If you want to see the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef, immerse yourself in the tranquillity of the world’s oldest rainforest or dream of coming face to face with a living dinosaur but have some queries about some specific requirements, fear not! The range of accessible activities in the Port Douglas and Daintree region make this a most excellent destination for a relaxing or adventure-filled holiday.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia who have guests needing to travel with a carer are eligible for reduced fares for both themselves and their carer. Assistance dogs travel free on all three carriers and their affiliates, and Cairns Airport has dedicated parking spaces, wheelchair access to terminals, accessible toilets and an army of smiling volunteers to assist travellers in the terminal.
Once you’re out of the airport and en route north, travel along the spectacular Great Barrier Reef Drive in either your own hire car, a specialised Toyota HiAce with Tieman wheelchair lift from Dial a Bus Rentals, or in an accessible taxi. Regular shuttle services are available with BTS Tours however you will need to negotiate three steps up into the coaster.
Once in Port Douglas, you’ll find that the roads are flat, the footpaths are wide and are easy to get around on. The town itself is quite compact, with restaurants, cafes and shopping spots all within easy distance from each other and most central accommodation houses. There’s accessible parking distributed throughout town and two shopping centres with accessible bathrooms, so getting around town is pleasantly uncomplicated.
The iconic Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas comes complete with 147 hectares of tropical gardens and a staggering two hectares of saltwater lagoon pools that have gently graduated entry points. A lift takes you from the reception level down to Feast Restaurant, then onto your accommodation along level paths and timber boardwalks. There are a number of accessible rooms, all on ground level with handrails in the bathroom, folding seats in the shower and non-slip mats on request.
If a luxury plunge pool is on your wish list, the luxurious Niramaya Villas and Spa boasts a stunning single level, one-bedroom villa with smooth, polished concrete floors and an accessible pool rail. Featuring ramps around the resort connecting reception, the restaurant and the pool area, you may not want to leave!
Enjoy the golden sands of famed Four Mile Beach for the day or a spectacular sunset. Accessible to all with custom roll out matting stretching to the firm sand, one visit won’t be enough! Be sure to enquire about the unique beach wheelchair, the Freewheeler, available from the Lifeguard Hut at Four Mile Beach. There is no cost to hire the Freewheeler, however you will need to sign an indemnity form from the Port Douglas Surf Life Saving Club. Those seeking a true tropical memento will relish in the handmade heaven of the Sunday Markets. The ground is well trod, however can be a little uneven in some places, so a little help may be required. From the northern end of the markets is the coastline walkway of Flagstaff Hill. Now, whilst the full walk does include a lot of stairs, the first section that kisses the shoreline of Little Cove and creeps underneath the giant fig trees is wide and flat and a perfect spot to take in the Coral Sea views.*
When you’re ready to get wet and marvel at the kaleidoscope of colour on the Great Barrier Reef, Quicksilver Cruises will spirit you there onboard their wave-piercing catamaran. The fully accessible vessel and reef platform are spacious with ramps and dedicated bathrooms, so getting around is a breeze. With a custom hydraulic lift on the platform available to lower mobility-impaired guests into the fishbowl below to snorkel and swim with the fishes, there’s nothing stopping you experiencing this incredible natural wonder.
From the reef to the rainforest, a self-drive exploration of the Daintree Rainforest is a must. Your forest foray begins as you cross the mighty Daintree River on the ferry before stopping in at the Daintree Discovery Centre. The aerial walkway is suitable for the vision impaired, with the lower section handrails and balustrades forming a continuous line along the length of the walkway and the steel grated panels are suited to most mobility devices. To check device compatibility, call ahead prior to travel. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the centre and it is recommended they are fitted with appropriate ‘shoes’ to ensure comfort on the metal-grated surface of the walkway which also features handrails and balustrades forming a continuous guide along the length of the boardwalks. Interpretive information and rest nodes marry up with handheld audio guides that are suitable for use with hearing aids. Complete your visit with a coffee in the café which also offers an accessible bathroom.
When it’s time to go wild, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures offers mobility and visually impaired visitors an accessible day learning about native and exotic wildlife. The park provides complimentary wheelchair hire and accepts the Australian Companion Card. Assistance and guide dogs are welcome on the lagoon cruise, in the restaurant and at selected wildlife displays. With prior arrangement, provisions can be made to mind assistance dogs with a Wildlife Keeper to help where assistance dogs may frighten wildlife. The majority of the 2100 metres of timber boardwalk are accessible, and areas which are not are clearly signed. The park holds numerous wildlife shows throughout the day from the amphitheater and the highlight is getting up close to one of the fifty feisty crocodiles leaping through the air as your Skipper pole feeds them on board the lagoon cruise. Boarding the cruise is via a flat ramp from the waiting area directly onto the boat. With two accessible bathrooms in the park and dedicated parking at the entrance, a full day at Hartley’s rounds out your tropical reef and rainforest touring.
Touring and beaching equal a healthy appetite, but not before a sundowner on the balcony of The Tin Shed overlooking the Port Douglas Inlet. Parking and ramp access out the front lead you to the lift and one of the best views in town! Check out the various dining options from uber casual at Port Douglas’ oldest pub, The Central Hotel, succulent seafood on the street at On the Inlet, or a touch of authentic Italian at Sassi Cuchina & Bar. Salsa Bar & Grill also have mobility access and a disabled bathroom – be sure to call ahead and the friendly team will be able to assist. If you want to stick to ocean views, the decks at Hemingway’s Brewery on the Crystalbrook Superyacht Marina or the Yacht Club overlook all those superyachts we secretly yearn for!
Tourism Port Douglas Daintree is committed to making travel accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, so if we haven’t covered what you are looking for as part of your tropical holiday, get in touch with us – we’re always available to help. For further information, you can also go the Douglas Shire Access Directory.
* For the Flagstaff Hill viewing platform, there is access via Murphy Street. At the very top end of Murphy Street, the road forks with one entry clearly accessible via a driveway (on the left). This driveway is public land and will take you directly onto the Flagstaff Hill viewing platform. It is wheelchair accessible, however please be aware it does have a steep incline.