Megan Kelly is a creative writer with an academic background in Australian history. She has recently begun exploring a new interest – graphic design. Watch this space for her most recent creative project. This is the first of a series of three blog posts exploring Canberra. You can read her other posts here and here.

As a local, getting around Canberra is simple, but what if you are visiting? How do you get from A to B, and how accessible is B once you’re there?

Driving in Canberra is the fastest and easiest option, but public transport is also good – despite what locals will tell you.

Route 81 (981 on weekends) is Canberra’s Tourist Loop and since it is serviced by Easy Access busses, I’m going to use this route to help you plan a visit to Canberra.   

ACTION busses

ACTION busses are the public transport option. Common complaints?

Frequency and punctuality – but not reliability.

Bus stops are sparse in suburbs, and bus services cease early in the evening. So my best advice if you’re using Canberra busses – plan ahead.

80 per cent of the ACTION fleet is Easy Access and timetables identify which runs are wheelchair accessible and which are not. Specifications for mobility aid dimensions, and manoeuvrability needed on busses are available online

Upon request, ACTION supplies printed documents in alternative formats (large print, braille, or audio). There is also a teletype (TTY) service. Bus Stations and frequently used bus stops are fitted with tactile paving.

If you choose busses, purchase a MyWay card for cheaper fares.

The Australian War Memorial

Route 81 stops 300m from the front steps of the War Memorial. If you’re driving, the underground car park is the easiest option.

There is a ramp from the underground car park to the main entrance where there is an adjacent lift. From here the entire building can be navigated using lifts and ramps.

There are seats placed throughout the four main galleries – so explore at a comfortable pace. I have had some issues with dim lighting, which is required for a few displays.

Acton Park and Regatta Point

This bus stop is about 330 metres away from Regatta point. There is significantly closer parking if you are in a car but availability is unpredictable.

Regatta point is a lookout with an iconic view, but you will also find a café, Canberra and Region Visitors Centre, and the National Exhibition. Everything here is wheelchair accessible.  

Regatta Point is the starting point for one of Canberra’s walking tours.

The 5 km walk around the lake is well paved, and wheelchair friendly – but I can’t manage the distance.

If you’re like me, still take a look at the 34 landmarks in the guide. Not everything is easily accessible, but Google maps has the Canberra bus stops integrated – so you can plan.

My suggestions?

  1. Blundell’s cottage. Built in 1860, it’s one of the few remaining stone buildings in Canberra. Being 150 years old, and heritage listed, Blundell’s cottage isn’t easily accessible. Visitors need to be able to climb up to three steps with no fixtures (handrails).
  2. Boundless. Boundless is a playground designed to remove barriers to play. Children with and without disabilities can play in the same space, on the same equipment. It specifically caters for children and young people with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments, as well as children with spectrum disorders.

Do note, the nearby parking is often full, and you end up a little further out than expected.

National Museum

Route 81 stops reasonably close to National Museum – but cars park closer.

In 2015 the Museum was jointly awarded the ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Award for ensuring all audiences are able to engage with the Museum.

As standard practice the Museum has:

  • Complete wheelchair access
  • Wheelchair hire (book ahead!)
  • Hearing loops for guided tours
  • Hearing induction loops in theatres and Information desk
  • Large print and tactile guides available for loan

The Museum’s access team are also really lovely!

Arboretum

The bus stops closer than cars!

The top tier of parking is reserved for access parking. From here, it’s paved paths to the Village Centre. Inside, you will find aesthetic architecture, sprawling views, a café, a restaurant, and the Curatoreum gift shop.

From the Village Centre there is access to: the Margaret Whitlam Pavilion; the National Bonsai collection; Penjin collection; Pod Playgroud; and Canberra Discovery Garden. Beyond this, I find accessibility good, but not excellent.

Facilities in the Village Centre do not currently cater to visitors with vision or hearing impairments. There are, for example, no sound loops.

There are free car parks at two points within the grounds – the Himalayan Cedar Forest and Dairy Farmers Hill. Both have graded gravel paths to follow. I have difficulty traversing here on foot due to the loose terrain.

What else?

Get off the Tourist Loop on King Edwards Terrace, to see my most loved Canberra destinations:

  • Questacon
  • The National Library
  • The National Gallery of Australia
  • The National Portrait Gallery

These institutions all have exemplary access and engagement options.

For me, these are the ‘can’t miss’ stops.

Disappointingly, the bus route presumes you’ll walk between these buildings, so take a look at the Green Rapid run to stop closer. I always take my car.

Of course there’s so much more to see in Canberra, but the places here are ‘iconic’ options that I don’t grow tired of – even as a local.

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