School holidays are upon us so I thought I’d put together a list of outings we have enjoyed which are accessible. I find it frustrating when I read the newspaper and online lists with the headline “school holiday activities” and don’t see anything listed which suits a family with a family member using a wheelchair. I hope my list may fill that gap. So, here’s my list of accessible school holiday outings in Sydney.
I’m breaking the guide into categories and a mix of free outings and some for a special occasion or those with a bigger budget.
FOR THE ANIMAL LOVER
PELICAN FEEDING, THE ENTRANCE
Pelican feeding occurs daily at The Entrance (Central Coast). Not only is it lovely to leave the city behind and spend a day on the Central Coast but our kids loved the talk and watching the pelicans receive their meal. Rain, hail or shine volunteers arrive to feed the pelicans daily at 3.30pm. I suggest getting there early to secure an unobscured position. This is popular with all ages.
For more info head to their website
Central Gardens MerrylandS
Central Gardens Nature Reserve in Merrylands has a bit of everything without being too big, and the added bonus is it’s free. There is a large shaded kid’s playground, open grass areas with picnic tables/bbq’s and there is a lake with waterfall and waterspout. Emus, wallabies, a couple of large kangaroos and colorful birds are held within nature exhibits, which currently open between 9 and 4. There is a wheelchair accessible path around all areas, and 2 separate disabled toilets.
For more information about the gardens head to their website
Thanks to Sue and family for photos and information.
The Grounds Alexandria
I recently visited The Grounds and thought that AJ, our animal lover, would love it. I had lunch in the Potting Shed where there is a resident Macaw sitting out of her cage keeping an eye on diners. In the take-away, outdoor eating venue within the grounds of The Grounds (confusing I know) the kids were drawn to the small animal enclosure which houses Kevin Bacon, the pig, some goats and a very fancy chicken (perhaps Bantam?). As well as having the animals, there is a gourmet deli, a cafe, market carts with fresh fruit and lemonade. It is a really interesting mix and has a lovely atmosphere. The popularity of The Grounds means parking can be a challenge. Leave plenty of time and try to get there before the usual 12pm lunch slot. I was in a rush so I didn’t have time to check out the disabled toilet facilities but I was told there is a unisex disabled bathroom in the cafe. For more information check their website http://groundsroasters.com/
Auburn Botanic Gardens
We have visited Auburn Botanic Gardens many times over the years. We find this an enjoyable and easy outing when we are looking for a place that is a bit quieter in the holidays. The gardens are level and wheelchair accessible (except the Japanese Garden which is cobble stoned and tricky to get around), There is a Liberty Swing in the playground and a Fauna Reserve. A wooden boardwalk around the reserve gives good viewing of the animals which include different varieties of Wallabies, Eastern Grey Kangaroos, an Emu and Wombat. Visitors can watch the animals being fed on weekends at 10am and 2pm. Opposite the gardens there is also an Aviary which contains birds from Australia and the Asia Pacific Region. There are plenty of areas to picnic, disabled toilets and parking on the street in front of the gardens. There is a $4 per person entry fee on weekends, public holidays and during school holidays for anyone over 16, except Auburn residents who receive free entry. For more information check their website.
Taronga Zoo, MOSMAN
This is a big day out but one that we always enjoy. I think the zoo is great value for money because there is so much to see it provides a full day’s entertainment. I will warn there are a few hills to be tackled if you are pushing a manual wheelchair but I can still manage it with BJ without assistance. In school holidays particularly get to the zoo early to ensure disabled parking availability and to allow plenty of time to fit in the shows. The bird show is our absolute favourite and should not be missed. Good disabled toilet facilities are available.
For a full run down on the zoo check out our information and tips on our Taronga post
WILD LIFE SYDNEY, DARLING HARBOUR
If you are looking for an indoor animal adventure then head to Wild Life Sydney at Darling Harbour. Check my previous post on this attraction and my tips on avoiding the school holiday crowds.
FOR THE Sports lover
Aqua Golf, PENRITH
We recently tried Aqua Golf and it was a hit (pardon the pun) with the whole family. One adult was allowed to assist BJ in the golfing area and AJ and I each went into one of the nets beside him. At $7 for a bucket of balls it was a fun and cheap activity. There is a disabled toilet available.
Ten Pin Bowling
We love bowling because as long as a player can push a bowling ball off a ramp you can participate. My tips are to always book a lane in school holidays and advise if you have a wheelchair in your group. We usually ask to be on one of the outer lanes and ask for ramp access. Most bowling alleys have a wooden ramp to give easy access to the lane itself. We then use a bowling ramp for BJ to play the game.
The bowling alleys we have been to have unisex disabled toilets but ask when phoning your local bowling centre.
FOR THE CAFE LOVER
CHEEKY CHOCOLATE, NORTH STRATHFIELD
Food by Adriano Zumbo needs very little said about it. It is delicious, looks pretty and comes with a sweetness rating of 10. As part of my birthday celebration we headed to Cheeky Chocolate, an Adriano Zumbo cafe which is housed in the old Arnotts biscuit factory at North Strathfield. The area has been transformed into a restaurant and foodie district. Hubby and I shared a high tea stand which was extremely tasty but fortunately it came with fresh strawberries, banana and blueberries to cut through the amount of sweetness we were consuming. AJ had the chocolate fondue. This is normally for 2 people but we asked for a smaller portion and they were happy to oblige. I love an obliging cafe. AJ loved dipping the fruit, honeycomb and chocolate cake into the smooth Belgian chocolate. The cafe is wheelchair accessible and we found parking easy on the Sunday morning we visited. There are no toilet facilities on the premises. We nipped into Gloria Jeans Coffee a couple of doors up and they have an accessible toilet. There was disabled parking on the street or a multi-storey car park nearby. For more information head to the Cheeky Chocolate website.
GINGERBREAD HOUSE, KATOOMBA
We absolutely love The Gingerbread House at Katoomba. It has a lovely whimsical atmosphere and on entering it feels like you have stepped into Willy Wonka’s factory. Be warned, adults and children will be drawn to the centre of the cafe which has an eye-popping range of sweet delights and gourmet chocolates from Josophans. The cafe is wheelchair friendly and has either indoor or outdoor garden seating. The garden area is popular with families due to the cute cubby house. It is difficult to choose from sweet delights on the menu but I settled for the salted caramel chocolate cake which was to die for. The cafe is roomy, there is easy parking on the street or at the rear and disabled toilet facilities and did I mention ………………… the food was great? The kids will love you but maybe have a bush walk planned afterwards to walk off the sugar rush.
The Gingerbread House Katoomba is located at 56 Lurline Street (corner of Waratah Street) Katoomba Telephone (02) 47842031
THE ARMORY, SILVERWATER
We really enjoy visiting this cafe and park. BJ loves their hot chips and scones. The breakfasts look delicious and I’ve had a lovely fresh salad when visiting for lunch. It is very popular on weekends and bookings are essential. There is disabled parking and good disabled bathroom. There is a lovely level pathway along the waters edge which is popular with bike riders and people walking. This is somewhere we visit regularly so read more about our previous visits here.
FOR THE PARK/PLAYGROUND LOVER
LIVVI’S PLAce tIMBRELL PARK, FIVE DOCK
This playground has my favourite piece of playground equipment EVER. The merry-go-round (pictured centre) brings kids together and with enough room for a wheelchair to sit comfortably it is definitely a favourite with the kids too. The kids also liked the spinning seat which BJ could sit in easily and musical instruments at wheelchair height.. AJ and Hubby enjoyed swinging together in the birds nest swing. The park is fully fenced, there is an accessible bathroom (MLAK key operated) and bbqs. Parking is available on the street. This is a really great spot to spend a day with friends.
For more information on this park and others head to Touched by Olivia Foundation
LIVVI’S PLAce, YAMBLE RESERVE, RYDE
Livvi’s Place, Ryde is where BJ tried his first ever flying fox. Watching BJ comfortably sitting in a supportive seat it was a joy to see him flying across the park with a huge smile on his face. There is a smaller merry-go-round at this park (compared to Livvi’s Five Dock) which still fits a wheelchair but does require muscle power. A large sandpit in the middle of the play space was popular, as were the slides set into a hillside. The park is fully fenced and surrounded by beautiful parkland. There are bbqs and accessible toilets. Another lovely place to spend a day with friends. For more information about this park and others head to Touched by Olivia
FAGAN PARK, GALSTON
I have been going to Fagan Park since I was a child and love the variety of things to do at the park. There is a Liberty Swing (wheelchair swing) and beautiful park lands and themed gardens to explore. Some areas are hilly and difficult with a manual wheelchair so read more about our experience at Fagan Park here.
BICENTENNIAL PARK, HOMEBUSH
There are so many areas of Bicentennial Park to explore you can visit several times and not cover the same ground. BJ loves the cafe here for their scones (an ongoing theme on our outings). The park has a Liberty Swing (wheelchair swing), cafe, disabled parking, bikes to hire and good disabled bathrooms. Read more about our previous visits here
VARIETY PLAYGROUND SPEERS POINT PARK, SPEERS POINT
We had a day trip from Sydney to this park to meet Grandma. The park is extensive with lots of accessible features including a Liberty Swing (wheelchair swing), water features, musical instruments, a quiet zone and more. We loved the fact that outside of the fenced park area there is a lovely paved walk along the waterfront and plenty of grassed areas to relax. There is a take-away kiosk and eat in cafe run by the Salvation Army where coffees and food like fish and chips and ice creams can be bought. For children able to ride bikes (younger children) there is a fantastic area with a ‘road’ and traffic signs which looked like lots of fun. There are large unisex disabled toilet facilities accessible with use of MLAK key. For more information head to their website
FOR THE TRANSPORT LOVER
SCENIC WORLD, BLUE MOUNTAINS
Scenic World houses three rides that each give you a unique Blue Mountains experience. Two of the three rides are wheelchair accessible AND there is a wheelchair accessible boardwalk to do.
The Cableway is our favourite and it is the steepest aerial cable car in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a beautiful ride and fully wheelchair accessible. When you enter the cabin the wheelchair section is at the front giving you the most spectacular view of the valley as you descend. BJ likes sitting as close to the window at the front as possible to ensure the full experience and this ensures people don’t stand in front of him. Riding up and down the hill I recommend standing on the left side of the cableway to get the best photos of the Three Sisters. When you reach the base of the valley there is a wheelchair accessible boardwalk around to the railway. It’s a lovely walk and takes you past a display on the mines and information boards about what’s in the rainforest you are walking through. It ends at the base of the Scenic Railway. You’ll hear the squeals of those on it before you get there. It is also a great photo opportunity spot with the Three Sisters in the background.
When I was a kid I used to go on the original version of this and it would swing in the wind and was open and was a little nerve wracking. The Scenic Skyway is a very tame ride but does have a unique glass floor in the middle of it which is frosted until you are over the valley and with a flick of a switch the valley below comes into view. The glass floor is up a step so is not accessible but the ride is. It goes across the valley and gives you a very good view of a beautiful waterfall if you stay on the left side of the carriage. Try and ride one side on the way over and the other on the return. There is a short accessible walk on the other side or you can get off and wait in line for the return journey.
The Scenic Railway is the steepest incline railway in the world and has had a make-over. We were lucky enough to take BJ on this ride last year but you cannot remain in your wheelchair and there are stairs involved in getting to the ride. If you can transfer and wish to do a round trip you can give it a go. If you have a younger child with a disability keep in mind even if you can carry them to the ride it is really steep. They have no facilities for wheelchairs so you need to work out with the operator if you can leave it at the top.
Disabled toilet facilities are located behind the ticket sales counters in a walkway. These are dedicated disabled toilets and have enough room for a companion. There are more toilets located directly opposite the entrance to Scenic World next to the disabled parking. These are located in the ladies and mens facilities and there is no dedicated disabled/baby change toilet.
There is a large multi storey parking lot to the left as you enter the driveway to Scenic World but if you continue up the hill there is disabled parking spaces (4 or 5) opposite the entrance.
For more information and current ticket prices head to the Scenic World website
FAMILY FUNDAY SUNDAY – SYDNEY TRAINS, BUSES AND FERRIES
For the transport lover there is no better day out than a transport day around the city. BJ loves nothing more than spending the day exploring the city via public transport. We don’t do it often so it is a big novelty. I made up a treasure hunt/bingo sheet to go with an outing once and the kids had fun keeping an eye out for the items and marking them off (ie. I added certain train stations I knew we would pass, more obscure things like a lady with a red handbag etc)
Darling harbour trains
The train drivers at Darling Harbour know BJ by name. He loves the accessible people mover trains which do a loop around Darling Harbour, Cockle Bay and down to the Chinese Gardens. There is a ramp at the back of the train and a part of the carriage is dedicated to wheelchairs and prams. If transferring is possible then you can sit in one of the seats or if not stay in your wheelchair. BJ and his friend rode in the rear of one of these side by side so we managed to fit two wheelchairs in the back…. just. Usually BJ transfers and we just leave the wheelchair in the back. He seems more comfortable that way. For more information and current prices check their website.
For the train lover Trainworks is sure to please with a great range of old locomotives on display. There are hands on activities to do which kids always love. Due to the fact not many of the trains are wheelchair accessible I would suggest if visiting with older children to visit when other activities such as steam train rides are on (phone ahead to ensure these are wheelchair accessible). When BJ was younger we would have carried him on to the trains so he didn’t miss anything. During school holidays there are many extra activities on as part of their school holiday program. Disabled parking is available on the street near the entrance to Trainworks, there is an onsite cafe, bbqs and seating outdoors. For more information check the Trainworks website.
MUSEUM OF FIRE, PENRITH
We have visited the Museum of Fire on several occasions particularly when BJ was younger. The museum has educational displays regarding fire safety, a wonderful display of historic fire memorabilia and engines and a younger children’s area with ride in fire engines and volunteer constructed hands on activities. The Museum of Fire is all on one level with easy wheelchair access. One of the ride in engines in the play area has a ramp up to it and can fit a child’s wheelchair (pictured above). There are fireman’s jackets to dress up in and colouring for children to do. In school holidays and on weekends there is a retired fire engine that takes families for rides (additional cost on top of admission). When BJ was little we could manage to get him up into the engine but it is difficult to do (see photo to the left above) but this was always the highlight for him. He particularly liked it when the siren sounded as they drove around the field at the front of the Fire Museum. There is disabled parking, a disabled toilet and picnic tables for families. I would prefer to picnic further down the road on the banks of the Nepean River. It is pretty near the river, there are bbqs and picnic tables and a level pathway for a walk after lunch.
For more information about the Museum of Fire and current admission prices head to their website.
WISEMANS FERRY CAR FERRY
A car ferry isn’t the ‘norm’ for most city kids so this can be a novel outing. We recently went Mandarin picking (also accessible) at Wisemans Ferry and decided to take the kids on the car ferry across the river. Not only is it a bit different but there is lots to be learnt about how it all works. You could combine this with a picnic at Wisemans Ferry which is a very pretty location. The only disabled toilet I could find was next to the oval (as you come down the hill to the ferry it is in the park to your right after the pub and club) For more information head to the website.
PUTNEY CAR FERRY
For something different pack a picnic and head to Putney Park and combine it with a trip on the Putney Punt (car ferry) Unlike the Wisemans car ferry the Putney Punt does not run continuously, it runs via a schedule. It is only 5 minutes to Mortlake where you need to rejoin the queue for the return trip if you wish to return via the ferry. It is free and not too far from the city for a transport lover. For more information head to the website.
FOR THE LOVER OF WALKS
COOGEE BEACH WALK
This walk is fairly spectacular as it hugs the coastline and to our surprise the wildlife (despite being a busy walkway with every man and his dog exercising along the route) was abundant. We saw whales breaching out to sea, a turtle swimming close to shore and lots of bird life.
This is now my favourite accessible walk in Sydney. We parked at the rear of the swimming pool at Coogee Beach in an accessible parking bay. This was fine for us but the parking spaces are not particularly wide. There is also a small incline for the first part of the walk if you start at this point. There are several parking bays further along the walk (for example near the corner of Wisdom Street and Alexandria Parade there are wider spaces) so I would suggest one of the others if a bit of a hill or narrow parking places are a problem for your family. There is a MLAK key locked accessible bathroom near the park on the walk. Check the Randwick Council website for further information regarding this walk.
MANLY TO SHELLEY BEACH WALK, MANLY
Manly to Shelley Beach is a great walk to do on a sunny day. Hugging the water’s edge it is filled with people doing their daily exercise and families enjoying a pram/wheelchair friendly walk. The walk starts just past the Manly Surf Life Saving club at southern end of Manly Beach. There is a bit of an incline at the start of the walk but the rest of the walk is fairly level. I can walk it easily pushing BJ in his manual chair. While doing the walk keep an eye out in the rock faces (on the right going to Shelley Beach) for the water dragons sunning themselves on the rocks. We like stopping at Shelley Beach for an ice cream or picnic and looking at the great view back to Manly Beach. There is an accessible cafe and more upmarket restaurant at the walk’s end. There are disabled toilet facilities. We’ve made up a bit of a treasure hunt for kids to follow when doing the walk. Print out the Manly to Shelly Beach Bingo and have some extra fun along the way.
FAIRFAX HERITAGE TRACK, BLACKHEATH (BLUE MOUNTAINS)
One thing I really miss now that BJ has a wheelchair is doing bush walks so I was thrilled when we found the Fairfax Heritage Track and Govetts Leap lookout which are both accessible. Nothing can beat the fresh, crisp air in this region and the views at Govett’s Leap are spectacular. Nothing but trees and spectacular rock formations as far as the eye can see. The Blue Mountains has so many beautiful areas to explore and this is just one. Head to the National Park’s website to find out more.
KAMAY BOTANY BAY NATIONAL PARK
We had a good view of the whales breaching off the coast from Cape Solander in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park. We could see them without binoculars but to get a clear look you do need to be able to use binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens. The nice part about this National Park is the extensive accessible walkways. We walked around the waters edge to view Captain Cook’s Landing Place. It was rather windy the day we visited so we didn’t linger to read all the signs regarding the history of the area but it would be a good spot for a picnic. For plane spotters there is plenty of aircraft activity without being under the actual flight path. There is also the chance of seeing container ships leaving which the kids found interesting. Wheelchair accessible toilets are available in the park and at the visitors centre and there is disabled parking throughout the National Park. For more information head to the National Park’s website.
Don’t forget to take the TrailRider out for a spin. I recommend ringing in advance and booking it for your visit.
FOR THE MOVIE LOVER
IMAX DARLING HARBOUR
The world’s biggest Imax experience is definitely a unique way to see either the latest blockbuster (currently, How to Train your Dragon or Transformers) or a nature documentary. We chose Great White Shark 3D. It will probably be the only way I will come ‘close’ to a Great White Shark as I do not have any ambitions to do an up close and personal shark dive, though Hubby would jump at the chance. The movie was three years in the making and helps to clarify many of the myths surrounding sharks. We were amused to learn we had a greater chance of dying falling out of bed than being killed by a shark. Despite their reputation it appears it is the Great White Shark that is endangered and needing protection. The free-divers in this movie are amazing to watch, there is something more graceful about diving without a tank. I would be hyperventilating not gracefully taking breath and diving with no tank. We all really enjoyed the experience and although local cinemas now have 3D movies there is nothing like seeing it on the world’s biggest Imax screen at Darling Harbour.
Wheelchair access is via Wheat Street (as you look at the IMAX entry head to the left of the building) and take the lift to the 2nd floor where you can purchase tickets and food from the candy bar. Advise the staff you have a wheelchair and they will escort you via lift to the cinema. There was wheelchair seating for BJ and room beside for companions. BJ wasn’t keen on wearing the 3D glasses but still enjoyed the movie. I checked what it was like for him and in parts of it were a little blurry but all in all it was fine for him. He loved the movie being projected in such a large way. We all felt immersed in the movie.
For current session times and more information head to the IMAX website. Thank you to Imax for hosting us for this experience.
DRIVE IN MOVIE THEATRE
We recently had our first trip as a family to the drive in movie theatre. AJ has been keen to give it a go for a while but we were waiting for kids movies to be on and the school holidays delivered two. Arriving at the drive in there was a great family atmosphere with kids wandering around in their onsies or pyjamas with added layers to keep out the winter’s evening chill. Some seasoned drive in regulars came equipped with deck chairs (bit chilly for me) and others chose to sit in the back of utes or station wagons complete with doonas (duvets) and blankets. We opted to buy dinner from the diner which has a fairly standard diner menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, choc-top ice creams and milkshakes ( I thought $7 for a milkshake was a bit steep).
If you want a cheap night you could bring your own food and unlike the candy bar at movie cinemas movies the diner is easily avoidable.
At $25 for our family (without dinner) it was good value movie experience and novel for the kids. We put the kids in the front of the car for good viewing. It was a bit of an obscured view for us parents in the back of the car and we needed to keep the windows open a little to stop the fogging up that comes with winter drive in viewing. All in all it was a really fun night and the kids can’t wait to go back.
My tips are to arrive early to get a good viewing position and allow time to purchase food if you want it from the diner. Pack lots of blankets and pillows and make it a fun night out. It really wasn’t as cold as I imagined it would be at the drive in during winter. For more information and current session times head to the website.
FOR SOMETHING EXTRA SPECIAL
SYDNEY TOWER SKY WALK, SYDNEY
BJ and Hubby had a super special experience last year doing the Sydney Tower Sky Walk. For more information about the fabulous arrangements for people using a wheelchair head to our website.
I hope this list has provided you with some ideas. I will continue to update this list when we find things and each school holidays. i love hearing and gathering ideas from others so please feel free to add your favourites to the comments below.
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