Wheelchair Accessible Neverland Tour:
Australia & New Zealand

by Lois Thistle © 2003

Clint and Lois Thistle, of Vancouver, Washington share the joys of the total access they experienced on a Neverland Tour to Australia & New Zealand.

We have just returned from a wonderful trip to New Zealand and Australia with Neverland Adventures.

The accessibility was fantastic. The owner and partner are both in wheelchairs, so they know what accessibility is.  Once we arrived in Los Angeles and met the rest of the group, it was off to Auckland, New Zealand. One of the partners was always at the hotel getting our room keys and luggage sent up. When we would leave a hotel, all we had to do is lock our door and someone would come and get them. We used accessible tour buses with having the option of getting out of your scooter or wheelchair or just staying in it.  Every restaurant we went to along the way was accessible and already checked out. We stayed in hotels that had handicapped accessible rooms. I took along my electric scooter, and it was wonderful to be able to see and do everything. The same courtesy was given all of us on the inter-island flights. Everywhere we went there was someone to help us with whatever we needed. We can hardly wait to go again.  They are putting together an Australian outback trip, along with their Australian and New Zealand tours.

This is the first time we have taking a trip such as this one with my electric scooter.  We have previously traveled on cruise ships because they are so handicap friendly, but that accessibility stops at the dock. There needs to be a way to get shore excursions for the physically challenged.

We started our tour in Auckland by meeting Hiliary and Dave with our accessible bus for the North Island of NZ.  We had the same tour guide for the whole north island so we really got to know them and they, in turn were able to anticipate our needs.

From there we headed to Hamilton and Rangiriri to learn about the last Maori battles on this side.  While in Hamilton, we went to the zoo and their unique aviary.  It was also the balloon festival time, so we went over to see all the balloons in the “Night Glow”.

The next day we had a scenic drive to Raglan by the Sea and on to Rotorua.  There we saw the geysers, bubbling mud and sulphur pits - all accessible I might add, We got in on some of the Maori culture with a show and dinner.

The next day was some city touring and the NZ Maori Arts and Craft Institute and the rest of the day was ours.  The hotel was easy strolling or rolling.

Thus, came the end of our tour of the North Island, and we then flew to Christchurch on the South Island and met Craig our new guide for the South Island.  He also had an accessible bus, so we never missed anything.  We were in Christchurch when they had their Saturday Market, which was fabulous.  The next day was rest and relaxation at the Hanmer Hot Springs - for me it was a massage and for my husband the sauna.  There were all kinds of things to do there in addition to the pools. There were no extra charges for anything.

We then left Christchurch for Mt. Cook - the highest peak in New Zealand.  We were so very fortunate to see the peak with blue skies. We are told that it is often hard to see the peak. We checked into our hotel at Mt. Cook and had a wonderful time there.  We even arranged a rolling hike to Hooker Valley and had tea in the beautiful warm sunny afternoon. Sadly, leaving the mountain we headed off to Queenstown, which was absolutely stunning.  We took a ride on an vintage steamship to dinner, a show of sheep shearing and back.

The following day the group loaded into two fixed-wing aircraft and flew thru the Milford Sound. This was unlike anything ever seen - no words to describe it - you just have to go with Neverland  Adventures and see for yourself.  Even the passengers, who did not walk at all were given all the help they needed for however much time it took to board the planes.  When we returned, they taxied us right up to the bus - such kindness.

Now it is time, sadly to say farewell to our group and fly back to Christchurch and from there all the group but three of us flew home, and we three flew on to Australia for a week.

We were in Sidney for three delightful days. We did a harbor cruise, toured the Opera House, and even saw a play that night.  We had a city tour and lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall that the tour driver knew about, so we could eat outside.  We went to the art museum and anything else we could find to see. The weather was picture perfect.

We then left Sidney to Cairns for three days. We stayed at a wonderful little motel,  unlike the big hotels we had been staying in, and it was fabulous. They had a bunch of handicapped rooms all together, and they would bring us a full breakfast each morning to see outside at the table and chairs at our doors.  The last night they put on a BBQ that was fit for a king and could feed at least 50 and there were only 6 of us!!!

In Cairns we left for  the rain forest by train and took the sky gondola back.  You wonder what they did with those of us in scooters. They put us in wheelchairs in the gondola and then sent our scooters down on the next gondola - very clever.  Of course, the biggest thrill of the trip was snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. There were so many people to help us get into the water and me without my braces, but we made it for 30-45 minutes.  It was fabulous.

I could go on and on forever, but I highly recommend Neverland Adventures for your trip to Australia and New Zealand. We never had a worry while we were there. All our needs were met anytime one asked and no one had to ask twice.  I can hardly wait for their next adventure.

Their website is www.neverland-adventures.com

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