A few favorite (and accessible) activities from our coastal vacation

Halsey Blocher avatar

by Halsey Blocher |

Share this article:

Share article via email

Our family loves vacationing by the sea, and we’ve recently returned from a trip to Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. Although we’ve passed through before, this trip was our first time vacationing in North Carolina. It won’t be the last.

Waterfront views, fresh seafood, and rich history all helped make this destination one we’ll return to again and again. Roanoke Island and the surrounding island communities also provide an assortment of accessible activities and attractions, which is something we always look for when traveling with SMA. Here are a few of our favorites.

All aboard for (accessible) adventure

Roanoke Island offers a variety of boating excursions, and my mom opted to book a tour with Paradise Dolphin Cruises. The opportunity to see dolphins up close was irresistible, and this cruise was one of the options that advertised being wheelchair accessible.

Mom planned and confirmed our accessible activity options in advance, so she called ahead and was assured that I’d be able to access the catamaran with the ramps at the dock. This assurance proved true, but accommodations didn’t stop there.

The crew met us with warm smiles, helped us on and off the boat, made sure we were comfortable and had clear views, checked on us frequently, and included us in the fun. Finding a boat that easily accommodates my large power wheelchair is rare, but such kindness and consideration are just as surprisingly special. These served as affirmations that our family is welcome and seen, even with the extra challenges we bring.

In two photos, we see a woman with glasses in a wheelchair; she's outside on a boat. In the photo at left, she wears a green skirt and light gray T-shirt, and there's a man with a white beard leaning over her shoulder; he's in a purple shirt and wears a light gray cap. At right we see her in a floppy, multicolored hat and a white skirt with no sleeves and multicolored thin horizontal stripes. Off her shoulder is a grinning woman with graying hair wearing a purple T-shirt.

For Halsey Blocher, one of the highlights of going on a dolphin cruise in North Carolina this month was finding new friends like Captain Jay, left, and first mate Sandy. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

After the captain promoted me to admiral — a nod to the famous Adm. “Bull” Halsey, to whom our family name is connected— we set sail with the wind and the salty sea spray keeping us cool. There were no dolphins to be found during our sunset cruise that evening, but we were still entertained by the scenic journey and the crew’s stories. My brother even got to drive the boat!

We enjoyed our tour so much that we accepted an invitation to return, and we were once again brought on board with kindness and enthusiasm. And this time we found a large pod of curious bottlenose dolphins that playfully splashed alongside our boat. It was a dream come true!

Although we saw dolphins on only one of our cruises, I’d count both trips as fun and fruitful in their own heartwarming ways.

We see five people, apparently outdoors under some kind of wooden roof. One man, in a purple T-shirt and wearing a cap, is in the background, Up front is a woman in a wheelchair, wearing glasses; a floppy, multicolored hat; and a white tank top with thin blue, black, and red horizontal stripes. Behind her are, from left, a man with dark short hair, a beard, and a mustache, wearing sunglasses with red lenses, a dark T-shirt with a logo, and dark brown pants; a woman with shoulder-length light brown hair, wearing sunglasses and a white top with large, dark green horizontal stripes; and a man with short brown hair, wearing a red T-shirt with cut-off sleeves, revealing tattoos on one arm.

From left, Lucas Rosbrugh, Heather-Halsey Dye, Halsey Blocher, and Doug Dye scout for dolphins on the North Carolina coast this month. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

Recommended Reading


National Lampoon’s ‘Schaefer Vacations’

Beaches and boardwalks

For anyone who prefers to keep their feet (or wheels) on land, there are also many opportunities to enjoy the area without leaving the shore.

Getting me to the beach and dipping my toes in the water were priorities for this vacation, and we found a perfect place for that. This accessible beach guide led us to a quiet section of the beach a short drive from our rental condo. It included a parking area and a wooden boardwalk that stretched across the sand.

With my wheelchair in sight at the end of the boardwalk, my family carried me the rest of the way to the water on an old bath chair that we’ve repurposed into an outdoor chair. This creative solution allowed us to sit together as we relaxed on the beach and cooled off in the tide.

We see two people on a beach: a woman with dark hair, left, in a wheelchair, and a man with a beard, black T-shirt, and shorts, right. An orange and yellow towel is in front of him, and a multicolored umbrella is behind them both.

Halsey Blocher relaxes on a North Carolina beach this month with her brother, Lucas Rosbrugh, after taking an old bath chair into the water. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

Although we like to bring this chair from home, there are free beach wheelchair rentals in the area, and they can be delivered to the location of your choosing.

We also found several longer but accessible boardwalks and piers to explore. The wooden paths were sometimes bumpy, but they forced us to slow down and savor the seaside journey and one another’s company for a while longer.

Our favorite boardwalk ended up being the soundside boardwalk in the nearby town of Duck. This one was clearly built with accessibility in mind. It was one of the smoothest paths we found, and it included multiple ramped access points. And the views were stunning.

The soundside boardwalk also weaves past several shops and restaurants, perfectly intertwining nature with local businesses. Many establishments were closed for Independence Day during our visit, but we found an ice cream shop that was still serving up tasty treats. We decided to carry ours with us and eat them as we strolled through the sunset.

A wooden dock stretches across a body of water, seen mostly at left, under a blue sky with some clouds.

The sun begins to set, creating picturesque views over this part of the accessible soundside boardwalk in Duck, North Carolina, this month. (Courtesy of Halsey Blocher)

A great vacation destination

Our whole trip was filled with memorable adventures, beautiful places, kind people, and delicious food. This column only scratches the surface of everything we did, and I’m sure we’ll find even more great things to share on our next visit. If you’re looking for an accessible destination for your next vacation, Roanoke Island could be it. I hope you enjoy it there as much as we did.

Where do you like to travel, and what are some of your favorite accessible things to do there? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

The post A few favorite (and accessible) activities from our coastal vacation appeared first on SMA News Today.