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Variety Is Golden

The Jones family are frequent visitors to the Gold Coast - but every time they return, they find they discover something new.

As frequent flyers to the Gold Coast, we are always keen to find new accessible activities to keep our troops stimulated and engaged. On our most recent trip we discovered a raft of ways to see Queensland’s family-friendly coast. We took to the skies, waterways and headed for the hinterland, striking the perfect balance between adrenaline-fuelled action and a relaxed tempo.

Soaring High

The Gold Coast’s seemingly endless beaches and waterways are best appreciated from the air, so excitement was at an all-time high as our family hopped into a helicopter for a flight with Gold Coast Helitours. Taking off just before sunset, we had front row seats to watch the sun retire for the night and the sky transform into a subdued dusty pink wash, a stunning contrast to the turquoise clear ocean below. 

Our pilot expertly weaved his way along the coast and hovered above the inland waterways, before finishing with a showstopping swoop along the golden stretch of beaches including Surfers Paradise. Along the way he highlighted points of interest, including the ship used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which is still anchored in Gold Coast waters. We also spotted a group of climbers on the Q1 Tower, our pilot playfully suggesting we do a fly-by giving them a cheeky toot of the helicopter siren as we did.

Overhead view of the Gold Coast at sunset from helicopter window (Left); and Braeden and Amelia in the helicopter wearing headsets and smiling selfie-style (Right)
There’s no view of the Gold Coast like that from a helicopter at sunset.

For my son, Braeden, it was an exhilarating way to start our weekend. Accessibility into the office and onto the helipad is good for a wheelchair user. Guests with a disability and their family members need to be able to negotiate the considerable step up into the helicopter.

Full speed ahead

The Gold Coast waterways are awash with jet-skis zipping along at speed, usually leaving us in their wake. Not this time!

At Gold Coast Water Sports, we lined up with a group of other jet-ski novices, ready to fulfil our need for speed (within safety limits of course). We spent 30 minutes learning, lurching (it’s hard to drive smoothly at first) and laughing on the tour. Pairing up girls versus boys, my daughter Amelia joined me on a jet-ski and Braeden doubled with my husband Mark. The team from Gold Coast Water Sports kept an extra eye on Braeden and Mark, understanding the potential additional difficulties of balancing Braeden on the jet-ski. Braeden was fine and even with the mandatory 10 metres between jet-skis I could see the smile on his face from across the water. 

Two men seated on a jet ski together roaring through the water on a bright sunny day
Jet-skiing is one of the most thrilling ways to see the Gold Coast, and the activity can be adapted to suit your needs.

I encourage guests with disabilities who want to give it a go to speak with the team to ensure your needs can be accommodated. We took a piece of non-slip matting with us for the jet-ski seat to prevent Braeden from sliding around. A small step needs to be negotiated at the end of the ramp to the jet-ski pontoon and to access the platform where the jet-skis sit. 

Get away from it all

Walking along the many accessible pathways that surround the Gold Coast waterways, we’ve often envied the boating lifestyle of locals. This time we joined them, in a self-drive barbecue boat from Gold Coast Party Pontoons. After a quick safety briefing from owner Craig, and armed with brunch supplies, we set off for a day on the water.

We stopped at Charis Seafood, where I waded through water to the beach to buy prawns and hot chips, before heading to Wavebreak Island and dropping anchor. We feasted on freshly cooked bacon, eggs, mushrooms, fruit and our Charis Seafood purchases before swimming and then relaxing on the sand. It felt like we were miles away from civilisation but for the Gold Coast skyline in the distance.

Family on board a barbecue boat with the Gold Coast skyline visible behind them
Gold Coast Party Pontoons offers a great day out for the whole family.

On our return to the marina, a pod of dolphins appeared as if to escort us back, their joyful playfulness reflecting that of our family on the boat. 

Access from the Marina to the wharf is via a ramp from the car park. The steepness of the ramp is affected by the tides but in general it does require muscle power. Boat access is step-free and via a gate with 67cm of clearance. Braeden’s wheelchair fitted easily, and there was plenty of circulation space in all areas of the boat for him to remain in his wheelchair when he chose to. There is a regular size toilet on board with a 6cm lip.

Giddy up

Come nightfall, there’s an abundance of activities on offer, but the Australian Outback Spectacular’s Heartland is the most immersive Aussie experience. Offering a three-course dinner and an engaging arena show that explores the hardships and triumphs of Australian farmers, the show combines immersive technology, incredible horsemanship and ultimately true Australian spirit.

Access to the arena is good, and a unisex stand-alone accessible bathroom is available at the venue. Clever wheelable tables in specific areas of the arena provide wheelchair users with easy access, and seating for up to three friends or family members beside. Booking directly with the venue is advised for wheelchair users or those with a mobility restriction to ensure suitable seating is secured. 

Braeden sitting behind a wheelchair accessible table next to stairs at the Australian Outback Spectacular
The nifty accessible seating arrangements allow wheelchair users to dine in comfort and take in the Spectacular show with friends and family.

Head for the hills

While we love the coast, it’s always refreshing to have a change of scenery. Within an hour’s drive of our Broadbeach digs, we found ourselves in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

First stop was the Gold Coast Motor Museum where the boys in our family were in their element wandering among the collection of beautifully restored vehicles and memorabilia that spans decades. Having an interest in Amelia Earhart’s story, I was fascinated to learn how her 1935 Packard – thought to be one of only 12 in the world – found its way from Tennessee to the Gold Coast via New York and Sydney. The car’s history unravelled like a good mystery over time. The distinctive letters A & E on the vehicle had this Amelia Earhart fan delighted. 

Step-free access is provided to the museum with accessible parking at the door. Once inside a wide aisle between the cars provides easy access. Signage is at a good height for wheelchair users to read.

A young man in a wheelchair and his sister standing behind him, in between two roped off rows of classic cars at the Gold Coast Motor Museum
The Gold Coast Motor Museum will delight rev heads and car enthusiasts of all abilities.

After admiring the car collection at Gold Coast Motor Museum, it was time to refuel at neighbouring Stanley’s Barn Restaurant. With views of the picturesque Coomera Valley and an eclectic gaggle of farm animals (including Shetland ponies, goats, chooks and a cheeky cockatoo named Lucky) we felt immersed in the countryside while enjoying lunch. Lucky was keen to provide our lunchtime entertainment chatting and swinging wildly in the hope of keeping a captive audience but he lost out to the delicious spread of food that awaited us at our table. 

The restaurant offers step-free access, good circulation space for a wheelchair user and a unisex accessible bathroom. Accessible parking is located at the door. 

Walk this way – with an alpaca!

What could be more delightful than combining a glass of wine and taking an alpaca for a walk in a vineyard?

Mountview Alpaca Farm is located at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards and there’s a whole bunch of alpacas that enjoy the enrichment of a walk with guests keen to interact with them. It doesn’t do any harm to have a bag of feed in your hand to motivate your new pal to work up their steps for the day but hey, who am I to judge. It’s a vibrant atmosphere as families wrangle their charge with varying degrees of success.

A young man in a wheelchair with a woman standing next to him, holding the lead of an alpaca in a green outdoor area
Mountview Alpaca Farm offers alpaca therapy for NDIS recipients.

We had a booking for two alpacas which turned out to be a lot to handle. Bluey was compliant and easy going but Coconut was the strong-willed sibling that was only prepared to move for food.  Going with the flow seems to be the best approach to achieving that cheesy alpaca selfie.

Mountview also offers weekday NDIS therapy sessions with alpacas chosen specially to interact with people with a disability, wheelchairs or people who are nervous with animals. 

After walking our alpacas we were ready for our picnic by the creek. Wine and a picnic pack provided by O’Reilly’s was appreciated by all, but Braeden was on a solo mission to mow his way through the cheese with gusto. It was a relaxing way to end our Hinterland Day, even if I missed out on the cheese.

Picnic packs can be ordered online.

Amazing accessible beaches

The Accessible Beaches Gold Coast program operates from multiple locations on the Gold Coast from September to May. The program is operated by volunteers and offers a wide variety of equipment from beach walkers with balloon tyres to self-propelling beach wheelchairs, water wheelchairs and more. There is no need to book, just turn up. Check the website for locations and times the program operates.

A range of beach walkers and beach wheelchairs on beach matting at the Gold Coast
There’s a range of beach-specific mobility equipment available to visitors through the Accessible Beaches Gold Coast program.

This story first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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