Looking to make the most out of your trip to Melbourne? Lonely Planet’s new Accessible Melbourne guide highlights the best of the city for travellers with special needs, as well as covering excursions along the Great Ocean Road, Bellarine Peninsula and Phillip Island. User reviews and insider tips ensure those with mobility, hearing or vision impairment get the most out of a Melbourne holiday. To give you a taster, here are our top 10 highlights to get your senses popping and your heart racing in Melbourne.
1. Float over Melbourne in a hot-air balloon
See Melbourne in a different way – from 2500ft up. Global Ballooning (globalballooning.com.au) operates Australia’s first disability-friendly hot-air balloon, with flights directly over the city. The basket has specially designed seating and seatbelts, and a door that allows access without climbing over the basket edge. The hardest part might be the 5.30am start.
2. Bag great seats for the Australian Open Tennis Championship or Boxing Day test match
As the self-proclaimed sports capital of the world, Melbourne has state-of-the-art sporting venues that are leading the way for accessibility. In all of the city’s sporting venues, places reserved for wheelchair users invariably give amazing views of the action. Book ahead for your corner seat at the MCG (mcg.org.au/Events/Facilities) or the Rod Laver Arena (rodlaverarena.com.au/arriving-and-access).
3. Get the front seat on the bus in Werribee Open Range Zoo
Head west of Melbourne for an African safari experience at Werribee Open Range Zoo (zoo.org.au/werribee/plan-your-visit/accessibility), part of the Zoos Victoria family, which includes Healesville Sanctuary and the Royal Melbourne Zoo. Admission includes a 45-minute safari tour where you'll see grazing rhino, giraffe, antelope and zebra on savannah-like plains. Wheelchair users get the best views on the bus – you’ll be sitting right at the front next to the driver.
4. Surf on the Bellarine or Mornington Peninsula beaches
Bring your surfwax and plenty of attitude for a day at the beach. The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia (disabledsurfers.org) is dedicated to getting people with disabilities onto surfboards. They run two events a year on wheelchair accessible beaches in Victoria: Point Leo on the Mornington Peninsula (southeast of Melbourne) and Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula (southwest of Melbourne). Both beaches have excellent accessible facilities and you can borrow beach wheelchairs free of charge.
5. Take advantage of a reserved area to watch the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island
Don't miss Phillip Island’s superstars, the penguins, as they waddle up the beach every evening; the wheelchair viewing area gives an incredible view of the Penguin Parade (penguins.org.au/attractions/penguin-parade/accessibility). Those who feel the cold or have difficulty with temperature regulation can make a booking for the Skybox, an enclosed elevated viewing tower between the two stands of the Penguin Parade.
6. Explore sections of the Great Ocean Walk
Only some parts of the Great Ocean Walk are suitable for visitors with mobility limitations – but those sections that are accessible offer beautiful views of this stunning stretch of coast. The trails from Apollo Bay Centre to Marengo, Cape Otway Lighthouse to Aire River, and Gibson Steps to the Twelve Apostles are the most wheelchair-friendly parts – check with Parks Victoria (parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/great-otway-national-park/accessibility) to see which section of the walk is best for you.
7. Experience some of Melbourne's best eateries
Melbourne prides itself on restaurants and cafés that are out of sight along narrow laneways, hidden at the tops of buildings, or without even a sign outside. But that doesn’t mean that epicureans with special access needs are excluded. For wheelchair accessibility, head to Cookie (cookie.net.au) for Thai-inspired treats, Gazi (gazirestaurant.com.au) for Greek street food, or Vue de Monde (vuedemonde.com.au) for mod Oz on special occasions – and there are plenty more places in the city and surrounds to whet your appetite.
8. Stay in a fully accessible cabin in iconic Wilson's Promontory National Park
Just a few hours southeast of Melbourne, ‘the Prom’ has two accessible self-contained cabins with fully accessible bathrooms (parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/wilsons-promontory-national-park/accessibility). Head to the beautiful Loo-Errn Track, a circuit that loops through a wetland area along a boardwalk that has been specially designed to be suitable for wheelchairs, or borrow a TrailRider or beach wheelchair for an off-road adventure. Stay on the lookout for echidnas and the Prom’s famous wombats.
9. Get tree-top-high on the Otway Fly canopy walkway
Twenty kilometres inland from the logging town of Lavers Hill is the popular Otway Fly (otwayfly.com). It’s an elevated steel walkway suspended among the forest canopy, and includes a swaying lookout tower, 50m above the forest floor. Kids will enjoy the ‘prehistoric path’ loaded with dinosaurs. The 600m treetop walk, including the cantilevered section, is flat and wheelchair accessible.
10. Join the Lycra-clad crew riding along Beach Rd on a handcycle
Hire a handcycle from Disability Sports & Recreation (dsr.org.au) and join a handcycling group for a ride along Beach Rd and other iconic Melbourne cycling routes. Cycling using a three-wheeled recumbent bike, powered by your arms, you’ll cover a distance of anywhere between 35km and 60km. Thankfully, there are plenty of spots to stop for a coffee or two along the way.
Want more Accessible Melbourne? Discover Melbourne’s best wheelchair-friendly restaurants and shops, get active with accessible sports, and enjoy spectacular scenery, food and wine along the Great Ocean Road. We’ve gathered user reviews and insider tips from a wide range of travellers to ensure those with mobility, hearing or vision impairment get the most out of a Melbourne holiday. Download your preferred version of this FREE e-book now!