Accessible attractions in Sydney
Pack a picnic lunch, grab a floral dessert at the Botanic Gardens Restaurant, learn about the Cadigal heritage of the land, or find a quiet corner to read some poetry inspired by the gardens. If you’re driving, there’s accessible parking near the Woolloomooloo gate. Check out their access map and list of access features for a guide to accessible pathways around the park. Some areas in the gardens are a little hilly, so enter through the Queen Elizabeth II gate and stay close to the waterfront if you’d prefer to stick to flat ground.
Located on the border of the Botanic Gardens is the Art Gallery of NSW, one of Australia’s leading art museums. The collection includes one of the largest galleries of Aboriginal art in the country, alongside significant European and Asian galleries. They have a range of access programs including Auslan-interpreted tours, tactile and sensory tours, audio-described tours, dementia workshops, and workshops for disabled artists. Wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and handheld magnifying lenses can be borrowed from the front desk. There are hearing loops in the theatre and auditorium, and portable hearing loops are available on request for all guided tours.
Arguably Sydney’s most famous beach, the glittering sands and sunlit waters at Bondi live up to the hype. It’s also Sydney’s only accessible beach, with mobility matting rolled out twice weekly on Thursdays and Saturdays from 8.30am to 2pm, at the northern end of the beach. There are two beach wheelchairs available to book by calling or emailing ahead. There are lockers available to store your own wheelchair while you enjoy the beach, an outdoor shower beside the storage lockers, and accessible parking nearby.
Australia’s oldest museum houses an extensive collection of cultural and natural history. They also have a number of educational programs and, surprisingly, a thriving nightlife. They offer tactile and sensory tours upon request, and an audio description tour is available through the museum app. Hearing loops are installed in the Hallstrom Theatre, and they have portable hearing loops available on request for tours. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow from the front desk. Their access map outlines low, medium, and high sensory areas, as well as low-light areas and tactile exhibits.
Further west you’ll find a flourishing hub of disability arts and culture at Riverside Theatres, located on the bank of Parramatta River. They regularly program professional work from disabled performing artists, and are committed to providing audience access beyond the basics. This includes tactile and audio-described tours, hearing loops in the theatres, captioned and Auslan interpreted events, and relaxed performances. They have a number of manual wheelchairs available for loan on request. They accept companion cards and have social stories on their website outlining what to expect at their theatres.
The MCA believes that art is for everyone. They offer free tailored support for visitors with disabilities or access requirements. They also run a number of creative and professional development programs for disabled artists. There are manual wheelchairs available to borrow at the Information Desk, as well as a water bowl for assistance dogs. There are embedded hearing loops in the museum’s various venues, and all MCA exhibition labels are available in large font. They have social stories on their website outlining how to access various areas of the MCA.
Carriageworks is a multidisciplinary art and performance institute located in the former Eveleigh Rail Yards. The building’s vast, echoing interior provides a striking setting for large-scale theatre, dance, and art installations. They offer tactile tours, audio described and Auslan interpreted performances, hearing loops, relaxed performances, and open and closed captions for select productions. They accept companion cards and their options for accessible seating areas are flexible. All of the available spaces are wheelchair accessible, and accessible parking is available via the Carriageworks Way entry.
The heritage-listed Sydney Opera House is one of Sydney’s most famous icons, and in recent years they’ve undergone some major access renovations and strategy revisions. They offer audio description, captions, surtitles, tactile tours, Auslan interpretation, and relaxed performances for select productions. They offer portable and embedded hearing loops and have a detailed theatre access guide for their various venues (also available in MP3 format). There are a number of wheelchair accessible seating options available in all theatres, and manual wheelchairs are available to borrow. There is accessible parking nearby, a mobility shuttle bus from Circular Quay, and they accept companion cards. They also have extensive access programs and a daily stair-free tour with Auslan interpretation available on request.
The whole zoo is situated on a very large hill, so you’ll probably want to start at the top and work your way down. The cable car up from the ferry wharf can accommodate people using wheelchairs up to 610mm wide, and there’s accessible parking located at the top entrance. Check out Taronga’s access map for the locations of lifts, escalators, accessible toilets, heavy doors, low light areas, tranquil areas, and tactile exhibits. The zoo accepts companion cards, and has manual wheelchairs available for hire. On select days throughout the year the zoo opens an hour early to offer free autism-friendly entry. There are also third party Auslan tours available. Due to strict quarantine regulations, the zoo is unable to admit service animals.
Sea Life Sydney Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world, with 13,000 marine creatures from 700 species. The shimmering underwater viewing tunnels are a particular highlight, as are the glowing jellyfish tanks. They have manual wheelchairs available to borrow from the admissions area. There are some fairly steep ramps inside, as well as some uneven ground. Most of the aquarium is dimly lit, and there is bench seating available throughout the aquarium if you need to take a rest. Aim for a weekday after 2pm if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds.
When it comes to accessible Sydney attractions, bushwalking (bushwheeling?) certainly isn’t the first thing that springs to mind – but Bungoona Lookout and Path is one of several wheelchair accessible walking tracks around Sydney. It’s a gentle 0.9km return trip with a beautiful view over the Hawking River. There is an access map available online outlining the locations of trip hazards, seating and picnicking areas, potable water, and accessible toilets. Keep an eye out for rainbow lorikeets, red wattlebirds, superb lyrebirds, and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.
Last but certainly not least, the Red Rattler Theatre is a community-run warehouse theatre that hosts frequent concerts, performances, parties, and poetry nights. Affectionately known as the Rat, the venue is wheelchair accessible with lots of space to move around inside, and their events are often Auslan interpreted. There’s lots of comfy seating and generally one or two quiet spaces set aside if you need to take a break. More importantly, the volunteers who run the venue are genuinely dedicated to accessibility, and flexible in their understanding of what constitutes access for different people.