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Disability & Backpacking in New Zealand

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Backpacking With a Disability in New Zealand

You’ll be surprised! With a great emphasis put on physically demanding things to do when backpacking in New Zealand, at face-value it seems you need to be physically fit, even a freaking athlete, to really enjoy what this country has to offer. In fact, New Zealand is very equipped to offer aid to those with mobility, hearing and sight difficulties. Apart from all the 10 Activities You Can Do With a Disability in New Zealand, there are many ways you can enjoy this epic country even with a disability.

We’ll go through what you can expect when it comes to budget accommodation, activities and travel when you are backpacking New Zealand with a disability in the guide below.

How Does New Zealand Cater to People with Disabilities?

Travelling New Zealand with a disability can be a challenge for some, but an adventure they will never forget. Three aspects of travelling in NZ is discussed in this article, which are:

  • Taking part in activities, from skydives to accessible walks
  • Staying in accommodation
  • Transportation.

Tourism NZ© Tourism NZ

Adventure Activities

Many backpackers come to New Zealand to enjoy the adrenaline thrills, many of which are accessible for people with disabilities. The key thing to remember is to contact the activity provider directly before you plan to do the activity. That way, they can often discuss what they can do to make your experience as awesome as possible, as well as assess whether it is safe for you to do the activity.

What Activities Can You Do with a Disability in New Zealand?

Fancy a skydive? Try Skydive Abel Tasman, for the most accessible tandem skydive in New Zealand where they are equipped to send you hurtling from 16,500ft. Find out more about Skydive Abel Tasman on Viator and Tripadvisor. Other companies like Nzone in Queenstown often have the tandem masters with the expertise to skydive with people with mobility problems. Check out Nzone on Viator and Tripadvisor.

Providers of the popular water activities of jet boating and parasailing can cater to individual needs. Even bombing down some rapids by doing white water rafting is achievable and, as the Kiwis say, heaps of fun. Ask about grade 1 to 3 white water rafting, which is usually safer and requires less effort from you.

As bungy jumping is designed to not physically harm the jumper, jumping is also available if you have the nerve to do it that is. Remember to speak to activity providers prior to booking so that they know to accommodate you. If you are unsure whether you are able to take part in an activity, consult your doctor first.

Accessible Hiking Trails in New Zealand

Of course, there are more chilled and cheaper things to do such as using the accessible walks. There are many tracks to enjoy the New Zealand scenery. The Department of Conservation has produced guides for accessible walks on the North Island and South Island.

For more activities to inspire you, check out the 10 Activities You Can Do With a Disability in New Zealand.

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Accommodation with Disabled Access

Backpacking around New Zealand doesn’t have to be expensive thanks to budget accommodation options like hostels. If you have never stayed in a hostel before, take a look at How to Live in a Hostel and Why Stay in a Hostel? to find out what to expect.

Most backpacker hostels in New Zealand have good accessibility with ramps, disabled toilets, lifts, widened hallways and doors, and Braille instructions. It’s always good to call ahead with accommodation to check if they have facilities to accommodate you.

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Travel and Transport

Bus Travel

For coach travel in New Zealand, there are a few options to get around the whole country. National coaches will get you from A to B, however, hop-on hop-off and tour bus companies are probably your best bet when backpacking New Zealand with mobility issues, as they transport you right up to your accommodation and activities. Although these bus companies are usually Ok with transporting wheelchairs and crutches around, you may have to be able to board and disembark the bus on your own. For more information, check out What is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus?

Inner-city bus companies tend to be very good in New Zealand, with bus lowering and disabled seating, as are taxi services.

Air Travel

By giving airlines advanced notice, the airline can make sure there are trained staff on hand to assist passengers with disabilities. Air New Zealand recommends arriving 60 minutes before domestic New Zealand flights.

Accessible Tours in New Zealand

There are accessible tour operators that can either plan an itinerary or transport for several day tours to cater to your needs and wants. Operators include Ability Adventures, Accessible New Zealand, and Accessible Kiwi Tours.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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