One of the best things about visiting Cairns in the Great Barrier Reef is that it is an accessible destination. Commercial operators and accommodation providers want everyone to experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and have modified some of their tours and rooms to make this possible.
Agincourt Ribbon Reef
The best way for visitors to experience the Great Barrier Reef is via a day cruise to the Outer Reef platform or an island. For easy accessibility and a stress free day the Quicksilver Group provides a range of facilities that have been specially designed for wheelchair passengers.
The Quicksilver VIII vessel is the most suitable vessel for passengers wishing to visit the Great Barrier Reef on a day cruise. On board oversized toilet cubicles are suitable for wheelchair passengers. Wharf facilities in Port Douglas have boarding ramps that are suitable for wheelchairs.
Quicksilver cruises travel out to the Agincourt Reef 3 floating platform. This floating platform is the only platform that has a chair lift to enable wheelchair passengers to be lowered into the water to enjoy snorkelling beside the swim platforms. Passengers can swim directly off the lift chair and paddle amongst the fish and coral or remain on the lift chair and sit enjoy the view of their beautiful surroundings. The area where this is done is also the fish feeding area so there is a huge amount of tropical fish to see nearby.
Unfortunately, access to the underwater observatory and the semi-submersible coral viewing boat is via stairs only. If passengers can manage a few stairs on their own then this is a great way for the entire family to experience the Great Barrier Reef.
The reef platform also has easy access with ramp facilities to allow for easy transfers from the vessel to the platform throughout the day. The platform has undercover seating and tables, showers and change rooms, a sundeck, bar and buffet style lunch area. There are no toilet facilities on the reef platform so all guests must transfer back to the vessel via the ramp to use the restroom facilities throughout the day.
PLEASE NOTE: There are times when the Quicksilver VIII vessel cannot operate due to operational requirements or scheduled maintenance and other vessels may be used in their place. This is often not known until 24 hours prior to their departure. The Quicksilver Group recommends that guests advise staff at time of booking that a passenger in the group requires wheelchair access and reconfirm 24 hours prior to departure so that you can be confident that the Quicksilver VIII vessel will be in operation that day.
Cruises depart from the Reef Marina in Port Douglas. If guests choose this option it is recommended that they stay locally in Port Douglas, however, if you prefer to stay in Cairns then accessible taxis can be arranged. It is approximately 1-hour drive from Cairns to Port Douglas.
Another way visitors can experience the Great Barrier Reef is via a tour to Green Island. Green Island is accessible for wheelchairs. Not all boats are wheelchair accessible however, so you will need to contact the operator directly to ensure that the ferry transfer you catch is able to suit your accessibility needs. The tides and weather conditions also dictate whether or not there are a few steps from the end of the gangway to the jetty. The gangways can accommodate standard wheelchairs and not motorised wheelchairs.
Once on the island, passengers will find it easy to move around on the paved and timber pathways throughout the island. What makes Green Island unique to other islands in the Great Barrier Reef is the rainforest that grows on the coral cay. There is a boardwalk that takes visitors directly through the rainforest in the centre of the island. Green Island advises that guests will require some mobility if they wish to access the beach or the semi-submarine tour due to soft sand and a few steps to enter the vessel.
The Green Island resort area and self-guided eco walks are all accessible and suitable for wheelchairs and strollers. If you are looking for an island escape then the Green Island Resort has accessible hotel rooms with tranquil rainforest surroundings separate from the public area where day trippers frequent throughout the day. The accessible rooms have interconnecting rooms suitable for carers or larger families.
Cruises depart from the Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal three times per day. Due to a variety of vessel that operate transfers to the island and mobility issues when affected by tide at the Green Island, we recommend that you speak to the friendly staff prior to booking to discuss options and suitable transfer times.
Places to Stay
Below are some suggested places to stay in Cairns that have accessible rooms. For the most up to date information, room specifications and availability contact the accommodation providers directly for more information. This list is not exhaustive- we have selected a few.
Green Island Resort
Luxury Resort with accessible 1 bedroom suites
Fitzroy Island Resort
The resort has accessible rooms but some mobility is required to transfer to and from the ferry as wheelchairs do not fit on the walkway and there are limited pathways on the island that are suitable for prams, walkers and wheelchairs.
Pullman Cairns International and Pullman Reef Hotel Casino
Double Tree by Hilton Cairns
Mantra Trilogy and Mantra Esplanade
Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort and Novotel Palm Cove Resort
Rydges Sabaya Resort
Sheraton Mirage Resort
Cairns Regional Council has now developed the ‘Access for all’ directory which provides a comprehensive list of accommodation, services and facilities to help visitors organise their visit and have an enjoyable stress free holiday. You can find information on accommodation, equipment hire, transport, swimming pools, doctors, hospitals and more.