The only thing I love more than blazing a trail where no wheelchair traveler has gone before is… when I don’t have to! Amelia Island is a wheelchair user’s dream destination because the city itself is already paving a way for all visitors. When I began researching for our trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the tourism website included accessibility information. If you know how rare that is, you know we were off to a great start! The website even includes a sample itinerary from one of my favorite disability travel bloggers, Sylvia Longmire.
This is a big destination for Spina bifida families, thanks to Gerti Motavalli’s Spinal Stimulation Clinic, so I’m happy to share wheelchair accessible Amelia Island options for families!
Fort Clinch State Park
Fort Clinch State Park is the first historic fort I’ve visited with ramped access to the top… which left me wondering, how do all the other forts get those big cannons up to the top?? We loved the fort for its history (which was not as dark as most forts) and its accessibility. There’s no part of the fort that you can’t see on wheels. Some rooms have an elevated entry, but you can see the full room from the doorway.
After exploring the fort, you can take an accessible trail or grab a beach wheelchair from the gift shop to explore shark tooth beach… and maybe snag a prehistoric shark tooth as your trip souvenir! Explore right at the edge of the tide and look for dark gray Y and T shapes… we didn’t find any, but others around us did! All of the trail heads and beach entrances we saw had at least one handicap parking space right up by the entrance.
We weren’t camping on this trip, but the park is known for it’s beach camping. Your National Park Access Pass gets you a discount.
Downtown Amelia Island
Amelia Island has the perfect downtown that somehow blends what you would expect of a historic downtown with a boardwalk or beach town feel. Because of its historic nature, not all shops are accessible. Most were easy to explore, and the rest just added to window shopping.
Even if shopping or strolling through town aren’t your thing, I strongly suggest making time for this foodie paradise. Everything we saw looked good, and everywhere serves locally caught seafood.
Our favorites were Timoti’s Seafood Shak (outdoor dining and a playground – the playground is not wheelchair accessible) and The Salty Pelican (they also have outdoor dining). Wicked Bao and The Happy Tomato come highly recommended, but we weren’t able to visit and give our own reviews. They’re at the top of the list for next time!
Fantastic Fudge earned the award for “the best chocolate milkshake I’ve ever had” from Nella. There’s a small ledge to enter (maybe three inches, enough that we could hop it with the manual chair). The main street (Centre St) doesn’t have any handicap parking spaces, but take a turn on any one of the side streets for spaces just off of the main drag.
Main Beach Park
Fernandina’s Main Beach Park has a boardwalk entrance to the beach and a mobi-mat that gets you half way to the ocean. Beach wheelchairs and surf chairs are available for free from Fernandina Beach Recreation, if you’re able to transport it the two blocks to the beach. You can also arrange for a delivery for $25, if you schedule at least one day in advance. To rent any of the chairs, contact Parks and Recreation at (904)310-3350.
Main Beach Park also has accessible restrooms, a rinse off station… and a Salt Life Food Shack… in case you need some more fresh seafood! There’s a playground at the beach entrance, but it’s not accessible and has a mulch surface. There are a couple of handicap spaces by each sidewalk entrance.
Amelia River Cruise
Jaden loves boats, but we struggle to find accessible cruises! We booked Amelia River Cruises‘ Beach Creek Tour because it was what fit best with our schedule. The guides were phenomenal and even the kids learned new things about the area. We managed to see dolphins (including a baby!) and wild horses… and the kids got to take a turn driving the boat! This was definitely the trip highlight for them.
While we were waiting for our cruise, we were able to check out how accessible the entire dock is. We also saw signs for wheelchair accessible fishing tours and pirate ships. There are three handicap parking spaces right by the dock.
**We were hosted for our cruise, but that’s not what made it so phenomenal**
Heron’s Cove Adventure Golf
Before Heron’s Cove, I’d never even heard of a wheelchair-friendly putter. Have you seen these?? The putter is adjustable, so that you can angle it based off of the way you sit. It also stands on it’s own, so that you can prop it next to your chair and not worry about it falling over. The putter was adult sized, so it ended up being easier for Jaden to use a regular kid-sized putter, but it was still neat to see what was available!
The entire course is designed with wheelchairs in mind. It was easy to navigate. Children are $9 and Adults are $13. In the entryway to the course there are several other game options to keep you busy – like ping pong and life size chess. Just across from the mini golf there’s also a free nature center where you can check out some fish, turtles, and a talking parrot.
This all-abilities pirate-themed playground is tucked behind the rec center. With its options for exercise, art, music, and creative play, this one definitely falls into the hidden gem category. It’s enclosed and there are restrooms available. (Of course I added it to the GoWhee app!)
Fernandina Rec Pool
We stayed through HomeExchange, but we didn’t have a pool this time. Since that tends to be a favorite for the kids when we travel, I looked up other options.
This gorgeous pool (and kiddie pool and splash area) is only two blocks from the beach and only $5 per person. They have a chair lift for the main pool, and I just put the wheelchair right into the kiddie pool. This was an absolute win. Hours vary, so call before you go – 904-310-3362.
A Sweet Bonus
Amelia Island is filled with foodie dream destinations, but we also found a place worth leaving town for. Thirty minutes west, in a little town called Callahan, is a local favorite called Sweet as Cyn. The homemade donuts and pastries are out of this world. The barista introduced me to a Cuban coffee, and now I need to find a way to replicate it at home. The vibes are good… but the food is to die for.
They have a savory menu with grits dishes and bacon and all the southern yumminess you dream of. I didn’t end up eating any of the savory, but if they do half as good a job on that as they do on the pastries and espresso drinks, it’s still going to be one of the best meals you’ve ever had. Handicap parking is around back.