Australia with 80-yr old parents?

Oct 30th, 2004, 02:50 PM
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Australia with 80-yr old parents?

I'm contemplating a trip to Australia with my 80-yr. old parents but wondering how strenuous it might be. Dad is in pretty good health but mom is a little unsteady on her feet and uses a wheelchair most of the time when we're out. How is the wheelchair access at restaurants, hotels, most popular sights? Would it be impractical to consider Great Barrier Reef and/or outback? I know it will be a long flight from Canada but they like Hawaii so I'm thinking we might do a stopover each way to break up the long flight. Anyone have any comments? This may be their last trip together and I wanted it to be a memorable one, but memorable good not memorable because it almost killed them!
antlori is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 03:42 PM
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Hi Antlori,

Good idea to do the stop over in Hawaii, as we age our circulatory systems are not nearly as efficient as they were so breaking up a long haul flight at your parents age is desirable to prevent deep vein thrombosis and to generally keep them in better health.

As for travel within Australia, well it is law in Australia that restaurants must cater for the disabled. You will still find some that do not but for the most part you will have no problems with wheel chair access in hotels and restaurants. There are wheel chair friendly taxi's in most towns and in all cities.

Although the resort at Ayres Rock caters for the disabled the actual activities around the rock and the Olgas I would rate as non wheel chair friendly. As the outback places most of its emphasis on natural rugged walks to see the interesting things here I would say that it probably is not the best region for your parents to come to. I think you will find there are better catered areas on the east coast and down south.

I do not give advise on the far north Queensland region these days as my experience with that region is too far out of date. There are regular forum members here who specialise in that region and they have their finger on the pulse so to speak.

I believe you and your parents will have a fab time here in Australia and I am sure you will all leave with great memories.

My parents are in their late 70's and they are just about to drive up here to Alice Springs from Newcastle in NSW, which is just north of Sydney, to spend Xmas with us. This is a long drive of about 3000 km's but they are going to be spreading it over 5 days. After spending 2 weeks with us they are then going to drive over to Bndaburg in Queensland and then continue down the coast road back to Newcastle. All up a trip of about 7000 km's, so it just goes to show that our parents are still capable of touring they just have to take things a little easier.


Paul_S is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 04:01 PM
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Thanks, Paul. My parents are usually pretty good travellers. We went to Disney World in Florida last year and other than being very tired by the end of the day, they had no complaints. We tramped through all the Disney Parks, the 2 Universal Parks and Sea World without a problem. Next year is their 60th wedding anniversary and I thought it would be neat to do a really "blow out" trip to a place they never dreamed they would ever get to see. My mom is having circulation problems with one of her feet so we'd have to check with her doctor first to make sure it would be okay.
antlori is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 10:35 PM
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I would not think that the outback would be worth going to for your parents as there is a lot of walking to do and usually on rough ground. Had you thought perhaps of doing a 3 day trip on the reef from say Cairns to Townsville on one of the small boats which would give them plenty to see and do? It is a really lovely trip around the coral cays and the reefs. There are many places that cater for the infirm so I see no problem in them having a great time in north Queensland. Sydney too has improved its access for disabled and wheelchair bound people and I think there is something about that on their official website - the Sydney experts will be able to enlighten you on that though.
lizF is offline  
Oct 30th, 2004, 10:38 PM
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PS, just a thought too, most of the shopping centres on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane have free electric wheelchairs which you can use. I know this because when I got my new set of knees I spent many a fun day terrorising the tourists at Harbour Town Shopping Centre on the Gold Coast and found that most shops and the theatres had access for my new toy and me.
lizF is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 10:36 AM
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Antlori - apart from the GBR and the outback, what other places in Australia, would you like to show your parents?
Wheelchair access in Australia is generally quite good. Just to give you an idea - here in Hervey Bay, Qld, the local council has "mobility corridors" for handicapped persons, 14 kms of paved pathway along the foreshore. specially designed "beach" wheelchairs with large wheels, allowing the wheelchair to be pushed along our bayside beaches, sometimes even in the water. These wheelchairs are loaned out, free of charge, and stored at a Beach Hire shop.
With a great deal of wheelchair access in Australia, I don't think you would have much trouble.
Have you thought of flying to Sydney, then renting a car and "slowly" driving your parents down our scenic south coast, right around to Melbourne, and then take the vehicular ferry across to Queenscliff, then onto the Great Ocean Road, to say perhaps, Port Fairy, then return to Melbourne, via The Grampians. Then fly from Melbourne to Cairns, and do some sightseeing of the GBR in that region. Pat should have some ideas on that region for you. Allow 2 weeks for Sydney, Melbourne & Great Ocean Road drive, and a 1 week in the Cairns region.
tropo is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 03:18 PM
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Wow, thanks everyone for your comments. I haven't really thought about an itinerary yet, I wanted to check first to see if a trip would be feasible. It sounds like most places are accessible except the Outback. Tropo, your suggestion of doing a driving tour sounds great but not sure if I would be up to all that driving. Do you drive on the opposite side of the road to the way we drive in North America? I was thinking more of doing a bus tour but haven't really checked out the options and costs.
antlori is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 05:02 PM
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antlori, yes, we do drive on LHS here and New Zealand , not too difficult to get used to, as we in Australia must do when driving in USA and Europe.
pat_woolford is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 05:41 PM
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I'd be very careful about my choice of bus tour. A disabled friend found even a low-key one was absolutely exhausting. Decide on roughly what you want to see, and then think about getting there. Driving is not that bad - or you can fly between places and then drive.

I took my 80-year old aunt to Uluru (Ayers Rock) in August and she had a ball. She's quite sprightly, but found some of the walks hard going, but we travelled by car to most of the lookouts, and she could walk around there. One of the walks we went on (Mutjulu?) would probaby have been suitable for someone wheelchair bound.
margo_oz is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 06:10 PM
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Thanks, Margo, for the warning about bus tours. I'm considering flying as Qantas currently has a deal that includes I think 3 cities which sounds very reasonable. That would cut down on the driving I would need to do. My dad still drives but I don't think he would feel confident enough to drive in a foreign country. He didn't want to drive last year when we went to Florida. Since I haven't heard anything negative so far, I think I'll discuss with them to see what they are interested in seeing and take it from there. They may not even care about Ayres Rock. Thanks, all, for the valuable input.
antlori is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 08:04 PM
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You've had some good comments so far. I'm just adding some thoughts. It would be good to break your flight in Hawaii but every time we have done that we have found that flights arrive in Hawaii about midnight and leave about midnight. This means broken nights and not much sleep, something you may have to consider.
Re doing a bus tour, most coach trips seem to live on the 'up at 6 am, bags out by 7 am, leave at 8 am' routine which can be very tiring for elderly people. Hiring a car could be a good solution as you can go at your own pace.
You haven't mentioned what time of year you are considering travelling. If you are visiting Australia out of main holiday periods, you wouldn't need to book ahead which would give you more flexibility.
The itinerary Tropo has outlined sounds great and you would only need to concentrate on getting out of Sydney, you would bypass Melbourne and coming back from the Grampians to Melbourne airport, you would be approaching on the right side of the city to avoid heavy traffic.
Driving on the other side of the road isn't really that bad - think of all the Aussies who have plucked up courage to do it in US!
marg is offline  
Oct 31st, 2004, 11:36 PM
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First I think it so beautiful you consider this for your parents. Real nice.

I have little to offer in advice however I did the old google thing and found these sites that may help. I am a google queen.

This one sells a book for mobility impaired people. Sounds like it could be a good investment, however having never actually bought it or read it I can not offer personal recommendation. Just to add to your options I link the website.

Also loooks helpful


I think the term "disability" mentioned in many sites I recommend is really not fitting for your circumstance. Should be "reduced ability" perhaps but they haven't invented that term yet so we need to be flexible.

Hope you can plan an enjoyable journey.



Jane_47 is offline  
Nov 1st, 2004, 11:43 AM
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Antlori - as others have already stated, we drive on the left hand side, and yes we have to get used to driving on the right when in USA or Europe.
Coach holidays can be quite rigid in regard to departure times, etc, and can be quite draining on elderly people, thats why I recommended renting a hire vehicle (perhaps a people moving instead of a car, with room for the wheelchair in the back).
A driving holiday can be relaxing or tiresome, it all depends on the driver and how much driving you do each day.
I recommend only driving the distance each day, that suits you & your passengers, just freelance around the countryside, don't lock yourself into staying at "Set locations" each day, just go with the flow as they say, make it a holiday where you discover something new & exciting each day.
An example of my suggested itinerary:
Rent a vehicle from a depot on the southern outskirts of Sydney, then drive south on the Hume Highway, which is double lane & divided. Turn off to MIttagong, and drive towards Robertson, then turn off to go through Kangaroo Valley, camberawarra mountain, and then to JAmberoo, and to Kiama, to join the highway (coastal) south towards Melbourne. Here is a list of a few interesting places enroute, as you go south:
* Jervis Bay (whitest sand & blue water & wildlife), Narooma & Montague Island (penguins & seals), Central Tilba & Tilba Tilba (historical villages, arts & crafts, cheeses, etc), Bega (noted for its dairy & cheeses), Eden (once known for whaling, now a fishing port, with a deep safe harbour), Maracoota (Victoria - fishing & quiet town), then there are heaps of interesting little coastal towns all the way to Melbourne.
Then down near Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay, you catch the vehicular ferry across to Queenscliff (another historical town), thus missing the heavy traffic of Melbourne, then from Queensliffe, you have the Great Ocean Road in front of you, then when you reach Port Fairy, you can detour up the Grampians (great scenery & wildlife, plenty of kangaroos), then drive back towards Melbourne's Airport (no need to go into Melbourne), to drop off your rental vehicle, and fly to Cairns.
tropo is offline  
Nov 1st, 2004, 11:48 AM
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Antlori - that should read "people mover" and not people moving.
The beauty of this recommended trip, is that there is something "new" to see each day, and if you find that you are enjoying the south coast of NSW, and your time is getting short before flying to Cairns, you can always, cut off certain places, like Port Fairy or Grampians, as you won't be locked into any accommodation.
tropo is offline  
Nov 1st, 2004, 03:24 PM
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Thanks for the great itineraries. Haven't chosen a time yet for the trip. A lot will depend on when I can get the time off from my job. I'd like to take at least 3 weeks. It will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime trip so I don't want to have to cut it short. Anyone have any pros and cons for summer vs. winter visit? If we can afford it, I'd like to bring along my niece (15 yrs.old) and nephew (12 yrs. old) which would mean we would probably have to go in our summer (Australian winter). How cold does it get? Would much rather have shirtsleeves & shorts weather, maybe in the 70's and sunny. Parents get cold very easily. Thanks again for everyone's help. I'm going to pick up some brochures from the travel agent and talk to the family this weekend.
antlori is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2004, 06:45 AM
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Hello Antlori,

If I might serve as a translator, Tropo referred to a "people mover," which is Oz-speak for mini van. That probably was pretty obvious to you from the context. However, I thought there would be no harm in clarifying it.

If you want to visit Australia in the southern hemisphere winter, and if your parents dislike cold weather, I do recommend sticking to the northern, tropical latitudes of Australia.

The places that Tropo mentioned along the coast of the state of Victoria would be great in the southern hemisphere summer or autumn, but would be a bit risky in the southern hemisphere winter.

Melbourne can be cool, wet and windy in winter. It doesn't snow in Melbourne itself, but it does snow on the Dandenong Ranges a short distance from Melbourne.

Similarly, the Blue Mountains, which are inland from Sydney, do get frost and snow.

I think you could get away with a visit to Sydney, which has cool winter nights but often has pleasant winter days. Sydney's harbour is rightly famous for its beauty, and the city offers a great deal besides that, so I think it would be worth a visit.

Other than a few days in Sydney, I would suggest you spend most of your time much further north than that, in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Since your family's needs will be rather specialized (combining the needs of old and young), I think you may be better off working with a travel agent. You seem to be willing to do that, because you mentioned picking up brochures from a travel agency.

In choosing a travel agent (all the more so because your group will have special needs), I think it's important for you to work with a Certified Aussie Specialist.

You can find one by going to Tourism Australia's website at

Click on the "plan your trip" button at the top of the screen, then select "find a travel agent" from the pull-down menu. They will give you a list of Certified Aussie Specialists in your state.

There is a Certified Aussie and Kiwi Specialist who posts here. Her name is Melodie Kennedy, but if I remember correctly she's travelling in New Zealand at the moment. That's why her knowledge about Oz and NZ is current. She travels to Oz and NZ herself. I've never met her in person. I've only "met" her here on the Fodors forum. However, I do know that, while she is based in California, she has clients all over the U.S. If you're interested in looking at her website, it's

I don't think a pre-packaged tour is going to work for your group, because of your diverse needs. I believe an experienced travel agent will help you to find destinations that meet different needs simultaneously.

I want to echo what everyone else has said about driving on the left. It is not at all difficult out in the country on open highways. I'm not a confident driver, and even I found it easy.

Driving in Australia's big cities is difficult. Traffic is heavy. Since public transportation in the big cities is good, many people find it to be a better option than driving themselves.

But the equation changes totally in small towns and in the countryside. In that case, driving yourself is a good option.

But to cover the really big distances, e.g., from Sydney to one of Queensland's towns, you need to fly. Australia is the size of the lower 48 U.S. states. It is just not feasible to move amongst all of your likely destinations by road.

Hope that helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2004, 07:43 AM
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Hello Antlori,

Here's an afterthought. You might want to give some thought to Australian school vacations (or school holidays as Aussies call them).

The majority of Australian families go on vacation during their summer (December / January) school holidays.

However, there is a mini blip in the graph when Aussies from southern climes escape to the tropical north during the two-week winter (July) holiday.

If there were only adults travelling in your party, you might want to avoid this period, because there is more competition for accommodation, etc.

However, given that you may have young people in your party, you actually may want to go during the July school holidays. Then your niece and nephew will have a chance to meet their Australian counterparts, which I think would be fun for them.

If you're interested in this factor, the New South Wales school holidays will be from July 2nd to July 17th, 2005. The Victoria school holidays will be from June 25th to July 10th, 2005. You can see the other states' school holidays at this website:

The posted dates don't cover all eventualities, because private schools' holidays tend to differ from government schools' holidays by a week, and so on.

But basically if you aim to be in Queensland in the first half of July, your young family members should be able to meet others in their age group.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2004, 02:39 PM
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Thanks, Judy, are you really in Calgary? I live in Toronto so we're practically neighbours! You've given me great advice here. Yes, I realized pretty quickly that I need a travel agent to help me. I've just started looking into an Australian trip and already I'm overwhelmed. We do have a diverse group. I'd really like to include the kids because my mom seems to function at a higher level when they're around. She really enjoys their company and I think it would be a great opportunity for them to get outside their own little world. We want to do Sydney for sure, the Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef, but other than that I'll have to get the family's input. I'm sure a travel agent can help, but like you say we need an Australian specialist. I've seen a couple in the newspaper, but I will also check the website you recommended. Thanks again.
antlori is offline  
Nov 6th, 2004, 04:55 PM
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Don't even think about staying in The is stairs, stairs, stairs.
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