April, 2010

Apr 10

Paradise Afloat – Houseboating on the Hawkesbury River

When an old mate from university contacted me and said he wanted to get a group together for a boys’ fishing weekend on a houseboat on the  Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, my immediate reaction was to politely say ‘no thanks’. When he further informed me that he’d found an accessible houseboat, I was alarmed. Most non-wheelies definition of accessible is very different to my needs. I asked him a few questions, and when his response was ‘don’t fret; you’re not heavy, you’re our brother’ I said ‘ok, I’m in’ and decided to figure out the practicalities later.

I need not have worried. Paradise Afloat Houseboats, based at Lower Portland in the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury, are the first operator to focus on the needs of wheelchair-users in a houseboating environment. Their two houseboats are specifically designed and built around the needs of people with disabilities. They offer:

  • Larger hallways and doorways
  • Spacious outdoor decking areas with safety rails
  • Wheelchair-friendly layout in bathrooms and bedrooms
  • Purpose-built accessibility to kitchen & dining facilities
  • Wheelchair-friendly helm & controls so you can be Captain of your own ship

Our trusty vessel

I found most of these facilities excellent. My only complaints were that the rails in the shower were insufficient, but as this was a boys’ weekend on the river, hygiene was not high on anyone’s priorities. If we’d stayed longer, I’d have needed help to use the shower. As well, the access to the kitchen is not great, with limited circulation space and high benches. But all things considered, they have done their boats extremely well. I was also impressed with the way Kellianne (one of our hosts) responded to my constant emailed questions, and sent photos and full answers, not just perfunctory replies. That matters.

Their entire establishment at Lower Portland is also wheelchair-friendly with access ramps to all areas, restroom facilities and the licensed Paradise Café & Pizzeria (which also serves excellent chili prawns).

The crew

So for two-and-a-half days we fished, played cards, told stories, relived Glory Days, relaxed and cruised the beautiful Hawkesbury. It’s too easy to forget how relaxed you can feel in the company of friends you’ve known most of your life. While the bounty from the sea was minimal, the bounty in terms of enjoyment was plentiful.

We’ll definitely do it again, next year and hopefully every year until we are old and grey (or is that older and greyer?).

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