Heading off on a holiday is one of the best ways to relax and unwind, spend quality time with the family, and to explore and experience new destinations. But for those families travelling with a loved one with high-needs, disabilities, or a wheelchair, it’s not always as easy as simply jumping on a plane or packing the car for a road trip. It can mean lots of forward planning and researching to find appropriate accommodation and wheelchair friendly activities that the whole family can enjoy.

Thankfully here in Australia we’ve seen lots of businesses and tourism bodies leading the way in making holiday destinations and activities accessible and inclusive for people of all abilities. With hotels offering more and more inventory of accessible rooms, special low-sensory sessions in museum and galleries, and a number of designated wheelchair friendly beaches, there are lots of holiday options for families of all abilities.

Many hotels are now introducing ‘smart rooms’ that allows guests to use their voice to activate lights, aircon, televisions, and curtains, while accommodation booking platforms like HomeAway and Airbnb have accessibility filters to help make searching for the right accommodation even easier. There are even travel agents like Travel With Special Needs that are dedicated to helping plan the perfect all-accessible holiday!

To help you get started on your next all-ability or wheelchair friendly holiday, here are our top 5 accessible holiday destinations in Australia.

Take a cruise

Cruising holidays are one of the most popular holidays types for people of all ages from kids to mature adults. Cruise ships are a great option as they offer loads of different activities and nightly entertainment shows to keep you busy.  Head off to the comedy club, the cinema, live music shows, and that’s all without stopping at a port! There are special access cabins available on most cruise ships and P&O even offer escorted Limited Mobility Shore Tours!

Visit the Red Centre

One of Australia’s most iconic tourist spots, Uluru and the red centre should be on everyone’s travel list! Throughout Ayers Rock you will find the restaurants and shops all have wheelchair accessibility, and the surrounding hotels have plenty of special access rooms.

Once you’ve arrived in Ayers Rock make sure to book accessible private tour with Outback Tour Services. Their accessible tour will pick you up in their modern, purpose-built vehicle, which can take one wheelchair passenger who remains in their wheelchair as well as another who can transfer to a seat.

From there you can choose from a variety of camping options from bush camping to “Safari in Style” camping with permanent tents. The tour will take you into remote areas, where you’ll be able to utilise the purpose-built “off-road wheelchair” to enable you to track through riverbeds and rough terrain… as well as go for a swim in one of the fantastic waterholes in the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Soak up the sunshine at the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast City Council have implemented a number of great initiatives to make visiting the famous Queensland city easy for people of all abilities. They boast over 10 surf life saving clubs that now offer beach access equipment including beach matting and beach wheelchairs. The Gold Coast Disabled Surfers Association also holds ‘Let’s go surfing’ days at Currumbin which are aimed at encouraging people with disabilities to get out into the surf and enjoy one of the best Aussie past times – surfing.

Once you’ve finished up at the beach you can also utilise their special access Changing Places toilets which provides a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench, a ceiling tracking hoist system, and additional circulation space.

The city has also put together mobility maps, which provide accessibility information to assist residents and visitors to plan their stay and move around the city safely. The map information includes the location of accessible toilets, change facilities, accessible car parking spaces, pathway gradients, location of kerb ramps and key buildings and services.

Head off on a motorhome road trip

When you think of a wheelchair friendly holiday, a campervan road trip but not be the first thing that comes to mind. But the team at Wheelie Campers have designed Australia’s first self drive wheelchair accessible camper vans which can be rented as self drive with pick up on the Gold Coast or delivered to your door nationwide.

The campervans can accommodate up to 5 passengers plus a driver and a wheelchair and come fitted with internal hoist (enter vehicle in motorised/manual wheelchair) and two integrated double beds, plus an 8 man tent. Take off along the Great Ocean Drive, take your time exploring along Australia’s famous east coast, or take a trip around the picturesque Tasmania.

Hit the slopes in NZ

While this list is all about the top holidays in Australia, we had to include New Zealand’s amazing Cardrona Adaptive Snow Sports program. The program has been designed to support people with physical, sensory & cognitive impairments allowing them to enjoying the freedom of skiing & boarding with their family & friends. The term “adaptive” comes from how the program adapts both the sport & the equipment to cater for every individual’s needs. You’ll see modified skis & snowboards, sit-skis, frames, outriggers & more.

The program is supported by trained volunteers who provide free on-snow support for anyone with a disability who requires assistance making it easy to zoom down the slopes on a sit-ski, modified skis or snowboard.

Image: Gold Coast Recreation