Assistive devices uniquely suited to the beach make the Coast more inclusive than ever.

In 1967 Oregon Governor Tom McCall passed landmark legislation making the entire 363-mile Oregon Coast public, earning it the nickname “The People’s Coast.” In recent years, accessibility improvements have brought it even closer to that vision for adventurers of all abilities. Here’s what to know about how to take advantage of new developments at many destinations when planning a trip to the Oregon Coast. For even more information about accessible accommodations, activities and more on the Coast, visit the comprehensive website for travelers with disabilities, Wheel the World.

2024July access Astoria2
Astoria Riverwalk (Photo by Wheel the World)

Stroll and Roll on Paths, Piers and Riverwalks

Hard-surface boardwalks, promenades, walkways and viewpoints abound on the Oregon Coast. Near Coos Bay, paved and gravel paths traverse the historic formal gardens nestled in the cliffs at Shore Acres State Park, which was once the grand home of timber baron Louis J. Simpson. Bring your own mobility device or borrow a free wheelchair on-site to get up close to flowers along paths and overlooks.

Home to the largest commercial fishing fleet on the Oregon Coast, Newport is a great place to get to know the Oregon Coast’s working side. Walk or roll along Newport’s Historic Bayfront — which includes a boardwalk as well as several accessible piers — to catch a glimpse of the action. 

Another great spot for appreciating marine traffic is the Astoria Riverwalk, a 6-mile asphalt and boardwalk path along the Columbia River at Astoria. Watch for container ships and U.S. Coast Guard vessels on the river, and listen for the barks of sea lions lounging beneath the piers.

2024July access DavidsChair
David’s Chair

Assistive Devices for More Fun in the Sand

Beaches are beautiful, but soft sand can be tricky to walk or roll in. So some communities roll out Mobi-mats — long, nonslip beach-access mats — to make sand more navigable for people using wheelchairs, strollers and walkers, or anyone who might benefit from firmer footing. At Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, 145 feet of mats were recently installed to enable visitors easier access to the tidepools at low tide. Lincoln City and Seaside both have Mobi-mats from May through September to cross the sand at a variety of beach-access points. 

Want to roll out onto the sand? Several Oregon Coast communities — including Lincoln City, Pacific City, Manzanita and Seaside — offer free loaner beach wheelchairs with special oversize tires for rolling on sand. Some are first-come, first-served, while others are reservable. Check Visit the Oregon Coast’s travelability page for details and how to make a reservation.

Reserve an all-terrain David’s Chair at one of seven Oregon Coast locations and hit the sand. These super-tough track chairs use treads instead of wheels to safely traverse sandy terrain. They’re motorized so you can easily move independently, and many are configured to lift users up into a standing position that makes it possible to get up close to the surf.

The chairs are made possible by an Oregon-based nonprofit named after its founder, David Hatrick, a devoted outdoorsman who was diagnosed with ALS. David’s Chairs are currently stationed in multiple Oregon Coast locations, with more on the way: Gold Beach, Coos Bay, Florence, Manzanita, Netarts, Newport, Pacific City and Seaside. You can reserve one for free online.

There are even options for visitors with vision differences in Lincoln City. Special glasses that enhance colors for people with red-green color blindness are available for both adults and children at the Lincoln City Community Center, where they can be borrowed at no cost. This innovative program is one of the first of its kind in Oregon.  

2024July access EelLake
Accessible kayak launch at Eel Lake

Accessible Docks and Boat Launches

Love to fish? Pack your tackle box, because the Oregon Coast has many piers, docks and platforms that are accessible to anglers. You’ll just need to know regulations for what’s biting, and bring your gear and your license. One of the newest is Bandon’s Pullen Pier, which was completed in 2022 on the western side of the Port of Bandon Riverwalk. This accessible angling dock at the mouth of the Coquille River is a great place for fishing, bird-watching and enjoying the sunset. 

If it’s raining, no problem! North Nehalem Hatchery has an accessible platform inside the hatchery. You’ll need an Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit (or a similar permit for disabled veterans) to cast for salmon and steelhead when the hatchery is open. There’s accessible parking and restrooms next to the structure, plus nets and rod holders. 

An increasing number of coastal waterway access points now have accessible kayak launches. Birders should head to John Topits Park on the shores of the Empire Lakes in Coos Bay, where a new adaptive launch with steps, hand railings, and ramps makes getting in and out of your boat safer and easier. Only human-powered crafts are allowed on Empire Lakes, which makes for peaceful paddling. Eel Lake, south of Reedsport, also has an adaptive launch and an accessible fishing dock at William M. Tugman State Park, which is a great place to cast for bass, trout and steelhead. Other adaptive launches can be found in Waldport at the Port of Alsea Marina on the Central Coast and at Broadway Park in Seaside on the North Coast. 

– By Margarett Waterbury

Top photo: Mobi-mat in Seaside by Jennifer Burns Bright