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Top Five Accessible Travel Destinations
  • Dubbo Courtesy Western Plains Zoo
  • Bruce and Ashley entering Cockington Green
  • Port Arthur

When you’re disabled it’s a lot easier - and cheaper - to stay at home.
But after our family came home from a trip away, I realised the memories would be there with our boys for the rest of their lives.  It’s certainly not easy (when you’re disabled what is?) but it is worth it. My favourite Australian  destinations are:

1. Darling Harbour, Sydney

I never visited Darling Harbour when growing up in Sydney.  But our family came up here and stayed 3 nights last year and had a wonderful time!  It was great being a tourist in what was once my own backyard.  After seeing a fair bit of overseas, I still think Sydney stacks up pretty well.

The terrific thing about Darling Harbour is that it’s so much like Tasmania; a lot to do in such a small area.  And nearly all of it easily accessible!  There’s disabled parking not just at the big parking stations, but also at the Maritime and Powerhouse Museums (but book ahead if you want these).  Both the monorail and light rail are accessible, with lifts to all monorail stations.  The monorail is a great way to get from one side of Darling Harbour to the other (if going say, from the Maritime Museum to the Aquarium), but once on it, why not do the full trip around the city?  It’s a unique view of Sydney.  The Darling Harbour boardwalk is an easy and pleasant stroll for people in wheelchairs and in the shopping area all shops are accessible.

The main attractions, including the Powerhouse Museum (02 9217 0505) and National Maritime Museum (02 9298 3777), the Sydney Aquarium (02 8251 7800) and Wildlife World (02 8251 7824) and the IMAX Theatre are all accessible (although you will find it a bit tricky getting into the Russian sub at the Maritime Museum -  and it’s even trickier getting out . . .)  Contact the venues first, because most have special rates for disabled visitors (and at some, carers are free) and some have wheelchairs available too.  Most also have accessible toilets.

While the Chinese Gardens are not listed as accessible, I found the parts that I could get around most enchanting - and just sitting quietly, doing nothing by a calm lake in the middle of the city is a bit special.  Right next door is Paddy’s Markets and Chinatown; where you won’t be short of accessible shopping or eating places.

If you find – as we did - there’s just too much to do in one day and you want to stay overnight, I can recommend the Darling Harbour Holiday Inn , which has a number of fully accessible rooms and is very centrally located.

I found help at Darling Harbour (92408500) very easy to get, including a detailed access map. 

There are many places which offer accessible accommodation in Sydney city, but be sure to check with individual accommodation operators for your specific requirements.

2. Dubbo Zoo Western Plains, NSW (02 6882 5888)

We visited Western Plains Zoo during a tour we did of the Central West a few years back, towing my electric scooter in a trailer.  We were pleasantly surprised at just how accessible the Zoo was. Getting around outside the enclosures is easy – but do it on a nice day - and even “behind the scenes” tours are generally accessible and very interesting.  Just make sure your electric wheelchair has a good top speed for the lion enclosure.

Dubbo is about 6 hours drive from Sydney, but you can also go by train (132 232) or plane (Airlink 131313, Qantaslink 131313 or Rex 131713)
If you like the sound of lions at night, you can stay in the fully accessible ‘Zoofari Lodge’ inside the Zoo.  It looks like a tent on the Savannah - but is quite a bit more luxurious inside.

Ranelagh B&B offers accessible accommodation in Dubbo but check in advance for your specific needs.

3. Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Victoria   (03 5337 1100) 

We visited Sovereign Hill as part of a tour we did around Victoria, again with my scooter in tow; and it was very handy for getting around the diggings.  But it was not just by day, but also at night, that the excitement of the goldfields came alive.

You’ll need a good day (and that means good weather too) to get around.  Not everywhere is accessible, but enough of it is to make your visit most enjoyable.  At night, the “Blood on the Southern Cross” show is fantastic and is fully accessible.

When you arrive, ask for the very useful wheelchair user’s map and guide pamphlet.  There are also free wheelchairs available. Contact Marg Alpen on 03 5337 1100 for special wheelchair rates.  Carer card-holders are free.

We stayed at the nearby Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park, which was nice, but wouldn’t be possible for a wheelchair user, however there’s also accessible accommodation on-site at ‘Sovereign Hill Lodge’ (03) 5337 1159

There is a range of accessible accommodation in Ballarat but be sure to check for your specific needs prior to booking.

4. Strahan, West Coast, Tasmania

If you’re going to Tassie, you must go to its West Coast.  There’s so much to do and you really see the wilderness here. While not all of it is accessible, amazingly, much of it is.

The Wilderness Railway is a real treat - especially if you’re in a chair.  Wheelchair users and their carers are ‘forced’ to accept premier class for standard prices and they also get a personal taxi ride back to Strahan from Queenstown.  The train trip itself is spectacular.

So is a cruise up the Gordon River and around Macquarie Harbour.  You can go with Gordon River Cruises (1800 420 155) or World Heritage Cruises (03 6471 7174); who will be receiving a new accessible craft at the end of 2007.

We stayed at Castaway Holiday Apartments (03 6471 7400) last Christmas holidays and they have a good accessible room, but there are a number of other possiblities for accessible accommodation in Strahan  Check for your individual requirements.

5. Port Arthur, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania (1800 659 101) 

While there are good reasons for leaving much of these ruins exactly as they are, you’ll be surprised at just how much is accessible.  The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority has done a remarkable job at protecting but also presenting Australia’s premier historic convict site.

Getting around some areas is not easy and I don’t recommend the night–time ghost tour (if you’re in a wheelchair you could spend most of your time waiting out in the rain for the group to return!). However there is a golf buggy that will zoom you and your chair around the site and the accessible displays at the Visitor Centre are excellent.

The cruise out to the Isle of the Dead is accessible - and you may even see some holiday-makers from Parliament there!

We stayed in an accessible room at the Comfort Inn Port Arthur, which had the great advantage of being right on-site.  You only had to wheel out the back gate and you were in Port Arthur.

There is also an accessible villa at White Beach Holiday Villas, Nubeena.  Otherwise, accessible accommodation near Port Arthur can be limited, so book early!

Author - Bruce Mumford
Bruce Mumford lives at Burrawang in the NSW Southern Highlands with his wife Louise and sons, Ashley and Rohan.  He was formerly an English, History and Drama teacher at high schools in Forbes, Nowra and Moss Vale.  In 1990 Bruce was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and he is currently a Disabled Travel Consultant.  Since Bruce's retirement from full-time teaching, the family has travelled widely in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and overseas.

About the author
Bruce Mumford is a Disabled Travel Consultant...

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  One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Port Arthur. Port Arthur is one of Australia's great tourism destinations. Every building, every feature of Port Arthur Historic Site has a story to tell. The Port Arthur Historic Site has over thirty buildings, ruins and restored period furnished homes set in 40 hectares of landscaped grounds. The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830. Originally designed as a replacement for the recently closed timber camp at Birches Bay, Port Arthur quickly grew in importance within the penal system of the colonies. To get to Port Arthur fly into Hobart and hire a car. Then travel on the Port Arthur Highway through Sorell, Dunalley, down through Eaglehawk Neck,Taranna and on to Port Arthur. For accommodation there are motels in all these places as well as Hobart itself.
Posted on Oct 22 2010 at 20:19

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