Couple at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Centre. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
To help make planning your next Sunshine Coast holiday a little easier, we’ve spoken to Sunny Coast local and access consultant and advocate for Spinal Life Australia, Dane Cross.
Dane has been using a wheelchair for mobility after sustaining a spinal injury 21 years ago, but that has not stopped him and his family from travelling the globe and sharing their adventures along the way to help break down barriers and remove any stigma around what it means to be a family living and travelling with a disability.
With so much beauty to be adored and explored right here on the Sunny Coast, Dane has put together his ultimate guide to accessible things to do next time you’re in town, and here’s what he had to say.
Hit up the beach
The Sunshine Coast is blessed with some of the best beaches in the world and thankfully there are a few of them here that have been made accessible thanks to the adoption of beach matting and beach wheelchairs. These have been made available for public use at the following locations: Noosa Main Beach, Alexandra Headland, Mooloolaba Beach and Kings Beach in Caloundra.
Family on Mooloolaba Beach
At each of these locations the beach matting and beach wheelchairs are managed by the Surf Life Saving Clubs. The availability of the equipment can vary depending on the day, the time of day, and the season, so it’s best to phone ahead if you plan to use it at one of these beaches. If you can get down there though and get some sun on your face, you’ve experienced the quintessential Sunshine Coast.
Crikey! It’s Australia Zoo
The next big drawcard is Australia Zoo. The Irwin family are known world over and their zoo is definitely worth a visit. Access-wise the zoo is quite large, it spans 700 acres so bring your muscles or a fully charged battery for power chair users. The pathways are mainly concrete and bitumen, they are well maintained and mostly level with a couple of steeper sections. The pathways do get you close to the animals, including patting the kangaroos inside the kangaroo enclosure.
Australia Zoo giraffe feeding
There is a trolly train that can get you around to the more remote parts of the zoo and it does have ramped access, but you’ll find it is quite steep, so not suitable for everyone.
Australia Zoo is a great location and it would take you a full day to experience it properly if not more. Make sure you catch the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Show and check out the animal encounters, giraffes and meerkats. All these activities are accessible for wheelchair users.
There are accessible toilets in all of the amenities blocks located at regular intervals, as well as shade and eating areas. Accessible car parking is available in the first car park closest to the Zoo entrance.
Go under the sea
SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast is an award-winning aquarium located at The Wharf Mooloolaba. It is a delightful family friendly experience with many exhibits including a colony of the smallest species of penguin and an 80m long ocean tunnel with rays, sharks, and every variety of fish. Although the 80m tunnel is accessible the ramp going down to it is reasonably steep and can be a bit of a challenge to navigate. There’s also an interactive tidal touch pool exhibit, it’s not entirely accessible but wheelchair users can access it by having some of the staff bring the sea creature over in a plastic container which makes it an inclusive experience. The seal presentation is a must-see and there is designated seating available in the front row. There are two accessible toilets inside as well as ample designated accessible parking bays out the front.
Family at Sea Life. Credit: Tourism & Events Queensland
Spice things up at the Ginger Factory
The Ginger Factory – a celebration of all things ginger - is one of our family’s favorites. It’s at Yandina – a short drive inland from Coolum – and you can hear the history of the region and learn about the ginger and sugar cane growing process. Inside they also have live bee shows and tastings which gives an immersive learning experience into the world of bees and honey. There’s also an old cane train that tours around the grounds. It has level access, but the doorway that goes into the carriage is quite narrow so only smaller width chairs are able to fit. Overall, it’s a great little visit.
The Ginger Factory
Get lost in a hedge maze
Amaze World has plenty of fun activity for those who don’t mind getting a little lost. Located in Tanawha, Amaze World is great for solo travellers or families. The maze has a loose gravel surface which may prove challenging for some, but the paths between the hedges are generally at least 1m wide.
Shop up a storm
So for those looking for retail and restaurants the main centres of Caloundra,Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Noosa offer ample food and shopping opportunities. Sunshine Plaza is the major shopping centre with all the big chains and upmarket options. For boutique high-end shopping and restaurants, Hastings Street in Noosa is a must, and in Mooloolaba, the cafes and restaurants are some of the best you’ll experience anywhere, make sure to hit up Rice Boi at The Wharf for some amazing Asian cuisine.
To market to market
The world famous Eumundi Markets - open every Wednesday and Saturday - are the biggest and best arts and craft market in Australia. They offer a range of quality, local made products, and accessibility at the markets depends on the area.
The Eumundi Markets
There are some quite good accessible sections and some poorer sections, but there’s a good accessible bathroom on Memorial Drive in the southern corner of the original market area, and the section of market you access most has wide, flat pathways, good space between vendors and good quality ramps. In the less accessible sections it gets a bit narrow, so you can challenge yourself or give it a pass.