When travelling through the North Island in New Zealand we stopped at Hamilton to break our drive between Taupo and Auckland. The Hamilton Gardens were recommended as a lovely spot to have our picnic lunch and it dawned on me as we were driving in that it’s the location of the only Changing Places bathroom in New Zealand (so far).
I couldn’t not check it out once I realised we were so close, so we popped into the visitors centre to find out the bathroom’s location. It’s normal to do that on holidays right?
When I explained to the lady why I wanted to look at the bathroom she said she’d be pleased to hear what I thought. I told her that I’d seen many Changing Places facilities and they all had a similar design but I would be happy to give her my opinion. How wrong I was about them all being the same. Although similar to other Changing Places bathrooms, Hamilton has taken theirs to the next level. I am seriously impressed with the design and the way they’ve personalised it. Let’s hope the movement catches on in New Zealand to help locals and the many travellers who need it.
CHANGING PLACES HAMILTON GARDENS
How lovely to walk into an accessible bathroom and find it less clinical. All the necessary equipment was in the bathroom but it was made all the more welcoming with a unique mural.
The general bathrooms in the gardens have tile borders with a bright garden theme and it was refreshing to see a beautiful large whimsical mural in the Changing Places bathroom reflective of the environment outside.
As with all Changing Places bathrooms the toilet is accessible from both sides and the room is spacious for easy wheelchair circulation.
The toilet is height adjustable (the first outside of Scandinavia) is fitted with armrests which can be moved out of the way for easy transfer, a back rest and large buttons for flushing.
You don’t need to be a contortionist to reach the toilet paper with it situated in a handy location and a privacy curtain is available to use.
A height adjustable sink is rare to find in accessible bathrooms and this one has wheelchair access and lever taps too.
A height adjustable adult-sized change table with hoist and shower is well positioned near the mural. The ceiling track allows the hoist to be used with the toilet as well as the change table.
I’m sure the large accessible bathrooms must be cold in the depths of winter and with many people living with compromised health using it I think it’s fantastic to see the option of warming the room.
ACCESS TO THE CHANGING PLACES BATHROOM
While in Australia our Changing Places bathrooms are accessed with the MLAK key, New Zealand has developed a fob access key.
Locals can apply for their own fob which gives access to the Changing Places bathroom but visitors must go to the Visitor’s Centre, fill out a form and leave something of value to use the fob. I left my drivers license. At the time I thought it was odd but it’s since been explained to me that this system has been adopted to try to avoid vandalism and to know who is accountable for the damage should it occur. I can understand this as the equipment in the facility is expensive to repair or replace. The downside is there is a bit of a distance between the Visitor’s Centre and the area of the garden where the bathroom is located. It’s not a big deal but worth mentioning.
I’d also like to make mention that the success of gaining a Changing Places bathroom in New Zealand was driven by a local parent, Jenn Hooper, and thanks to the co-operation of Hamilton City Council.
Although I’ve focused on the Changing Places bathroom facility in this review, the Hamilton Gardens are well worth the visit. The roses were in full bloom for our visit and the variety, colours and perfume made me wish I had my green-thumbed Mum with me to appreciate it all.
General access throughout the gardens is good with plenty of accessible parking bays, regular accessible bathrooms, scooters for hire and a cafe with good access overlooking a pond. There’s a beautiful children’s playground beside the Changing Places bathroom but the only accessible feature I noticed was a nest swing.
If you are passing through Hamilton, we recommend stopping in to take a look. It’s a beautiful place.
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