Rolling Around New Zealand: A Wheelchair User’s Travel Guide

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. It has some of the best whale watching and dolphin experiences, thermal Hot Springs, excellent wine and some of the most spectacular views you will ever see due to the mountains that exquisitely dress the background.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

The only issue with New Zealand is honestly, just getting there. New Zealand is so far from just about any other point in the world that it is going to involve one massively long plane trip. To that end, you might want to try and break up your flights if you can. This will give you a chance to rest and get a little bit of blood circulating so you’re not stuck on a plane for 16 hours or so. Here are a few tips for your visit to New Zealand.

And by the way, if you plan to work a bit while in New Zealand, Backpacker Job Board NZ is a great place to start if you’re on a working holiday.


Transportation is easy and very accessible. I would recommend a shuttle to take you from the airport to your hotel, but from there the choice is really yours. Public transportation via bus is quite easy, and the train is another option that is hard to beat. You might have a little trouble getting on and off, but usually they have a few hands on board to help with those situations anyway.


Of course, you will want to make your way to Christchurch. That is one of the most picturesque cities in the South Pacific. A tourist resort Mecca, there is so much to see and do here that one trip will probably not do you justice. The nightlife is very vibrant, especially around Oxford Street overlooking the river. There’s a wonderful mix of indoor/outdoor bars and open-air concept restaurants that give the city some vitality.



Check hotel prices in Christchurch by clicking here.

Be sure to visit the art galleries also. After all, Christchurch is known as the ‘arts city’. A trip to this wonderful collection of art pieces is worth the long flight. Navigation is easy and the building features an accessible entrance on the left-hand side.

In addition, there are many other places you want to visit during your time in New Zealand. A few of the other well-known attractions are listed below.

Franz Josef Glacier

A visit to this town is quite special. A lot of thought and work is going into making improvements so the buildings are more accessible. While you are there you will certainly want to look at both of the glaciers known as Fox and Franz Josef. They are two of the most accessible glaciers in the world since they are right off of the main road.

new zealand wheelchair accessible

Pancake Rocks

These rock formations consist of limestone and are extremely old. Through a mixture of erosion and other natural occurrences, the layers of rock give the appearance of being huge stacks of pancakes. A great site and natural wonder. Put this one on your list.

new zealand wheelchair accessible

Hanmer Springs

This is home to one of the world’s best thermal spas around. They also have great accommodations too. Most of the rooms are quite accessible and even have rolled under clearance featured throughout the bedroom to make navigation easy.

new zealand wheelchair accessible


You need to go here for one thing: whale watching. The boats are quite accessible, so no worries there. You will be transferred into what is known as a ‘carry chair’, very similar to an manual chair, and there is plenty of room to store your personal items. This is one of the most spectacular portions of any trip to New Zealand. You must see these beautiful creatures.

The only problem with Kaikoura is that certain sections of its old town are not as accessible as you would like for them to be. They have made a few strides, however, many of the buildings which were constructed early on have entrances with three or four steps involved. This is a great time to get friendly with the locals should you need assistance and want to do a little shopping. There are public restrooms available at the south end of the town center. These are pretty accessible and quite convenient.

new zealand wheelchair accessible

Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson is a must see if you find yourself near the glaciers on a clear day. You will need a little bit of assistance getting down the path even though it mentions that the path is wheelchair accessible. It’s not really unless you have quite strong arms. However, whatever you can do to get to the edge of the lake, do it. The view is absolutely spectacular and very postcard picturesque. Great mountain scenery and beautiful smooth water are hard to beat anytime!

Check hotel prices at Lake Matheson by clicking here.

new zealand wheelchair accessible

Beyond that, take these tips and enjoy your travels. Most of the major cities in New Zealand are easy to navigate with paths that feature pedestrian inclines so you don’t go bumping up and over. People are friendly and as stated earlier, public transportation is not an issue. Be sure to bring plenty of money though. You are certainly going to find a few ways to spend it while you are in New Zealand!

 *I have not visited New Zealand. All of this information was found online from various sources. This post includes affiliate links. When you click on a link, I may receive a small compensation, which will help this blog grow into a better resource for disabled travelers.  


  • oh how i want to be in that hot tub amidst all the snow!

  • lyn barden says:

    Great to know that so many of these spectacular beauty spots are now wheelchair accessible. Magnificent photos.

  • David Collins says:

    An update for you from post-earthquake Christchurch.

    The center of the city was hit badly by the quakes of Sept 2010 and Feb 2011 but is bouncing back. So successful is the rebuild that Christchurch has made the #6 position in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 places to visit in the world.
    The Cathedral shown in the picture is severely damaged – the spire has gone, along with the rose window. The vibrant nightlife is still available- although it has shifted from Oxford Street. A lot of the wonderful mix of indoor/outdoor bars and open-air concept restaurants that give the city some vitality have reopened, some in their original location, others in new and imaginary ways. The main shopping area in the city centre was all but wiped out but quickly sprang up again in the ‘Restart Mall’ operating out of shipping containers.
    The main art gallery is temporarily closed for repairs (hoping to reopen by Christmas), but the Canterbury Museum and Antarctic Center are open. Public artwork has sprung up on a number of walls around the city – a favourite is the ballerina filling the 5-story high stage wall of the restored Isaac Theater Royal.
    Throughout the Central City there are many creative and fun pop-up projects like the ‘Dance-o-mat’ – an outdoor dance floor where you can plug your ipad, phone or MP3 player into a converted washing machine.
    With so much of the city getting rebuilt, accessibility is getting easier, which is great news for wheelchair users.

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