accessible travel in cairns and palm cove skyrail rainforest cableway

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Accessible Travel in Cairns & Palm Cove

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TNQ Writer

As a region, Tropical North Queensland offers an array of experiences that will engage your senses and immerse you in its natural wonders. From the rainforest to the reef, you’re sure to find an abundance of accessible adventures for all tastes.

Cairns is a destination that offers all the conveniences of the city, as well as an exciting foodie and cultural scene. There’s accessible accommodation to suit all budgets from low cost to luxury resorts and it’s close to the natural wonders of the World Heritage sites of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Wet Tropics Rainforest.

Enjoy Cairns Esplanade

Cairns Esplanade Lagoon

The Cairns Esplanade offers a level accessible walk which is popular with locals and tourists alike. A stroll at sunrise or sunset is the perfect time to take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Pop in to Rusty’s Markets to pick up fresh local produce for a picnic or to utilise the free barbecue facilities on the Esplanade. If you’re travelling with kids, position yourself near Muddy’s Playground, which features a range of inclusive equipment including a Liberty Swing (wheelchair swing accessed with an MLAK key).

A refreshing swim in the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon is free and ideal for cooling off. Level access and a variety of water depths makes this a good swimming option for all abilities. You’ll have plenty of time to relax, with lifeguards keeping a watchful eye until 9pm. Accessible change and bathroom facilities (MLAK key locked) are available.

Flop & Drop in Palm Cove

Palm Cove

Palm Cove is the town of your tropical daydreams. With its palm-fringed beach, boutique shopping and a thriving café and restaurant scene, this is one spot that shouldn’t be missed. Located halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas, travellers often detour on their way north or south for a bite to eat. Palm Cove is also perfect for a longer stay, especially if you’re keen for a beach getaway. A Sandcruiser beach wheelchair is free to loan from the lifeguard tower during patrol hours.

Marvel at the Great Barrier Reef

Quicksilver Pontoon at Agincourt Reef

A visit to the world’s largest and longest coral reef system, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, is the ultimate Tropical North Queensland experience. A helicopter ride will provide an overall view of this natural wonder but snorkelling or diving will get you up close to the reef’s residents. If you can negotiate some stairs, The Reef Magic II catamaran departs from Cairns. The vessel has wide aisles and a wheelchair accessible toilet and shower. Some mobility is required to access the water via the stairs.

If you require greater accessibility the Quicksilver VIII catamaran from Port Douglas to Agincourt Reef is more suitable. Exploring the reef is made easy with a water-powered lift (hoist) which will lower you into the water. Once immersed, you can explore the reef within your comfort zone, either swimming, snorkelling or taking a dive tour.

Island Time

Green Island

If an accessible island escape appeals, Green Island is a short 45 minute trip by boat from Cairns with Great Adventures. Once you leave the boat, you’re free to explore a 6000 year old coral cay island covered in dense rainforest. The island has its own jetty and the resort’s facilities, including accommodation and eco-walks, are wheelchair accessible. Visit for the day or stay overnight to enjoy a more leisurely visit. Speak with the team at Great Adventures when booking to ensure the scheduled service can meet your access needs.

Fitzroy Island is an unspoilt National Park located 45 minutes by boat from Cairns. The island can be enjoyed as a day trip or as a longer stay, with accessible accommodation available. Fitzroy Island is also home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre where you can book a tour and meet the turtles currently being rehabilitated. It’s the best way to get up close to a turtle without a snorkel. Enjoy a relaxing lunch in the restaurant overlooking the beach or if you’re feeling more active, take part in one of the many water sports on offer.

Visitors need some mobility to access the boat to Fitzroy Island due to the narrow gangway on the ferry. Once on the island, a compacted path leads to the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and access around the resort is good.

Experience the Ancient Rainforest

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

The natural beauty of a World Heritage listed rainforest shouldn’t be missed, and there is a variety of accessible ways to experience it. Whether you choose to drive yourself to Kuranda, glide above the rainforest canopy on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, or take the slower paced Kuranda Scenic Railway, each will offer you a different perspective.

Although the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway takes you high above the rainforest, the stops along the route with accessible boardwalks, allow you to appreciate the towering rainforest. Take an informative ranger-led tour to learn more. Manual wheelchairs can access the gondolas depending on wheelchair size. Check with Skyrail prior to booking.

The historic Kuranda Scenic Railway accommodates both large and power wheelchairs. Passengers can remain in their wheelchair while enjoying the views of Barron Falls, the mountain ranges and dense rainforest.

Kuranda Village & Wildlife Parks

Birdworld Kuranda

Kuranda Village offers a full day of exploring with cafes, markets, and accessible attractions. Home to over 1500 magnificent tropical butterflies, The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is both educational and magical. Wear red or hot pink to increase your chances of a butterfly not only fluttering by but landing on you for a closer look. Join a free tour to visit the caterpillar breeding nursery to learn more about the breeding cycle of a butterfly. Paths throughout the Butterfly Sanctuary are wheelchair accessible.

Purchase some bird food as you enter Birdworld Kuranda and you’re sure to make a new friend with at least one of the 60 species of birds that call it home. A lush naturally landscaped environment is home to the birds with the various habitats connected by accessible boardwalks. Some areas of Birdworld are steep and may be challenging for manual wheelchair users.

Some of Australia’s most famous animals call Kuranda Koala Gardens home. You can see wallabies, wombats and quokkas here and there’s the chance to have a photo cuddling a koala. Due to some steep paths, Kuranda Koala Gardens is best suited to power wheelchair users.

A visit to the award-winning Rainforestation Nature Park in Kuranda will offer you a unique line-up of adventures. Take an Army Duck Rainforest tour (a wheelchair transfer is required to take a ride) or learn about Dreamtime and the customs and traditions of Australia’s First Nations People with the Pamagirri Aboriginal Experience. While in the park you can meet a variety of Australia’s most iconic animals including dingoes, Tasmanian devils, and a cassowary. Hand-feeding the adorable wallabies and kangaroos is always popular. The park pathways are level, and the amphitheatre offers wheelchair spaces for viewing the shows.

Australian Armour and Artillery Museum

Australian Armour and Artillery Museum

The Australian Armour and Artillery Museum houses the largest private collection of armoured vehicles and artillery in the Southern Hemisphere. History and transport buffs will be fascinated with the pieces on display, including large tanks, armoured cars and combat equipment from around the world. Children will be entertained playing with the toy figures on the military battlefield tabletop and can engage in imaginative play while dressing up in military costumes. The museum offers level access throughout.

Tempt Your Taste Buds

From food trails, to local eats, there’s plenty in Cairns to sink your teeth into.