Wheelchair-friendly weekend away in Canberra
Updated 21 May 2022
Looking for a memorable holiday where wheelchairs are part of the adventure? Many of Canberra’s famed attractions – indoors and outside – are accessible for those using wheelchairs, scooters, walking frames, and other mobility support. Here’s a guide to what to do in the great outdoors, see in the great indoors, and feast on during your trip to Canberra.
The great outdoors
The Australian National Botanic Gardens is the only place in the world where you’re able to see such a diverse, breathtaking array of plants native to Australia. There are several ways to explore the gardens, including moving at your own pace via the wide, non-slippery paths, hiring a free wheelchair or electric mobility scooter, or booking a seat on the wheelchair friendly bus-tour. There are also several disability access car parks available on site.
A 40 minute drive from the city, relax and recharge at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a stunning setting to view Australian wildlife in a natural setting. Mobility-impaired visitors are able to hire an all-terrain wheelchair, known as a TrailRider, which enables everyone to get out there and enjoy all that is on offer in the bush capital. There are also plenty of accessible paths and loop trails to spot the locals (you’ll likely see wallabies, birdlife and even a cuddly koala), as well as car access and parking throughout the reserve.
Cockington Green Gardens, a fascinating display of meticulously handcrafted miniature buildings, has easy access parking and wide pathways. Beautiful any time of year, ask staff to open the side entry if steps are difficult.
Head back outdoors to get wild at the National Zoo and Aquarium. Meet giraffes, meerkats, lions, monkeys, and penguins. Or take in the wondrous underwater realm of creatures in the aquarium. Use the handy accessible pathways and ramps but note there are some sloped and gravel paths. Little ones will love the Adventure Land playground that includes a wheelchair accessible playhouse and two fully harnessed swings. Staff are accessibility aware and are able to provide visitors with advice on the zoo’s layout and features.
The National Arboretum hosts a variety of attractions, including two forests that carry rare and endangered trees that are over a century old, a collection of delicate bonsai, stunning panoramic views across Canberra and modern, contemporary architecture. There are ample disabled car parking spaces available across the Arboretum, as well as free wheelchair hire which need to be booked in advance via email. Smooth, wide pathways weave throughout the Arboretum connecting key attractions such as the Pod Playground, forests, and café.
If you have young ones looking for adventure and fun, explore the Boundless Playground – a completely accessible, state-of-the-art creation – at Lake Burley Griffin. It has easy car parking and great toilet facilities.
The great indoors
Start your exploration at the renowned Australian War Memorial, which tells the stories of men and women who have served our nation in war, conflict and operations. All exhibits are accessible using handrails, ramps and lifts, plus they have dedicated accessible parking and accessible toilet facilities.
Wheelchairs and strollers are free to hire from the Information Desk. For visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing a self-guided Highlights Tour is available in Auslan and captioned in English. The Memorial is currently expanding its galleries as part of a major development project. Contact the Memorial for help with planning your visit.
Vertikal Indoor Snow Sports boasts the saying, “Where there is a will to ski, we will find a way to make it happen!”. With indoor snow slopes the team at Vertikal have worked with skiers who have mobility challenges, vision and hearing impairments and neurodivergence to create experiences that are accessible for all to enjoy. This includes a sit-ski which accommodates skiers who require a wheelchair. The facility includes multiple disabled parking spots, accessible bathrooms, ramps and wide non-slippery pathways.
At the magnificent National Museum of Australia on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the range of changing exhibitions will keep you returning time and again. This insightful learning experience showcasing the stories of Australia for all ages has accessible parking options available at the main entrance. The Museum also offers free wheelchair, scooter and stroller hire from the information desk.
Within the walls of the National Gallery of Australia, explore the world-class art exhibitions at your leisure. The Gallery is privileged to host the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world. Disabled parking is available in the undercover car park, and once inside, easy to navigate via lifts and ramps. Mobile scooters and wheelchairs are available for hire at the cloak room. The Sculpture Garden features flat, wide pathways.
Places to eat
You’ll find excellent dining options dotted all over Canberra – from hatted fine-dining to pubs, clubs, cafes, and some of the world’s best coffee. Many locations are situated on the ground floor. Bookings are recommended.
Try rustic Urban Pantry in Manuka for extensive dining options, Italian-themed Capitol Bar and Grill within QT Canberra, contemporary Japanese cuisine at Lilotang in Barton, great burgers at Beef and Barley on the Kingston Foreshore, or the shared delights and atmosphere at Monster Kitchen and Bar.
Places to stay
Numerous hotels and apartments cater to guests’ mobility requirements. Novotel Canberra in the heart of the city offers accessible accommodation and family-friendly configurations. Opt for the spacious East Hotel + Apartments in Kingston or book the Adina Serviced Apartments in Dickson which offer a modern, wheelchair accessible stay. The glamourous QT Canberra based in the city centre has a few rooms designed with accessibility in mind. The team at the centrally located Crowne Plaza pride themselves on their ability to accommodate their services and rooms to ensure that every guest is comfortable during their stay.
Getting to Canberra
Travelling to Canberra via plane should be a relaxing experienced as Canberra Airport has been designed to enable travel for all. The terminal has been fitted with multiple lifts and escalators for ease of access. Additionally, drop off areas, parking lots, bus stops and taxi ranks around the airport have considered the likes of wheelchair accessibility, mobility scooters and walking distance between key airport checkpoints such as, check-in counters, security and the terminal gates. The Special Assistance web page can help you plan your flight.