Busselton Jetty Sunset

Your guide to accessible tourism experiences in the Margaret River Region with Mia Lacy.

We recently visited interstate and stayed in a modern holiday apartment where the ensuite to our master bedroom featured an unusually high, tiled bath with the shower fitted over the top.  It was impossible to get in and out of comfortably and safely so we simply used the second bathroom, which had a good walk-in shower, during our stay.

The experience set me thinking: how do people with limited mobility get around and indeed get on in the Margaret River Region?

When I started researching accessibility and properties that catered well for all patrons here, I came across a delightful anecdote.

It goes like this: When Laurance Wines (now Robert Oatley Margaret River) first opened and a guest entered their glamorous, beautifully decorated all person access restroom for the first time, the guest was literally moved to tears because they were so used to encountering stark, functional restrooms catering for disabled visitors.

I could relate to this story when I first visited Laurance Wines and noted how well they cater for all person access across all levels of their property. And, the more I researched, the more I understood that tourism operators doing this well win kudos all round.

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

You don’t need to review current statistics to know a very large proportion of tourist visitors fall into the older demographic, and increasingly all person access (APA) is a major consideration to cater to their needs.  People tend to automatically think of wheelchairs when APA comes up, but it’s also extremely significant to people who are partially sighted or hearing impaired, who use gophers (motorised scooters) or walking frames or aids.  And, as any parent will happily tell you, having wide doors and an easy access ramp for prams and pushchairs is really heartening and often makes the difference when deciding what business to patronise!

Here are just some of the operators and venues we visited successfully on our quest to uncover the best places!

Nature, Attractions & Adventure

Cape to Cape Track ‘Access for All’ Section

The grand, sweeping scenic experience that is the famed Cape to Cape Track is easily accessible to everyone, thanks to an upgraded section between Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and the Sugarloaf Rock car park. Built jointly by the Department of Parks & Wildlife and the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track, the 3.7 km section caters for wheelchair access and for visitors with limited mobility such as the elderly, people in gophers and parents with prams or pushers.

Toilet Access & Facilities

It’s also noteworthy that upgrades to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse complex and Sugarloaf car park have included universal access toilet facilities at each end which are accessible to the public 24 hours a day. There are other sections of the Cape to Cape track which accommodate wheelchairs / prams / frames etc.:

  • Ellensbrook Homestead 1 km paved path with boardwalk to Meekadarabee Cave and Falls – Toilets
  • Ellensbrook Beach 200 m paved path to coastal lookout – No toilets
  • Redgate Beach Coastal lookout at main carpark – Toilets
Busselton Jetty
Explore the iconic Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty & Underwater Observatory

At the Busselton Jetty, wheelchair users are able to catch the Jetty Train before visiting the Underwater Observatory to see Australia’s greatest artificial reef, where there is lift access to each level.

Dunsborough Beach Wheelchair

The thoughtful provision of a free of charge beach wheelchair with extra-large tyres – which can be pre-booked for a 24 hour period – gives visitors great access to the stunning beach of beautiful Geographe Bay.  New housing for the specially designed wheelchair has been constructed at Quindalup Sea Rescue Boat ramp in Dunsborough and bookings are coordinated by the Busselton Visitor Centre via 08 9780 5911 / [email protected].

John Streater Fine Furniture

John Streater is a master craftsman and his bespoke furniture can be found around the state, throughout Australia and even overseas.  John and his partner Pamela operate their delightful workshop and gallery in Blythe Road, Yallingup Siding. As well as John’s exquisitely tactile timber pieces, there is fine art, jewellery and more to enjoy browsing through their thoughtfully selected stock.  Pamela is the curator of the gallery and uses a wheelchair due to MS.  The lovely gallery is all on one level with wide access and is well worth your time.

Wills Domain Vineyard Restaurant
Treat yourself to a long, long, lunch (with incredible views) at Wills Domain

Wills Domain Restaurant & Gallery

Wills Domain near Yallingup is a 5 star winery with a hatted restaurant.  With sweeping vineyard and valley views from its restaurant, it’s the idyllic spot for a long leisurely lunch.  Owner Darren Haunold, who uses a wheelchair himself, is renowned for his vision in the Margaret River tourism industry and the entire vineyard experience is planned for APA. The property is all on one level, and flows easily from the entrance to the restaurant.  Disabled parking facilities and all person access bathrooms make this a very pleasant venue to visit, and Darren’s award winning team of vintners produce exceptional quality handcrafted wines.

Where To Stay

Big 4 Peppermint Park Eco Village

It was a cool rainy eve when I arrived at cabin #38 and, blessedly, someone had thought to put the air on a bit before I arrived so entering the specially designed APA cabin was extra welcoming!  The cabin presents very well with low light switches and bench tops, wider doors, handrailing in bathrooms etc.  The park’s camper’s kitchen is also ramp accessible and the ablution blocks – which are spotless – have APA restrooms and laundries.  A big thumbs up to Big 4 Peppermint Park!

Derby Park Apartments

These modern, spacious apartments are right in the centre of Margaret River town and are perfectly situated for leisure or business visitors. They have fully equipped kitchens and free WiFi too!  Their well appointed APA rooms – a studio room and 2 x one bedroom apartments – overlook the beautiful heated swimming pool and have disabled parking bays right beside the rooms. These rooms are very close to the reception and lobby area, which is easily accessed via a wide, wheelchair friendly ramp.

Ramada Resort Dunsborough
Seaside stays at Ramada Resort Dunsborough

Riverglen Chalets

These 4-star self contained chalets nestled in the bush just a short drive from the town of Margaret River ticked so many boxes for me.  I stayed in Witchcliffe Chalet, and was able to drive my car right up to the one-level entry.  There’s a good wide verandah offering excellent access and inside the layout of the chalet is really generous which offers excellent manoeuvrability for wheelchairs, gophers or prams.

Witchcliffe, a Studio Plus chalet, is also equipped with short countertops and no steps up to each chalet.  Both Studio Plus chalets are all person access friendly with king sized beds and spacious walk in bathrooms.

Ramada Resort Dunsborough

With its super location in Geographe Bay right on Dunsborough Beach, this attractive property is popular with holidaymakers and business travellers.  The studio room I stayed in was perfectly located close to the main entrance and restaurant with a reserved APA parking bay right outside the room.  Inside, the décor was lovely and the bathroom really well laid out with a walk in shower and handrails in evidence.  The resort would be an ideal base for a longer stay, and also has a lift in the lobby to access the function room and day spa.