Accessibility Guide to St. Pete/Clearwater Attractions

From lush botanical gardens to the St. Pete Pier, our attractions are open for everyone to explore. Learn how accessible they are for people who use wheelchairs or have other mobility challenges.

Family watches a dolphin show

At Clearwater Marine Aquarium, dolphin shows are among the most popular attractions.

Updated March 2024

Expert Insights

We wrote this article about the accessibility of local attractions with the help of Beth Stombaugh, who uses a manual wheelchair. In the spring of 2023, Beth visited a handful of attractions in St. Pete/Clearwater to gather firsthand insights on their accessibility. A resident of Gulfport, Florida, Beth advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, enjoys taking photos of wildlife in local parks and sings in St. Pete's One City Chorus. Before retiring, Beth was a special education teacher in Ohio for 24 years.

Don’t miss our guides to Accessible Beaches, Accessible Parks and Museum Accessibility – other projects that Beth contributed to.


Clearwater Marine Aquarium

A landmark family attraction, Clearwater Marine Aquarium has been rescuing, rehabbing and releasing marine life for 50 years. Visitors love watching and learning about the aquarium’s resident bottlenose and rough-toothed dolphins, river otters and sea turtles.

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “I enjoyed watching the dolphins in the underwater viewing area. Avoid going on a weekend or holiday if navigating large crowds and fairly small spaces is difficult for you.”
  • Parking and access to the building: The parking garage and surface parking lot next to the aquarium both are paved and have disability spots with access lines. On weekends and rainy days, these spots fill up quickly. There’s an elevator in the parking garage, and the parking garage, parking lot and sidewalk that leads to the entrance are all paved. The distance from the parking area to the attraction depends on where you can find a parking spot. Beth said it was about 50 to 75 yards for her when she visited. The entrance to the aquarium has automatic doors.
  • Details about exhibit access: The outdoor dolphin-viewing area had a lot of reflection on the glass when seen from a lower position. The underwater dolphin viewing areas were much better for being able to see the dolphins. There’s a long, rather steep concrete ramp in the underwater dolphin viewing area. All areas can become very crowded, which can make it difficult to move around and could be overwhelming for some people on the autism spectrum. Beth said the Stingray Beach Touch Pool and the Mavis Hideaway were in a small area and difficult to see from her chair in the big crowd. The Dolphin Wildlife Boat Tour is not wheelchair-accessible.
  • Bathrooms: The bathrooms have a heavy entrance door. There is an ADA-compliant stall with a toilet and grab bars, but soap dispensers and paper towels in the sink area are very high for someone in a wheelchair.
  • Café or restaurant accessibility: The indoor café was accessible. Guests order food at a counter, and an employee brings it to you. The Outdoor Snack Bar/Dolphin Terrace only has high-top tables and chairs, and so is not wheelchair-accessible.
  • Loaner wheelchairs: Manual chairs are available for $5, with a $50 refundable deposit.
  • Accommodations for people who are sight- or hearing-impaired: Audio tours are available – one for kids and one for adults. Also, there are educational talks and shows available.
  • Accommodations for people with sensory issues: Clearwater Marine Aquarium has partnered with KultureCity to enhance its offerings, which now include a social story that visitors can review in advance of their visit to get an idea of what to expect. During their visit, guests can borrow a sensory bag, which includes fidget tools, verbal cue cards and noise-canceling headphones, and they can take advantage of quiet zones throughout the attraction.
  • Other facility details: lt’s easy to purchase tickets at the aquarium or online. There are limited benches available. The elevators are fairly large and have reachable buttons. Wheelchair seating is available in the theaters, and the gift shop is fairly large and accessible.
Florida Botanical Gardens paths and gardens

Accessible paths link the various parts of the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo.

Florida Botanical Gardens

The Florida Botanical Gardens encompasses 120 acres of tropical flowers and foliage, cactus and other dry-climate plants, a bromeliad garden and a butterfly garden – and it’s all free to enjoy. Watch for special events throughout the year, including the highlight of the calendar, Holiday Lights in the Gardens.

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “The botanical gardens are free, are very well-maintained and overall have very good accessibility. Different plants are in bloom all year long, so there’s always something to see and enjoy. Some areas are in full sun, so plan accordingly.”
  • Parking and access to the buildings: All parking lots are asphalt and have disability parking spots with access lines. Parking lots have curb cuts to sidewalks or a flat surface to gardens, depending on which lot you park in. 
  • Details about exhibit access:
    • There are some brick paths that are a bit bumpy in a wheelchair, and the Succulent Garden has an area that’s gravel, but overall accessibility of all the gardens is very good.
    • A nature trail off the gardens into a wooded area is hard-packed shell and a bit sandy in some areas, so it might be difficult for some people to navigate.
    • The Majeed Discovery Garden is accessible to people of all abilities with paved paths and activities suitable for children and families with physical, sensory, cognitive/neuro divergence disabilities. An educational staff member is available to help accommodate children with disabilities in any of their programs for kids. 
  • Bathrooms: The door to the bathroom by the Bromeliad Garden is a bit heavy, but it is an ADA-compliant bathroom with a sink. The Park and Conservation Resources Building, which is easily accessible, also has an ADA-compliant bathroom.
  • Accommodations for people with sensory disabilities: Though private tours are not regularly scheduled, you can sign up for one on the website. These tours can be tailored to your needs.
  • Accommodations for people who are sight- or hearing-impaired: See the above information about private tours. Most information posted in the garden is visual-only. 
  • Other facility details:
    • ​​​​​​​Creative Pinellas, which has an office in the gardens, offers classes and free art shows. The door to that building doesn’t have an access button, but a volunteer was there to open it for Beth. The exhibit area is very accessible and roomy. It also has an ADA-compliant bathroom. Information about the art can be given verbally in addition to printed signs.
    • The gift shop, which is inside the Parks and Conservation Resources Office, is easily accessible.
    • There are plenty of benches around the gardens, and they’re not far apart.
Aerial photo of John's Pass Village & Boardwalk

Shop and dine at John's Pass Village and Boardwalk in Madeira Beach or enjoy a boat tour.

John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk

With more than 100 shops and restaurants on the Gulf in Madeira Beach, just north of Treasure Island, John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk draws visitors and locals for fun shopping, casual dining with an emphasis on fresh seafood and watersports including dolphin tours and fishing charters.

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “Overall, John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk has good accessibility. I enjoyed sitting outside near the bridge and watching the birds and dolphins. I wish Hubbard’s Marina (which is located on John's Pass below the shops and restaurants) would make some of its boats available to people in wheelchairs, maybe by using a portable ramp with some of their larger boats.”
  • Parking and access to buildings: There are quite a few paved lots with disability parking spaces, and there also a garage with disability parking. Parking requires payment. There are sidewalks from the parking areas to stores and restaurants. The distance from the parking area to the attraction depends on where you park, but finding a disability spot close to where you want to go can be problematic.
  • Details about accessibility: All of the restaurants and stores Beth visited were fairly accessible. Some stores are small and can be difficult to navigate if they’re crowded. At the marina, the Calypso Breeze and Dolphin Quest tour boats will take people in wheelchairs. The Hubbard’s Marina tour boats and fishing boats are not accessible and will not take anyone who’s in a wheelchair.
  • Bathrooms: There are many bathrooms inside and outside John’s Pass restaurants. All the ones Beth saw had an ADA-compliant stall.
  • Café or restaurant accessibility: All restaurants and bars have wheelchair-accessible seating.
  • Other facility details: There are quite a few benches throughout the facility. Elevators that go to the second-floor boardwalk with shops and restaurants are fairly large and accessible.
Pelicans fly over the Gulf at sunset

Brown pelicans are among the native Florida birds that live at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary.

Seaside Seabird Sanctuary

Located in quiet Indian Shores, Seaside Seabird Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that’s dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned wild birds. Explore 1.7 acres to see more than 100 injured wild birds, and watch daily feedings and educational presentations. 

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “If you want to see many types of birds either in captivity or in the wild in a small area, this is a great place. The sanctuary hospitalizes and rehabs many kinds of birds. When they’re healthy, they release them into the wild. Some that can’t be released due to injuries are kept and used to educate the public. The sanctuary also has huge trees and food available, so many wild birds come there to visit and nest from February to April or May. I loved seeing all the wild nesting adult birds, chicks and juvenile birds. Entrance is free; donations are appreciated.”
  • Parking and access to the building: The parking lot is small, with no real marked spaces. The hard-packed dirt is easy to push on, and the surface from the lot into the sanctuary is flat. The entrance is just a few yards from the parking area, with a concrete sidewalk near the gift shop and bathroom.
  • Details about exhibit access: Beth said she could push on most of the hard-packed areas fairly easily. There were a couple of small areas with deeper sand near where the sanctuary connects to the beach that were more difficult to navigate.
  • Bathrooms: The door to the bathroom is fairly easy to open. The bathroom is large and ADA-compliant with plenty of room to maneuver.
  • Accommodations for people who are vision- or hearing-impaired: Signage is visual print. If you call ahead, you can arrange for a volunteer to give a tour and provide other information.
  • Other facility details: The gift shop is small, with an attentive volunteer who can reach any high items. The aisles are wide enough to access in a wheelchair. There’s just one bench, but it’s a small sanctuary and bird hospital.
A girl and her dad look at an estuary exhibit.

At the Tampa Bay Watch Discover Center on the St. Pete Pier, visitors can learn about local ecosystems.

St. Pete Pier

The award-winning St. Pete Pier is a family-friendly waterfront playground extending into Tampa Bay in downtown St. Pete, complete with a beach, splash pad, lots of greenspace and a wide variety of restaurants, from an ice cream shop to fine dining. Visit the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, fish from the pier and take an educational boat tour.

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “Overall, accessibility was good, and the views of St. Pete and Tampa Bay from the end of the pier were great. I hope they get push access buttons to enter the building where the gift shop and elevators are located. The Tampa Bay Watch Eco Boat Tour was wonderful and very educational – I highly recommend it! I saw manatees and dolphins as well as other sea life that was pulled up with a net for research and then released. I also saw an island bird rookery.”
  • Parking and access to the pier:
    • There are multiple places to park, on the street or in paved lots, with disability parking spots with access lines. Many must be paid for at a kiosk or by using a smartphone app.
    • Access to the pier is by asphalt paths and cement walks and sidewalks, and the extension joints are covered to facilitate wheelchairs and walkers.
    • The distance from the parking area to the attraction depends on where you park. It can be a long roll or walk from parking to the far end of the pier, but a wheelchair-accessible shuttle is available. 
  • Details about access:
    • All areas of the pier – including the Spa Beach area, which has a Mobi Mat – are accessible. Restaurants, bars, the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center, docks and the fishing area all are accessible.
    • The dolphin-watching tours, eco-tours and sunset tours are accessible to both manual and power wheelchairs. Tickets are sold in the Discovery Center or online.
    • If it’s low tide, the boat will pick visitors up at the courtesy docks by Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille, where a portable ramp can help with boarding.
    • The restroom on the boat is not wheelchair-accessible. 
  • Bathrooms: Bathrooms at the end of the pier have an open entrance door and an ADA-compliant stall. Gender-neutral, ADA-compliant bathrooms are in the middle of the pier.
  • Other facility details: Benches are located throughout the pier. The gift shop is roomy and accessible. The pier has quite a few restaurants and bars, and all looked like they were accessible and had accessible seating. ADA access buttons cannot be installed due to the potential for occasional high wind conditions, but doors to the gift shop and elevators are adjusted for easy opening.
Family walks along paved path through greenery

At historic Sunken Gardens, winding paths lead through verdant gardens.

Sunken Gardens

A green oasis near downtown St. Pete and one of Florida’s original roadside attractions, Sunken Gardens has been enchanting visitors for more than 100 years. Explore the 500-plus species of plants filling the lush grounds, and be sure to feed the koi and resident flock of flamingos.

  • Beth’s comments and tips: “In addition to beautiful gardens that always have something in bloom, Sunken Gardens also has flamingos, exotic birds, tortoises and koi fish. It’s a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon and enjoy a picnic. Quite a few areas are in partial or full shade, so heat-sensitive people can easily find shade.”
  • Parking and access to the building: A paved parking lot is located at the strip mall where Sunken Gardens’ ticket office, bathrooms and gift shop are located. Disability parking spots with access lines are available. The distance from the parking lot to the attraction is about 15 yards via a cut curb. The door at the entrance for admission, bathrooms and gift shop is heavy with no access button.
  • Details about exhibit access: A sign states that not all areas are ADA-compliant due to the historic nature of the gardens, but Beth found that almost all areas were paved and accessible. There are two bridges over a pond that are very steep, and a bridge over the flamingos that’s steep, but Beth was able to see and get to all areas.
  • Bathrooms: The door into the bathroom is fairly heavy. Beth was able to open it independently, but people who are quadriplegic would have difficulty. A stall is ADA-compliant, and sink and paper towels in the stall are within reach.
  • Details about restaurant accessibility: There is no restaurant on the grounds, but visitors can bring food and water into Sunken Gardens for a picnic. 
  • Accommodations for people with sensory disabilities and sight or hearing impairments: Visitors can sign up for a private, docent-led tour. There is no braille signage.
  • Other facility details: The amphitheater area is accessible and has spots for wheelchair seating. The gift shop is large and accessible. Some items were out of reach, but Beth said an employee was happy to reach them for her. There are benches throughout the gardens.