A Frequent Traveller Reviews New Zealand

My wife and I have been regular visitors to New Zealand since 2012, and now with a daughter and her partner and their baby daughter all living in Auckland we are there several times a year.  Most of the activities I’ve done would require some assistance and I normally travel with my wife and sometimes other family or friends.

We visited the Ellerslie Races on several occasions, the Auckland Art Gallery and the Auckland War Memorial and Museum, and the Sky Tower. All are wheelchair accessible with wheelchair toilets etc. We caught a taxi to the races, but the other three venues I visited using an electric scooter from my base at my daughter’s place in Auckland. I would think a scooter (or an able bodied V8 equivalent) to push you up the hills of Auckland is essential.

Other activities we have done (apart from sightseeing) is visiting Hobbiton (they provide a golf buggy to take you around – needs to be booked ahead of course), going on cruises at Bay of Islands (Fullers Great Sights Dolphin Cruise to Hole in the Rock), Real Journeys Milford Sound Scenic Cruise, Real Journeys TSS Earnslaw Cruise Queenstown, the Gondola at Queenstown, Queen Charlotte Sound Cruise, visits to the Maori Village at Whakarewarewa in Rotorua, and the Pohutu Geyser at Te Puia, Rotorua (as well as Kiwis in a nocturnal house here), and enjoying the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools & Spa. All of these are accessible to a greater or lesser extent but worth the effort, and the people are usually most helpful. The thermal pools at Hanmer Springs has a pool with a ramp in it, and a special wheelchair so you can wheel into the water and just float off. Fantastic! So far it is the only one I have found which caters properly for wheelchair users

We also visited Wellington and its waterfront, went for a ride on the cable car (funicular), and did tours at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongawera, the NZ Parliament (Beehive), and the Weta Workshop (makers of Lord of the Rings). All these destinations were accessed by walking/wheeling or by using the accessible bus service.

I have been asked in the past whether these activities were suitable for a person in a power chair. I now have a Smart-Drive for my manual wheelchair and it certainly makes all these activities easier. I did not have it when many of these photos were taken.

I remember that I took a mail boat cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound and they had to lift the chair on board (with me in it). Not sure if they could do that with a power chair. I think the three other cruises have pretty good access via ramps, no steps etc, but I would suggest anyone planning on doing one of those cruises checks with the operator.

I was talking to a fellow tourist in a power wheelchair at the Art Gallery and he said he did Hobbiton in his chair, and could get to nearly all of it except one very steep part. So, depending on the type of power chair it seems you can do Hobbiton by yourself. Certainly not possible by a manual wheelchair. Again, I’d seek advice. On all my trip planning, I usually ring and check if it is wheelchair accessible before booking and ask questions to ensure it meets my needs.

The Gondola at Queenstown might be difficult for a power chair. As far as I can recall I had to switch into one of theirs to get up the mountain and they brought my chair up separately. But again, an enquiry would be best.

The Rotorua venues were all accessible by manual or power chair. I also visited Huka Falls at Taupo and a power chair could be an advantage there as the surface is pretty uneven. Again, that depends on the type of chair and the operator as some would baulk at the terrain. But the main bridge over the Huka River is certainly accessible.

I found the scooter really helpful in Auckland to manage the hills, but it was not so great when going to the toilet as it is not very maneuverable. However, it was fine to get around the Art Gallery, Museum and Sky Tower. My new Smart-Drive cannot handle some of the hills in Auckland, and I would strongly recommend having someone with you if attempting some of the steeper gradients. It doesn’t have the staying power of a scooter. For example it conked out on me three times on the steep hill trying to get from the French Markets at Parnell back to the Parnell Road shops.

With regard to the photos I’ve mostly concentrated on showing the wheelchair in the terrain or where I was located on a boat etc.