Blog Post

Exploring the tropics with hidden disabilities

Flynn Rigby Headshot

TNQ Writer

Travelling Tropical North Queensland can be a transformative experience, but it’s important to ensure that everyone can access these amazing adventures. Join Flynn Rigby as he explores the many destinations and tour operators that cater to individuals with hidden disabilities.

Tropical North Queensland offers a diverse range of experiences, from admiring the breathtaking natural wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage listed Rainforest, to encountering fascinating animals. Fortunately, several tour operators in the region are dedicated to ensuring that these remarkable experiences are accessible to everyone, including those with invisible disabilities such as autism, anxiety, intellectual disability, dementia, mental health challenges, and other neurodivergent conditions.

Cairns Airport

Cairns Airport is committed to inclusivity and accessibility for everyone. As a part of the Hidden Disability Sunflower program; a global initiative that began in the UK in 2016. The airport trains its staff and ambassadors to look out for individuals wearing a green Hidden Disabilities lanyard or a yellow sunflower wristband and offer support or assistance.

Visitors can also access visual social stories on the airport’s website, which is a helpful tool to alleviate anxiety and prepare for the airport experience. For passengers who require hearing assistance, hearing loops are available throughout the buildings, including the boarding gate areas.

Additionally, the airport offers a quiet room in the domestic terminal for passengers with anxiety or those who need a peaceful space to relax.

Out There Travel Care

For those traveling to Cairns and seeking support or care from a local company, Out There Travel Care is here for you. They can provide tour companions to assist and help them participate in various tours or activities.

Their website features a list of accessible activities and preferred partner tours, and if you have a NDIS package, they can help you discover how it can cover the costs.

Cairns Aquarium

The Cairns Aquarium is a fantastic destination and is suitable for all abilities. This indoor venue allows visitors to witness the splendour of the local marine life in a comfortable and soothing environment.

For a more immersive experience, visitors can participate in a ‘Marine Life Encounter’. This includes feeding Cownose stingrays and a stop by the onsite turtle hospital.

Fancy beating the crowds? Enjoy an ‘Aquarium by Sunrise’ tour- a 2-hour guided tour with a wildlife educator before the opening hours.

Service animals are welcome, and the Companion Card is accepted for general entry into the aquarium.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Experiencing the World Heritage-listed Rainforest is a must when visiting Tropical North Queensland, and one of the most tranquil ways to do this is by taking the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.

The cableway, which runs from Smithfield to Kuranda, offers a smooth and serene gondola ride. It is a perfect opportunity to sit back, enjoy the scenery, and listen to the soothing sounds of the rainforest while gliding above the trees. Along the way, visitors can disembark for guided ranger tours or explore the Rainforest Discovery Zone.

The Skyrail website features an experience map and an app that provides additional information, while the Accessibility Menu allows visitors to customise the website based on their specific needs. Visitors can also visit the Edge Lookout, which offers an incredible experience with its glass floor.

Skyrail Rainforest Cableway supports the Hidden Disability Sunflower Program.

Kuranda Scenic Rail

A great option to enhance your day is to combine the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway with the Kuranda Scenic Rail.

The train features over 100-year-old carriages that cross numerous bridges and travel through 15 tunnels, providing stunning views of the surroundings. The Kuranda Scenic Rail website has a virtual tour, which gives you an idea of what the train ride will be like.

Additionally, if you require a carer’s assistance, they allow them to travel for free.

Mamu Tropical Skywalk

The Mamu Tropical Skywalk, located an hour south of Cairns, is an excellent and accessible way to experience the rainforest.

The boardwalk and platforms provide breathtaking views of the rainforest and Wooroonoon National Park. The pathways are wide and flat, and there are many chairs and resting areas along the way. There are also glass panels which provide accessible viewing.

Download their App before you go to listen to commentary about the plants and animals. Braille signs provide information about the rainforest as well.

They accept the Companion Card, and your ticket is valid for two years, allowing you to return for free.

Great Barrier Reef

If you are looking to visit the Great Barrier Reef, there are many tour operators to choose from, with most accepting the Companion Card for additional support.

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises is a smaller company that offers a fantastic day trip to a beautiful island. They aid those who need help snorkelling off the beach, or you can join a snorkelling tour a bit further out in the water.

Additionally, they have a semi-sub boat with large glass windows to allow you to view the reef and marine life from below. They also provide paddleboards and kayaks for guests to use, and offer guided tours of the island, including a fun Treasure Hunt for kids. The friendly staff are always ready to assist, and because Frankland Islands Reef Cruises is the only company to visit the island, it’s not overcrowded.

Looking to try diving? Marlin Coast Diving is an exceptional company that makes scuba diving accessible to everyone. They are committed to supporting individuals with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. You can take courses to try diving in the pool or the ocean. Additionally, they offer surface assistant or assistant courses for those interested in helping disabled divers.



Love birds? Then Birdworld in Kuranda is the place for you! It is an interactive aviary where you can watch birds fly around freely, and you can even hand feed them.

The friendly staff will help you feel comfortable around the birds and help you enjoy this fantastic interaction.

They offer a special package called “Bespoke Birdworld” where you can visit before opening hours and go on a small group tour with the keepers. It’s a great option if you prefer a quieter and more personalised experience.

Paronella Park

If you are looking for a unique experience, make sure Paronella Park is high up on your list!

Located about an hour and a half from Cairns, it features a stunning old castle, beautiful gardens, and a waterfall. You can take a guided tour or use their app to learn about the history of the park.

There are plenty of quiet spots to explore and at night, they offer a stunning sound and light show in the rainforest that is both beautiful and relaxing.

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