10 Holiday Experiences in Sunshine State for Travellers Living with a Neurological or Sensory Disability

Australia Zoo | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Australia Zoo | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, around 23% of Australians living with disability identify their main disability as mental or behavioural. While Hidden Disabilities programs at major Queensland airports help travellers arrive with confidence, there’s so much to explore across the state after touching down. 

From wildlife sanctuaries and calming animal experiences to world-class museums and galleries, performance spaces, and theme parks delivering sensory-specific programs, these Queensland experiences are ready to welcome travellers with neurological or sensory support needs for a fun-filled holiday.

Be a zoo keeper for a day at Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast
Budding wildlife warriors can experience life as a ranger for the day with Australia Zoo’s Khaki Sensory Program. Specifically designed for those aged seven years and older who have autism or special needs, participants spend the day encountering animals with all their senses, from scaly snakes to spiny echidnas, fluffy koalas, and feathery native birds. 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Australian Age of Dinosaurs | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Step back in time to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, Outback Queensland
Follow Outback Queensland’s Dinosaur Trail and explore the largest collection of dinosaur fossils in the country at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs. Autistic and neurodiverse visitors can access a downloadable visual story to help prepare for museum spaces that may have bright lights, smells, sounds, or things to touch. The museum also offers large print and tactile guides and a free audio guide. 

Cairns Aquarium | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Cairns Aquarium | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Deep dive at Cairns Aquarium, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef
Get up close with Queensland’s magnificent marine life in a comfortable and soothing environment at Cairns Aquarium. For a more immersive experience, visitors can participate in a ‘Marine Life Encounter’ which includes feeding Cownose Stingrays and a stop at the turtle hospital. Fancy getting in before the crowds? Book an ‘Aquarium by Sunrise’ experience, a two-hour guided tour with a wildlife educator held before opening hours. 

Whalesong Cruises | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland
Whalesong Cruises | Image: Tourism and Events Queensland

Be Crew for a Day with Whalesong Cruises, Fraser Coast
NDIS participants and their carers are invited on board Hervey Bay’s Whalesong Cruises to become ‘Crew for a Day’ - a unique adventure program that empowers people living with disability to get hands-on and become part of the team. From tying ropes and securing the gate to interacting with guests on board, guests learn how to be a crew member while enjoying a day of whale watching at the same time. 

Spark curiosity at Queensland Museum, Brisbane
The Queensland Museum explores natural history, science, and human achievement with exhibitions and interactive programs for all ages - and offers extra support to those with sensory needs. Prepare for a visit using specially designed social stories and a map that details high sensory spaces and pick up a sensory kit and noise-cancelling earphones on arrival. Designated sessions are available throughout the year to support visitors who prefer a quieter, sensory-friendly experience. 

Access art at QAGOMA, Brisbane
QAGOMA’s (Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art) award-winning[2] Art and Dementia Program is a participant-focused gallery experience designed for visitors living with dementia and their care partners. Slow art viewing of selected artworks incorporates specially curated visual, auditory, and narrative prompts that stimulate exploration and reflection, while a therapeutic creative activity invites relaxation and socialization, supports autonomy, and encourages meaningful engagement.

On selected days throughout the year, visitors living with autism and those with sensory sensitivities or disabilities are invited to experience the gallery in a relaxed environment, and where possible, outside of usual gallery hours. During these times, the gallery volumes are lowered or switched off, high sensory areas are signposted, quiet zones are available, and a sensory floor plan is developed to assist with the visit. 

Spend a thrilling day at Movie World, Gold Coast
Theme parks can quickly become overstimulating to those with sensory needs. Warner Bros Movie World offers parent swap and queue proxy services for those who aren’t able to queue for extended periods or have children unable to experience a particular ride or attraction and require supervision. A detailed sensory guide for each attraction is available online, so visitors can be confident when making decisions about where to go and what to do on the day. 

Enjoy relaxed performances at Brisbane Powerhouse, Brisbane 
Premier art space, Brisbane Powerhouse, offers designated ‘relaxed performances’ of major shows throughout the year, specially adapted to be accessible to a wide range of audiences who have autism, those with a learning disability, or anyone with a sensory predisposition. During the performance, house lights are dimmed to ensure a comfortable environment (not complete darkness). Patrons are welcome to exit and re-enter the theatre at any time as required and ushers will be available to assist. Audience members are also welcome to bring items such as earphones, ear plugs, fidget toys, and appropriate muted electronic devices into the theatre to enjoy the performance. 

Animal-assisted therapy, Brisbane and Gold Coast
Centered on capacity building and special needs education, Travena Glen Farm in Brisbane’s valley is an NDIS provider offering horse riding and calm animal interactions with alpacas, llamas, goats, pigs, rabbits, and more. The facilities are fully accessible for wheelchairs and mobility devices too. In the Gold Coast Hinterland, Mountview Alpaca Farm has developed an alpaca therapy program with tailored alpaca experiences for NDIS clients, aged care clients, and their carers/companions to enjoy a day outdoors. 

Access sensory support at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, The Whitsundays 
BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort offers a range of activities - from a water park to go-karts - that make it feel more like a family-friendly theme park rather than your average caravan park. The resort features five accessible rooms, plus the dedicated “Reilly Room” - a sensory support room available for guests with autism featuring a range of relaxation tools (hammocks, weighted blankets, projection lamps, calming music) and educational and play activities (tactile toys, sensory toy box, kinetic sand, play dough and craft). 

For more information on accessible Queensland holidays visit queensland.com/foreveryone


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