Julie Jones is a travel writer with a difference. Julie writes all about travelling with a disability and has built an amazing community on her Have Wheelchair Will Travel website and Facebook page. Today Julie provides us with a fantastic guest blog about finding unique wheelchair accessible adventures.
Travelling with a wheelchair definitely adds another dimension to choosing and booking a holiday but there are many wheelchair accessible activities just waiting to be explored in Australia and overseas. As a family we are always searching for unique wheelchair accessible adventures for our son who uses a chair.
Accessing bush walks in Australia recently became a reality for people using a wheelchair. TrailRiders are now available in some of Australia's National Parks.
The TrailRider is an intriguing piece of equipment which allows a person with mobility restrictions to access tracks that are not wheelchair accessible, including tracks with stairs (with assistance from guides). A seat with a high back, foot and arm rests allows a person to sit comfortably. Handles at the front and back allow two, three or four people to guide the rider up and down a range of tracks. A single wheel under the seat means that lifting of the chair is only needed for stairs but even in this case the wheel eases the chair through the process.
Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Dorrigo National Park, Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and Parks Victoria are just a few of the locations of the TrailRider in Australia.
For information of other locations including other locations in Australia, Canada, USA and Japan head to the official website.
Beach wheelchairs are making it easier for people with mobility difficulties to go for a walk along the beach and in some cases even access the water with ease. Many of Australia's patrolled beaches have beach wheelchairs available, including famous Bondi Beach. These are free to use in most locations.
We choose our beach holiday destination based on the availability of a beach wheelchair. Some local councils, including the Central Coast of NSW and Port Macquarie in NSW, have adopted the chairs at many of their beaches providing an inclusive tourism experience for all.
California has a list of beach wheelchair locations available. In the USA there are even electric beach wheelchairs available for use in some areas of Southern California. The list can be found here.
We often head to observation decks in the cities we visit. It is a great way to get your bearings and also a feel for the city. We have found a few unique ways to add to this experience for a wheelchair user.
Sydney Tower Skywalk takes you outside the tower to get unobstructed views of Sydney Harbour including the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Our son loved going out on the glass platform where he could see the city below Although you are at a height of 268m above the ground you don’t need to be concerned because you are tethered to a rail. It is that initial step out that takes your breath away but even I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience when I did it.
A person using a wheelchair is required to book ahead as the accessible walk is done prior to the scheduled tours of the day. The person using a wheelchair and their companion participate in the tour together with a guide. A companion or carer can accompany a person with the disability free of charge (double check this at the time of booking in case of any changes). Please check directly with reservations regarding all the requirements for someone using a wheelchair. There are wheelchair width restrictions due to the exits.
Eureka Skydeck 88 has awe inspiring views of Melbourne from the observation deck. It is the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. We decided to add to the experience by doing The Edge. The Edge is a glass cube which projects 3m out from the building. Once again our son just loved seeing Melbourne through a glass platform from 300m above ground.
Statue of Liberty - One of the highlights of our trip to New York was our visit to the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Island itself is wheelchair accessible and when the statue underwent a renovation a couple of years ago a lift was put inside the Statue to allow wheelchair access to the platform level. We found the museum inside fascinating and it really gave us a sense of the logistics involved in France gifting the monument to New York. The views back to the New York skyline from the Platform provided a great photo opportunity.
The Eagle hang-glider at Tahune AirWalk in Tasmania gave our son the most liberating feeling of flying across the Huon River. It does require the person to transfer out of their wheelchair into the harness but the staff advised they had assisted visitors with high support needs.
The Eagle Hang-glider reverses you to a height of 50m above the Huon River, stops at the top for you to enjoy the view, before returning you back to where you started at a speed of 40km per hour. It is an exhilarating feeling.
After the hang-gliding experience we were thrilled to discover two accessible walks. Tahune AirWalk averages heights between 20-30m above the forest floor, with the very last section, the cantilever, sitting at a height of 48m above the river and is where you will get the best views. The views of the forest canopy and the Huon and Picton Rivers from the canter lever make for a spectacular photo opportunity. The air is crisp and fresh as the area is surrounded by 1.6 million hectares of World Heritage Listed forest. This is Tasmania showing off its beauty at its best and it is accessible to all.
Crazy Rider is the world’s longest roller coaster zip line. It is accessible and can be found just north of Sydney. The Xtreme is a one kilometre long twisting, diving, winding journey featuring 40 slaloms (including three 360 degree loops and a 540 degree circle around a tree) as well as other surprises. This is definitely one for the dare-devils.
If the Xtreme sounds a little too much for you then there is a shorter, gentler ride called The Pioneer.
We are big fans of booking animal encounters at zoos and animal parks when we travel. Many are wheelchair accessible and make a great gift. We did the Backstage Pass tour at San Diego Zoo where our son fed a rhino, patted a zebra and many other animals.
At Sea World on the Gold Coast our son did the special needs experience with a dolphin. A person does need to be able to transfer into the water but it is a personal experience and at a reduced rate. A companion can assist the person with a disability and in our case we paid for our daughter to join in.
Finding unique experiences requires research but the rewards are well worth the effort. Travelling with a wheelchair has its challenges but add lots of fun in the itinerary and everyone will have a great holiday.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance.