Living on the Central Coast, we’re blessed with 41 beautiful beaches as our very own ‘backyard’. Eighty kilometres’ worth! Year-round, that sublime blurring of land and sea, of suburbia at sunset, and nature, is something to behold. Everyone deserves to have access to these beautiful places. I’ve lived and worked on the Coast since 1996 and I never take it for granted.
I try to swim at Pearl Beach most mornings. It’s a nice narrow beach that allows me to waddle across the sand and then crawl into the water – often pristine clear – and it’s always a perfect way to start the day.
Roll out the welcome mat
When it comes to improving access to the beaches across the Central Coast, our Council is leading the way in NSW and has done an amazing job.
Curving along the Coast is Toowoon Bay Beach which has accessible beach matting year-round, and accessible parking right out the front. Beach wheelchairs are available there too.
Just a few kilometres north at The Entrance, at the Visitor Information Centre, there’s now a 24/7 adult accessible change facility (AACF). It’s accessible via the Master Locksmith Access Key (MLAK). There’s a MLAK available at the customer service desk.
During patrol season (September to April) beach matting is installed at Umina Beach, Ocean Beach and Terrigal. When the beach matting is out at Umina and Ocean Beach, I just love it. It gets widely used by all types of people, including children, the elderly … and even wedding parties.
If you depend upon a wheelchair to get around, beach wheelchairs with larger, wider wheels are available to get you across the sand. There are also models that can be submerged so you can swim in the ocean baths.
Wheelchair hire is free for both locals and visitors living with a disability or limited mobility at 13 of our 15 patrolled beaches (you can book via your local Surf Lifesaving Club or ask a lifeguard on duty). It’s always a good idea to book ahead to make sure the right type is available. I should add there are also patrols at the ocean pool complex, The Grant McBride Baths at The Entrance.
A special thanks goes to our Central Coast Surf Lifesaving volunteers who assist people with disabilities use the cross-section of beach access wheelchairs to get from the clubhouse to the water.
Inclusive Nippers program at Avoca Beach
At Avoca Beach just south of Terrigal, there is a wonderful Nippers program called ‘Sharkies’ that is changing lives for kids of all abilities. Great work has been done to help with desensitising kids with sensory needs to the feel of the sand. With desensitisation, important beach safety and water safety skills onboard, all kids can now get out on the sand to enjoy it with their siblings and their families. Sharkies was based on similar programs in Queensland and the southern states. Give your local SLSC a call to find your inclusive programs.
Disabled Surfing Australia regularly runs ‘come and try’ days during summer. This is loads of fun and provides the opportunity for people at all accessibility levels to have an initial experience or advance their surfing careers.
Regardless of where your favourite spot is for a dip, it’s always a good idea to call your Surf Life Saving Club ahead of time just in case a mat is in for repair, or a tyre on an accessible beach wheelchair needs some TLC. Central Coast Council has a helpful ‘Accessible Beaches Central Coast’ pamphlet on its website. You can also pick up a copy at your local library and at Gosford and Wyong Customer Service Centres.
Accessibility shouldn’t be a barrier to allowing our community to access the beautiful natural environment that the Central Coast has to offer. I look forward to advocating alongside our community to ensure everyone on the Central Coast can access our beautiful coastal environment. C