Canberra: More than inclusive, more than accessible. Australia’s capital offers myriad attractions whatever your age, ability or needs.
As the city’s architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin envisaged, Canberra is built for the people, incorporating oodles of open space to balance the corridors of power. Whether you love flowers, forests or wide open spaces, like to take it slowly or up the thrill factor, Canberra has you covered.
Natural attractions in Canberra
Colloquially known as the Bush Capital, Canberra is literally surrounded by national parks, nature reserves and specialist gardens.
Engage all your senses at the Australian National Botanic Gardens in the foothills of Black Mountain. There are many accessible paths within the 35 hectare garden, home to over 70,000 native plants. Feel the dampness in the rainforest gulley, inhale the fragrance of native flowers, listen to the birdsong, and experience a bird’s eye view from the ramp-accessible paperbark treehouse. Wheelchairs and electric scooters are available for loan to visitors, and there is a hearing loop in the Theatrette.
The National Arboretum Canberra, covering 250 hectares, is one of the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees, including forests of cork oaks and Wollemi pines. It’s home to the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection of miniature trees and landscapes, and the Mununja Butterfly Garden, depicting a dreamtime story of the Ngunnawal people. Wheelchairs are available here, too.
At Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, predator-free fencing ensures wildlife abounds. Look for platypus and rock wallabies from the wheelchair accessible path through The Sanctuary wetlands and spot koalas and potoroos on the fully accessible Koala Path in the Eucalypt Forest. A TrailRider (all terrain wheelchair requiring Sherpas) is available for booking.
Walk with the animals, from alligators to zebras, at The National Zoo and Aquarium. Whether you love monkeys or meerkats, seahorses or sharks, frogs or snakes, you’ll find them here. Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are available for loan to visitors.
Getting physical in Canberra
Make a bee-line for Boundless Playground on the foreshore of Lake Burley Griffin. Built to celebrate Canberra’s centenary using state-of-the-art design, it’s the city’s first all-abilities playground. With low swings and sensory features including water play, it will keep kids entertained for hours.
Bound through the whimsical woodland that is POD Playground at the National Arboretum. Based on the idea that seeds are the beginning of life in a forest, there are acorn cubbyhouses fashioned out of timber that appear thrown into the air, banksia pod huts and nest swings. Net tunnels and slides connect the cubbies and there are music-making instruments.
Go on safari in the Adventureland playground at the National Zoo and Aquarium. Explore the large tree house with rock climbing posts and a 3-metre-high slide, net climbers, an inclusive swing, flying foxes, and full size animal structures that gives a zoo visit extra playtime.
Lake Burley Griffin, constructed by damming the Molonglo River, may be manmade but it imparts a natural beauty to the city centre. Encircled by a 30 km pathway it’s perfect for a lakeside cycle or stroll.
Up the excitement at Vertikal Indoor Snow Sports, where variable incline treadmills of white nylon fibre give you the thrills of skiing or snowboarding without the chills of slushy snow. Vertikal promise ‘if there’s a will to ski, we’ll make it happen’ with staff happy to discuss your needs regarding mobility, vision, hearing or autism. Instructors remotely control the pitch and speed of the slope, so you can snowplough down a gentle incline or shred a downhill run. Reward yourself with an après ski beverage and pizza beside the open fire.
Down time in Canberra
After an action-packed day it’s good to know there are plenty of accessible accommodation options. QT Canberra is a light, bright, city hotel with a cheeky-chic vibe. Think crisp black and white, cool greys and shimmering sheers accented with pops of citrus in the lobby and guest rooms, while Capitol Bar & Grill channels an industrial mood. The 205-room hotel has two wheelchair accessible rooms.
Crowne Plaza Canberra, operated by Intercontinental Hotels Group, offers more traditional décor, with views of neighbouring Glebe Park. The vast atrium floods light into the spacious central public areas, where Redsalt Restaurant serves modern Australian cuisine. The 296-room hotel has several wheelchair accessible rooms, TTY (teletypewriter) and assistive listening devices.
Getting around Canberra
It you’re flying to and from the capital then utilise Canberra Airport’s accessible services, from meeting and greeting to assistance with boarding, disembarking and wheelchairs. Visit their Special Assistance webpage and make arrangements before you fly.
City buses and trams, including the Hop-on-Hop-off tourist bus, are wheelchair accessible with visual and auditory stop information. A Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Service (WATS) participates in the Taxi Subsidy Scheme and accepts interstate vouchers.
VisitCanberra actively supports inclusive tourism. GetAboutAble is a Canberra-based social enterprise that promotes accessibility and inclusivity in the tourism sector. With financial support from the Australian Capital Territory, GetAboutAble is helping VisitCanberra and Canberra’s mainstream tourism sector better cater to customers with disability. You can see a sneak peek of the new inclusive marketing campaign on their website.
This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits magazine. You can subscribe here.