Top 10 wheelchair-friendly attractions in Queensland

It can be difficult to decide what to do for a new hobby or where to go on your next holiday. Add a disability to the equation and suddenly you are faced with even more challenges. This guide lists 10 disability-friendly attractions and hobbies in the Sunshine State.

1. Indoor rock climbing

The sport of indoor rock climbing has taken the world by storm. Making its debut on the Olympic program in 2021, there is even more motivation to take up the sport. There are rock climbing centres all over Queensland that have the capacity to accommodate wheelchairs. With the assistance of an instructor, you are strapped into a specialised harness. You are attached to a rope at all times, with staff members keeping you safe. Having done this myself, I know you will be in safe hands. The closest gyms in your area are:

2. Surfing

The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia run surfing programs for people with disability. Currumbin Beach located on the beautiful Gold Coast is the perfect spot to catch a wave. To begin, you are directed to hold onto a specialised surfboard as it is lowered to the ground. A team of eight lifeguards carry the surfboard and one of the lifeguards is sent out to ride the wave with you. Despite the second person, wipe-outs are common. Yes, they even have an award for the best wipe-out.

3. Whale watching

Whales in my opinion are the most beautiful creatures on the planet The Queensland Government has granted quarantine exemption for these creatures to visit our shores. In Hervey Bay, whale watching season brings tourists from all over Australia. Whether it’s a romantic proposal or a fun day out, whale watching is the perfect experience for all travellers. Most boats have ramped access for wheelchairs but it’s best to always check with the company before booking. Whale watching season runs from May to November each year. Check out the Queensland tourism website for details on whale watching.

4. Mary Valley heritage railway

Located in Gympie, Queensland, the Mary Valley heritage railway  is a step back in time. Built in 1927, the iconic Mary Valley Rattler is a living reminder of vintage rail travel. Tours depart from Old Gympie Railway Station twice per day. As a young boy, I was obsessed with trains of all kinds. The Rusty Nails Café welcomes you with a hearty breakfast. When you are ready to board, the train has designated carriages for disabled passengers. I would highly recommend this experience be added to everyone’s bucket list. 

5. Australian Outback Spectacular

One of the Gold Coast’s signature experiences, Australian Outback Spectacular is a fun-filled day out for all. Your ticket includes a seat to the performance and a three-course meal. To add more atmosphere, the foyer resembles an 1850’s saloon. You can even purchase an Akubra hat as a souvenir. You will need to book in advance to reserve disabled seating.

6. Horse riding

The Riding for the Disabled Association (RDAA) is a volunteer-run organisation for anyone with disability who is interested in equine sports or learning to ride a horse. Located in Arundel, Queensland, the RDAA is for everyone regardless of age or disability. The horses are well-mannered and are free to graze. I met my best friend there many years ago and we are still friends to this day.

7. Wheelchair skydiving

No, I’m not joking! You can really do this in a wheelchair. Our resident journalist (me) was asked if it was possible to perform a tandem skydive in a wheelchair. The team at Skydive Australia were up to the challenge. Our test subject was sent hurtling out of a plane, proving that it really is possible to become a disabled dare devil. I strongly advise you do not eat anything beforehand for obvious reasons.

8. Rainforest retreat 

O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Take in the majestic scenery as you enjoy a leisurely stroll along one of the many walking trails. Accessibility will depend on which trail you take, so be sure to check the environment first. You may need to describe some of the environment for anyone with low vision to ensure their safety. All picnic areas are able to accommodate wheelchairs and everyone can participate in the rainbow lorikeet feeding. Again, audio description may be required.

9. Become a member of your favourite sports team

Becoming a member of a sports team—such as the Gold Coast Suns (AFL), Brisbane Bullets (NBL), Brisbane Bandits (ABL), and Gold Coast Titans (NRL)—gives you access to join some of the most passionate fans and cheer on your team at each home game. Not only do you get season tickets to every home game and priority access to tickets if your team is in the title game or finals series, but you’ll also receive team merchandise and invites to member-only events. Some lucky members have also been selected to take part in the pre-game rituals such as the coin toss or first pitch. While a rare opportunity, it is still an exciting prospect.
This year, the Gold Coast Titans will feature in the NRL finals for the first time since 2009. 

All venues have disability seating, however, you will need to purchase a companion membership from the team’s membership office. Visit your team’s website for more details. 

10. Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Located in the heart of the Brisbane City cultural precinct, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) is one of Queensland’s hidden treasures, and has played host to some of the most iconic theatrical productions. So, if you’re looking to be entertained, why not check out QPAC’s upcoming events. From comedy to exhibitions and performances, there’s something for everyone. Lifts are accessible throughout the building and there are several restaurants to be enjoyed before or after the show. We always recommend checking with either the ticketing company or venue for seating availability. And if you have audio visual sensitivities, it’s a good idea to ask about strobe lighting and special effects as well as the use of headphones.

A professional headshot of Drew. He is wearing a patterned button up shirt and glasses and smiling.
Drew Foulds

Drew Foulds is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Business at Griffith University. He is passionate about travel and accessible activities, having traveled widely both in Australia and overseas. Drew also loves sport, and is a keen Gold Coast Suns supporter.

Bright pink sign in the grass with a wheelchair symbol and text that says "Step free route"