Cairns and the surrounding beach areas make for a wonderful destination for a holiday. There’s so much to explore and do, and lots of wheelchair accessible activities to try. Finding suitable accommodation can be daunting given there’s many hotels to choose from, so I thought I’d share 9 to get you started.
WHERE TO STAY
Tourists usually choose one of three places; Cairns, Palm Cove or Port Douglas but there are islands to consider too. Where to book depends on your needs and what you want out of your holiday. I will share the pros and cons as I see it, but this is just a starting point and you need to think what is best for you.
Cairns is a city and with this comes advantages and disadvantages.
If you don’t have a car then Cairns may be the most convenient place to stay. There are a great range of restaurants, shopping and level walkways to explore. Tours to the Great Barrier Reef and islands also depart from Cairns.
Cairns is level but if you are using a wheelchair as your main mode of transport I would suggest trying to book accommodation no further than 3 blocks back from the Esplanade. This will mean you are within a comfortable walk/wheel to some of the local attractions.
The only disadvantage I can see to staying in Cairns is that it’s a city.
Novotel Cairns Oasis Hotel
We stopped in at the Novotel Cairns Oasis Hotel to check out one of their special access rooms. The hotel has three of these rooms and all have the option of an interconnecting room with two double beds.
The hotel is well situated, being only a couple of blocks back from The Esplanade and is located in the heart of the restaurant and shopping district.
The room size is well suited to people who are out all day and using it simply as a base. It has everything you will need for a comfortable stay but the room is not huge. The bathroom is fully accessible with a shower bench, height adjustable shower and lever taps. There are grab rails and appliances are all at wheelchair level. The hotel has a resort feel with a lovely large pool area complete with mini sand beach for kids. We felt that had we been staying at this property the gentle slope from the sandy shoreline would have made it easier to get BJ in and out of the pool.
The restaurant is wheelchair accessible and I noticed lots of school holiday activities available to keep the kids entertained and they are free.
My tip – Once you have checked in at this hotel, use the back entrance, near the pool to enter and exit the building. The rear entrance avoids the steepish driveway and saves you a 1/2 a block of walking.
For more information head to the Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort website.
DoubleTree by Hilton Cairns
DoubleTree by Hilton Cairns has an idea location opposite the Cairns Esplanade. The hotel has two accessible rooms on the ground floor with the option of standard interconnecting rooms. You can see more photos and read our full review of the hotel here.
Cairns Plaza Hotel
Cairns Plaza Hotel is located opposite the Cairns Espanade and within easy walk or wheel of restaurants, entertainment and shopping. The wheelchair accessible room has a double and single bed in the room and an accessible bathroom. You can see more photos of the facilities and read further information in my review here.
Tropic Towers Cairns
Situated close to the centre of Cairns, Tropic Towers Apartments has comfortable apartment accommodation including a wheelchair friendly 2 bedroom apartment. You can see more photos and read my review here.
Keen to escape busy city life and with a hire car when we visited as a family, we chose to stay at Palm Cove. We stayed at Palm Cove when BJ was about four years old so I knew that it was suitable for our needs. Finding affordable accommodation was definitely a challenge because many of the cheaper apartments were older ones with stairs.
Palm Cove is a quiet coastal town with a distinct tropical feel. It is postcard perfect with palm trees, a lovely beach and a village atmosphere. I love being able to walk out the door of our accommodation and have a level concrete path running the length of the beach for my early morning walks. There’s plenty of restaurants and cafes if you don’t want to self-cater and this is the only place in the Cairns area with a beach wheelchair located at the beach.
If you choose to stay at Palm Cove and you don’t have your own car you may find it difficult to find tour operators with wheelchair accessible vehicles for transfers to cruises and other tours. It’s also an expensive area not only for accommodation but also dining.
But, if like us, you are going to hire your own car and do some self-catering then I highly recommend it. Palm Cove is also nicely positioned for day trips as it is situated between Cairns and Port Douglas.
Grand MeRcure ROCKFORD Esplanade
I am only sharing this accommodation option because it is where we stayed. They do not have any accessible apartments available for holiday rentals. The accessible apartments are all permanently rented. For families, like ourselves, who don’t need a fully accessible bathroom, this may be suitable. As I’ve mentioned before, we look for accommodation with a bath, rather than a roll-in shower as this is BJ’s preference. We need two bedroom accommodation as a minimum due to BJ’s night waking and a full kitchen so we can self-cater. It is hard to find everything in one place.
The Grand Mecure is a large complex of apartment style accommodation. It is on the main street of Palm Cove and opposite the beach.
We stayed in a two bedroom apartment which has a large open plan lounge, dining and kitchen. It has a full size kitchen with large fridge, microwave, stove top and oven. There is a television, dvd and limited pay tv channels. The units are fully air conditioned in each room or the balcony doors provide a fresh breeze and distant sounds of the ocean.
There’s an ensuite bathroom attached to one of the large bedrooms. This room was perfect for BJ as it was so spacious.
The main bedroom was beside the bathroom and had a second television.
The added bonus for our family was that this apartment had a third bed in an area which they referred to as a study. AJ loved her little nook that could be partitioned off with sliding glass doors.
The porch was only small but allowed us glimpses of the beach and a good view of the mountain behind.
There were two disabled parking spaces at the front of the property which were ideal when we managed to get them. Our allocated space was an ordinary space and it was tight to get BJ in and out of if we missed out on the disabled parking bays.
The apartment seemed to be going through a name change so if you are looking for it in the future it is also referred to as Driftwood Apartments. If you would like more information head to The Grand Mecure Rockford Esplanade website.
We really enjoyed our stay at this property and payed for our accommodation in full.
PARADISE ON THE BEACH RESORT
Paradise on the Beach Resort is in an ideal position in Palm Cove. It’s near the life saving tower where the beach wheelchair is located and opposite the beach on The Esplanade.
The property has ramp access from the street and lift access to the apartment. The room is open plan with two bedrooms which are divided by the bathroom.
There is a small kitchenette with microwave, bar fridge and I was told house keeping do the washing up (I love that idea). The glassware and cups are located on a shelf which is too high for a wheelchair user but if you book this room I would suggest asking staff to move these items to the counter top prior to arrival.
I really like the feel of this property and I don’t think you can beat the location. The shower is narrow but does come with rails, a height adjustable shower head and the hotel does have a chair that may be used by guests booking this room (please speak to them directly regarding this as I did not sight it on my visit.)
Their pool is not wheelchair accessible as it has stairs to its location.
For more information head to the website Paradise On the Beach Resort.
Marcrossan House is in the main street of Port Douglas. We happened upon this accommodation when enquiring about using the beach wheelchair on Four Mile Beach. Macrossan House looks after the beach wheelchair and the bonus is they also have wheelchair accessible accommodation. The owner has a close relative who uses a wheelchair so has a good appreciation of which activities in the area are also wheelchair accessible which is handy for guests.
Marcrossan House has a one bedroom apartment with wheelchair access. As you enter the apartment there is a small kitchen in the entry hallway. It has a fridge, microwave, a portable cook top and sink (this does not have wheelchair access under it.)
There’s a bedroom with ensuite bathroom which is separated from the lounge by a sliding door.
The bathroom is fully accessible and spacious. There is a small shower chair, height adjustable shower head and grab rails. The sink in the bathroom has room under it for a wheelchair user and the bathroom is fitted with grab rails around the toilet.
The hotel has a swimming pool but it is not accessible due to its location.
Marcrossan House is in the main street of Port Douglas and in the heart of the shopping and restaurant scene. It is close to the supermarket and cafes. The beach wheelchair is free for guests to use after signing a waiver but you do need to walk it down to the beach yourself which may or may not be problematic. The beach is a few blocks away and we decided because the sand was so firm to use BJ’s regular chair. It was just easier on the day.
For more information please head to the Macrossan House website.
Staying on an Island
BJ is a restless, on-the-go chap so staying on an island would only suit him for a couple of days but for more relaxed people I can picture it as being a perfect escape. I was happy to find really good accessible accommodation on two islands during our visit. Please keep in mind that there are still challenges despite the accommodation being accessible. The islands do not have beach wheelchairs and careful planning and research is required with booking transportation to the islands. I am sharing these options as I know we have people and families with varying degrees of needs and therefore I thought it may be helpful to see photos and know of the options.
This is probably the most popular destination for tourists wanting an island escape for a day trip out of Cairns. The island is fully paved making access on the island easy. I absolutely loved the accommodation on the island and this area of the resort is for guests only, which means there is solitude from the day-trippers.
The accommodation is set in among the palms and has a private balcony. I love the fact that this has the option of an interconnecting room allowing for a larger family. The rooms have a lovely warm feeling to them with hardwood floors and tasteful decorations but have all the modern conveniences like air conditioning to ensure they are in fact cool in the warmer months.
Being a resort there are meals available either through room service or in the dining room.
The bathroom caters for all tastes and needs with a bath and shower. The shower has a flip-down seat, height adjustable shower head and lever taps throughout. The toilet has grab rails surrounding it and the sink has room underneath for a wheelchair user.
Resort guests have a pool within the resort for their exclusive use (there is another pool on the island but this is also available to day trippers).
Green Island is extremely busy during the day with visitors from Cairns as it is only 50 minutes by boat but I imagine it is lovely for the hotel guests to enjoy the resort exclusively in the evening and early morning.
Green Island has diving, snorkelling and helicopter rides available so there is no excuse for guests to be bored. Life guards patrol two of the beaches on the island providing added safety for snorkellers and swimmers.
I will be sharing more about our day trip to Green Island in a future post.
For more information about accommodation and facilities please head to the Green Island Website.
I have left Fitzroy Island until last as access is tricky, although it does have accessible accommodation. I decided to include it as there are differing needs in the community and for some of our readers this may be an option. We had a day trip to the island and it was our favourite day of our whole holiday BUT it was our most challenging as far as access is concerned.
The resort building has easy access with wooden walkways connecting buildings and lift access to the accommodation. The suite I inspected was spacious and well equipped for guests staying overnight or for extended periods with a full kitchen. You can purchase your groceries on the mainland and the ferry staff have coolers on board to keep everything fresh for the 45 minute boat ride.
I inspected a one bedroom with a pull out sofa bed in the lounge room. The apartments have the option of an interconnecting hotel room which assists with larger families or friends travelling together. I could definitely imagine myself sitting on that balcony looking out at the beach through the palms but sadly it was just a day trip for me.
You can read more about Fitzroy Island, including a stay AJ and I had on the island on a mother-daughter trip, here.
For more information please head to the Fitzroy Island website.
The Cairns Regional Council have detailed information on their website if you are looking for further information about accessible accommodation – Cairns Regional Council.
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