Less than an hour from Perth lies Western Australia’s largest regional city, Mandurah – or Mandjoogoordap, an Aboriginal Nyoongar word meaning ‘meeting place of the heart’ – and it’s also the focus of Spinal Life’s latest accessible travel review.
Mandurah is known for its magnificent beaches, beautiful canals and the Peel-Harvey Estuary – a wetland and ecosystem of international significance that’s twice the size of Sydney Harbour.
Headed up by Community Advocacy Officer, Karen Harvey, the accessible travel review was developed and delivered thanks to partnerships with Mandurah Council, Visit Mandurah and a number of Western Australians living with disability. Its goal? To identify, review and promote accessible tourism offerings that already exist within the region, and help educate tourism operators and small businesses about steps they can take to make improvements.
“They’ve put a lot of work and effort into making things accessible in Mandurah,” says Karen. “They’re really proactive when it comes to making experiences, beaches and parks accessible for all abilities – they’re definitely at the forefront of making accessibility changes here in WA.”
Karen’s 3 Mandurah musts
We were so lucky to experience the beautiful Emily Louise, a specially made accessible house boat from Mandurah House Boats (houseboatsmandurah.com.au). It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. It was like being in an accessible luxury apartment – but one that you could also float down the river and go fishing from the back door! We picked up the Emily Louise at 10am and initially needed two people along for the ride to teach us how to use the boat and all the safety procedures, and advise us on some places to visit.
The keys were then handed over to us and we were off on our house boating adventure, heading to Pelican Point. It took us two hours to arrive, by which time we were ready for a bite to eat so we continued a little further down to Sandy Cove and picked up dinner from a local restaurant. Afterwards, we headed back to Pelican Point where we hooked up the boat to the electricity point and settled in for the night (me relaxing inside the boat; my companion fishing off the back). There was plenty of space to manoeuvre around on the boat, which was completely accessible, from the ramp to the sliding door providing easy access to get inside, and a roll-under table, kitchen bench and bathroom sink. Everything was at the perfect height, from the cupboards in the kitchen, to the light switches, bathroom mirror and even the couch, which allowed for easy transferring. My highlight of this awesome experience? To be able to get behind the steering wheel myself and actually take command of the boat for a little while. We were über-excited to try house boating, and I highly recommend everyone put this activity on their list of things to do in Mandurah.
Spotting wild bottle-nosed dolphins is a famous pastime in this part of the world, so we headed out on a one-hour Dolphin Cruise & Views tour with Mandurah Cruises (mandurahcruises.com.au). From an accessibility point of view there were pros and cons: on the plus side, Companion Cards are accepted, there’s accessible parking close by to the departure point, and there are seating areas throughout the bottom level of the boat where wheelchairs fit under the tables easily. To access the boat itself there are a few ramps; some were a little hard to navigate independently, but with assistance were fine. On the negative side of things, there are no accessible toilets onboard, just a regular loo, and access to the top deck was via stairs. But there were plenty of other viewing options, including the aforementioned tables, the area in front of the café and a platform at the back of the boat. The cruise took us around Mandurah’s stunning canals – happily, we managed to spot some of the beloved dolphins – and protected wetlands that are home to some fantastic water birds. The captain of the boat was accommodating and even allowed one of our volunteers to take the wheel for a moment.
Operated by local zoologist Sarah Way, Ways To Nature (waystonature.com.au) leads guided nature walks around the beautiful reserves of Mandurah’s internationally significant Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands and beyond. A range of tours to suit all abilities is available, providing unique experiences with nature. On the day of our tour Sarah chose the Joseph and Dulcie Nannup Trail. While the trail is accessible, parking at Riverside Park where the tour commenced was not the greatest, with no accessible parking bays and no access ramp to the path. But we got there in the end, and were able to move freely once we reached the path. There were two of us on the tour with mobility impairments: me in a wheelchair and a person using balance sticks. Sarah set us up with binoculars and then throughout the tour helped us to spot and view different birds. We made our way to a new accessible boardwalk, which runs out over shallow water and made us feel immersed in the environment. It’s a lovely, relaxing experience that makes you feel closer to nature, and Sarah hopes to introduce more accessible tours in the future for those with a disability.
The Mandurah Accessible Tourism Review was made possible thanks to financial support from Visit Mandurah. You can check out our Accessible Australia app for accessible travel reviews of the Mandurah region and share your own experiences.