden, so that everyone can explore and play among the sprawling banyan trees. Insider tip: the elevator key is at the front desk, so ask for it as you head into the gardens.