The Top Disability and Wheelchair Accessible Activities in New Zealand
The great thing about the experiences in New Zealand, even the adventure activities, is that as well as being epic many are accessible to people with mobility, hearing and sight difficulties. All that is needed is a keen taste for exploration and adventure. We’ll go through the top experiences in this list of activities you can do with a disability in New Zealand.
What activities and tours you can do depend on the severity of the disability, so if you think you are fit enough to take on an activity, be sure to call the activity provider when making your booking to explain your situation. That way, they can advise further and/or prepare to accommodate you. In our experience, activity providers have simply assessed the situation on the day of the activity and done what they can to make the activity possible.
Before we get into our top 15 activities to do with a disability in New Zealand, be sure to also bookmark our guide to Disability & Travelling in New Zealand.
1. Wheelchair Accessible Walks
Exploring the stunning landscapes of New Zealand is something we recommend anyone visiting New Zealand to enjoy. The Department of Conservation, who maintain most of the walking trails in New Zealand, provides information on wheelchair accessible walks on their website. You can also check our 20 Best Short Walks on the North Island and 20 Best Short Walks on the South Island where we mention if the walk is accessible.
Although you need a bit of upper body strength to keep balanced, parasailing is one of the most accessible activities in New Zealand. This soft adventure activity is simply a case of gliding, enjoying the view, and hoping the guy steering the boat doesn’t drop you in the water. (We jest, of course, but they do sometimes dip your toes in the water if they’re feeling cheeky).
Discover where you can go parasailing in our 5 Incredible Places to Do Parasailing in New Zealand.
Depending on the severity of a disability, a physical disability is not necessarily a barrier to tandem skydiving. A medical form is always completed before the dive to ensure you are able to do it. Skydive Abel Tasman, in particular, is able and equipped to send you hurtling from the sky from up to 20,000ft. NZONE in Queenstown is also well-equipped. They assess each person on an individual basis, ensuring you will be in safe hands.
Learn more about skydiving in the 11 Best Tandem Skydiving Locations in New Zealand.
Fly through the forests and say goodbye to challenging terrain on a zipline tour in New Zealand! One of the best zipline tours that can accommodate those with a disability is Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown. All you will need to be able to wear a harness, sit upright and negotiate short sections of stairs with the help of the crew. Learn more about their tours on Viator, Klook or KKday.
Plus, see what the tour entails in the 10 Best Places to Zipline in New Zealand.
5. Bungy Jump
As AJ Hackett, the leading bungy jump provider in New Zealand puts it: “You can be a big strong guy or a little wee girl or a paraplegic or a very old person – it’s no problem to jump all these people because the thing about bungy is that it’s from the shoulders up not the shoulders down so it’s inside your head.” All that said, you tend not to be able to bungy jump if you have major back problems.
Plus, find more places to bungy jump in the 7 Best Places to Bungy Jump in New Zealand.
6. Jet Boating
Jet boating is a thrilling activity involving speed and quick turns between narrow river gorges. Severe back or neck problems may be an issue here, but with rails to hold onto to brace yourself, it’s an activity that many travellers with disabilities can still enjoy. Always contact the activity provider beforehand so they can accommodate your needs.
Speaking of activity provides, check out the best in the 18 Best Places to Jet Boat in New Zealand.
7. Adaptive Skiing
Learning to ski with adaptive ski gear is made possible by Adaptive Snow Sports NZ, where each commercial ski field has a programme coordinator to help you get started. Admittedly, it isn’t cheap. In the end, it might feel worth it when learning is a huge thrill, especially when you get to explore insane alpine areas across New Zealand!
Check out the 24 Best Ski Fields in New Zealand to see the top ski fields and resort across the country.
8. White Water Rafting
This is usually assessed on a case-by-case basis. Plus, some rivers are safer than others, with grades 1-3 being usually suitable for those with mobility issues. On those smaller-grade rivers, you’re sure to have a blast, well, blasting your way through river rapids. Usually, if you fall out of the raft, you just get picked up later. No big deal. Make sure to contact the provider about your disability prior to booking.
Our top recommendation for disability and wheelchair-accessible white water rafting is with Ultimate Descents in Murchison. Discover the best rafting companies in the 7 Best Places to Go White Water Rafting in New Zealand.
9. 4WD Tours
Go cross-country to see some of New Zealand’s epic scenery. Sat in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can get to those hard-to-reach places. Sometimes, these tours stop at locations to do short walks, but you can choose how far you want to go on these short walks or the activity provider will accommodate if you can’t partake in the walk.
10. Whale and Dolphin Watching Boat Trip
New Zealand is a great country for encountering whales and dolphins all year round. Watching these majestic creatures from a scenic boat tour is a wheelchair-friendly activity, especially with Whale Watch Kaikoura (more info on Viator and Klook). Light wheelchairs can be accommodated on Auckland Whale and Dolphin Safari (on Viator, Klook and KKday).
Find out where to see whales in the 5 Places to Spot Whales in New Zealand and where to see dolphins in the 5 Best Places to Swim with Dolphins in New Zealand.
11. Albatross Viewing
Another wonderful wildlife experience is seeing the world’s largest species of seabird, the royal albatross. The Royal Albatross Centre near Dunedin has a wheelchair-accessible centre, which is free to visit, but we recommend joining a tour to the observatory to see the albatross close-up. It is a steep 5-7 walk to the observatory from the centre but mobility scooters are available with advanced notice.
Something you can almost 100% rely on for wheelchair accessibility in New Zealand is the museums, as any new buildings or altered buildings in New Zealand legally have to have reasonable and adequate access for people with disabilities. With that, there’s little excuse not to see the giant squid of Te Papa, the Maori performances at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, or the realistic war scenes of the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre.
Learn more about the aforementioned museums and many others in the 10 Best Museums in New Zealand.
13. Geothermal Parks
See awesome displays of geysers, steaming springs, silica terraces and bubbling mud at one of the geothermal parks in New Zealand. Although not all of New Zealand’s geothermal parks are wheelchair-friendly, due to the varied terrain, some of the geothermal parks with the widest range of wheelchair-accessible areas include Te Puia in Rotorua (more info on Klook and KKday), Craters of the Moon in Taupo and the free Kuirau Park in Rotorua and Tokaanu Thermal Walk in Turangi.
See descriptions of these parks, as well as others, in the 8 Best Geothermal Parks in New Zealand.
14. Maori Cultural Shows
Get an insight into the traditions of the Maori culture on one of the cultural shows in New Zealand. Wheelchair-accessible experiences like Te Pa Tu (formerly Tamaki Maori Village – more info on Viator and Klook) and Mitai Maori Village include cultural workshops and demonstrations, cultural song and dance and a traditional buffet meal of a hangi (see the 25 Foods You Have to Try in New Zealand).
See more Maori experiences in the 10 Best Maori Tours in New Zealand.
We’ll end our list with a favourite Kiwi pastime: fishing. With more than 15,000 km (9,320 mi) of coastline, 775 lakes and countless kilometres of rivers, there is certainly not a lack of fishing spots in New Zealand. Plus, there are plenty of local fishing charters who would love to have you aboard. Some of our recommended fishing charters that usually can accommodate wheelchair users include Coromandel Fishing Charters in the Coromandel and Wish 4 Fish in Whakatane.
Find out more about fishing in What You Need to Know About Fishing in New Zealand.
Learn More About Wheelchair Access and Travelling New Zealand with a Disability
Pretty cool, eh? In addition to awesome activities, you can do with a disability in New Zealand, find out how to travel around New Zealand with a disability with our guide.
More Wheelchair Accessible Activities
While our list of wheelchair-accessible activities in New Zealand is not all-inclusive, you’ll find more accessible experiences in the links below.
- West Coast Treetop Walkway
- Zealandia Eco Sanctuary
- Auckland Sky Tower (more info on Viator and Klook)
- Punakaiki Pancake Rocks
- Wine tours
- Train excursions
- Cruises in Milford Sound
- Kiwi houses
- Hot pools
- Waitomo caves’ walking tours
- Brewery tours.
And for more inspiration, check out the 101 Things to Do in New Zealand: The Ultimate List, which may give you ideas of activities you could do.