What an incredible weekend exploring the Limestone Coast, we had been pretty excited about this trip for a while as the appeal of visiting a wheelchair accessible cave was very high on the bucket list. And South Australia you never disappoint!
The Limestone Coast is approximately 300 km South East of Adelaide it is an easy drive on good roads, this still doesn’t help the number of toilet stops needed when travelling with kids, but gives us a good insight into where the best toilets are along the route. Safe to say the public toilets are all kept to a pretty good standard.
First stop was in Naracoorte, unfortunately we hadn’t come across any family friendly and accessible accommodation to enjoy for this trip, so we just had to make do. Thankfully during exploring we came across some options for next time.
The Naracoorte Caves are part of the 800,000 year old Naracoorte East Range. They are World Heritage listed, and one of the world’s most important fossil sites.
Of the 28 known caves in the park, four are open to the public. Other caves are set aside for scientific research or to protect the caves and their contents. Many of the caves contain spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.
With the caves staying at a constant 17 degrees centigrade, Naracoorte Caves is a destination for all seasons. There are self-guided, guided and adventure caving tours year-round.
The nature of caves means they are not wheelchair or pram accessible, however a lot of effort is going into making the above ground experience more meaningful, with an interpretive trail along a colour coded path, so you know when you are walking over a cave. The improvements are set to finish in August 2017 and really will make a meaningful experience for those that can’t get down into the cave.
The wildlife is abundant around the cave site, with kangaroos just lazing metres from the paths and lots of different bird life about. The Visitor Centre is informative and the general grounds are easy enough to navigate, sealed pathways join the main facilities up.
During our visit we learnt the accommodation on site is accessible, so I think we’d be very keen to stay here next time.
From here we wandered along the Bool Lagoon, a wheelchair accessible boardwalk through the wetlands, giving you another opportunity to enjoy the bird life. Note there are no bathroom facilities here.
Back into the car and through some lush farmland we couldn’t slip through the Coonawarra wine region without a quick tasting stop. Unfortunately it decided to rain at this time so the kids didn’t really enjoy the pit stop, but we did!
We also took the opportunity to check out Bellwether winery as they have some camping options on site. If you have your own camp set up this would be great for the kids! It’s similar to a farm stay in a full fenced rustic campground. There is nothing rustic about the amenities though, the accessible bathroom is modern, clean and functional. With plans to build more of an outdoor undercover kitchen, this place will just get better and better. If you do book a camp site ask to be closest to the amenities as it is quite a walk along a dirt road. Our tip, probably not a winter or wet weather camp spot due to the amount of muddy puddles that appear after some rain. We also spied a tree house and a lush veggie patch available to guests.
Mt Gambier here we come, again I was a bit apprehensive about the accommodation we booked, however this time it’s worth mentioning! We stayed at The Barn and the accommodation was great. Our room backed onto a manicured lawn and it was too appealing for our son after being locked up in the car for half the day, he went and burned off some energy chasing imaginary objects. The beds were comfy and the bathroom was spacious and had grab rails, however the shower had an enclosed shower screen and only a shower head, which made it a little tricky but the water was hot and it was towels fluffy so it was still usable.
The next morning we made a bee line to the Blue Lake and were thoroughly impressed with the view, albeit a little chilly from the viewing platform. Time didn’t allow us to explore the option of walking around it and I’m not sure it is accessible, however there are a few guided tour options that could be worth checking out.
The Umpherston Sinkhole was also high on the agenda and although this is not an accessible experience, looking over the edge into the most magnificent gardens of the region is worth it, at any time of the year these gardens are sure to be impressive. I walked down the steep steps with the kids and it felt like we were in a secret garden and think this would be the most magical place to pretend you were Alice in Wonderland or would make for an awesome game of Hide and Seek, although take care not to upset the experience for other visitors.
Now this is what should be on every wheelchair users bucket list – a wheelchair accessible cave! The Tantanoola Caves have been accessible since 1983 and are very proud of the fact they where Australia’s first and they know how special this experience is. All visitors to the cave are on a guided tour and the story of the discovering the caves is great and this is not to be missed, don’t drive past the sign on the way back up through the Coorong, STOP! Also worth mentioning is the accessible toilet is built into the side of the mountain, could also be a first! The caves were incredible and our son who is acutely aware of how many places aren’t accessible, was so excited to be entering a cave with his dad!
Next stop was Beachport – this will be another blog post as there is so much to share about this gorgeous seaside town and to say we can’t wait to get back and have a accessible holiday there is an understatement!
After this we hit the road to return home, driving up through the Coorong at sunset was absolutely stunning, we’ll get back to exploring this region another time.
Until next time, happy travels.
Photo credit: Umpherston Sinkhole thanks to Fritz Magazine