Activities Canterbury Region Our Travels

Hanmer Springs Hot Pools | Access with Wheelchair

Hanmer Springs is a great place to head for to relax and unwind. You can take in the popular thermal hot pools and spa, enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like fishing, jet-boating and rafting or maybe visit during the winter months to go skiing and snowboarding up in the mountains.

Now, my following accessibility photos don’t do this place justice, believe me it’s beautiful! Hanmer Springs is a 90-minute drive inland from Christchurch. It is surrounded by enormous redwood forests and mountains plus home to the popular Thermal Pools & Spa which is made up of lot’s of mineral-filled hot pools where you can sit, soak and relax. It also boasts a brilliant water park with waterslides and water features to keep the kids amused.

There is a cafe onsite called the Tea Kiosk Bar & Grill which has ramped access and plenty of room to enjoy a great menu.

I couldn’t wait to get our Finlay into a hot pool to soak his tired muscles and give him a break from his wheelchair. We had spent a few hours each day travelling from Auckland on our road trip down to Central Otago. A stop off in Hanmer was definitely on the agenda even if we were experiencing a rather cold, wet day. I always get a little guilty when Finlay has had little opportunity to have a break from his wheelchair. This was my moment to help him relax.

Mobility Parks & Reception

The mobility parking was fantastic! Plenty of them, right outside the reception. They are wide, flat and well maintained. We had no problem parking the car and getting out.

The reception was warm and welcoming with big glass sliding doors and friendly staff. It was busy even on a cold day with no problems with access. I even asked if I could enter the pools for free as I would be sole caregiver for Finlay and he needed my full support. They asked if I had such a thing as a Carer Card. I said “No, and that I didn’t think we had such a thing nationally in New Zealand.” Luckily she didn’t question further and allowed me in free of charge.

Changing Facilities

Changing facilities in general are always inadequate for our Finlay’s high needs. I always come away, as his caregiver, with a new strain from trying to change him safely and transfer him in and out of his wheelchair. The facilities here were no different.

Access Route to the Changing Facilities

I later discovered that we could have used the First Aid Room that was to the left of the Disabled Changing Room. I think if we’d known this we would have had a better experience. Although the room had no hoist, it did have a bed at a carer’s height. Finlay at the time was still liftable for me so this would have been a far better option.

First Aid, Family Changing Room

We used to consider the Family Changing Rooms and in Finlay’s younger years this would have been an option for us. The hard bench would be where I’d lay him down onto change. Now, however, this is not possible as it’s completely the wrong working height for me as a caregiver and hard as nails for anyone to lie on.

Bench and fold down baby changing table | Family Changing Room

Disability Changing Rooms

There are three disability changing rooms and two courtesy water wheelchairs.

The standard disability changing room never quite accommodates our needs as Finlay is unable to self-transfer. He is also unable to sustain his sitting posture, requiring a great deal of support in handling his athetoid movements.

I do recall looking at this changing room and wondering how even someone that was able to self-transfer went about changing in it. There was no dry area or hooks to put their clothes down on or a place to put a towel. The seat and floor was also wet from a previous user.

“I’d say it would take a lot of skill and practice!”

For us, it was a struggle, I was determined to get Finlay into the hot pools so although a strain physically for myself and an uncomfortable and undignified experience for Finlay we managed it!

The Pools

Wow, it was worth it

To feel Finlay’s high muscle tone and anxiety suddenly relax as his body hit the warm water it became a highlight to our day.

Again, the pool lifts served no purpose to us as our Finlay can’t sit safely and unsupported in the chair lifts on offer. It was another lift by myself, knowing too well that my days were getting numbered being able to facilitate transfers in this way.

One of two lift’s available to access the hot pools
Ramped access into this hot pool

If we’d unpacked the Hippocampe Beach and Pool Wheelchair this ramp would have been a lot easier to access. We did try the provided water wheelchair but this particular pool was smaller than others and not as easy for me to support him in the water.

Lift 2 into another hot pool

Accessibility Snapshot

  • Plenty of mobility parking directly in front
  • Wheelchair accessible around the Complex
  • Welcoming reception with wide double opening glass doors and no lip.
  • Courtesy wheelchair x 2
  • Two pools have chair lifts to access the pool
  • One pool has a ramped entry
  • Restaurant on the complex has a ramp 
  • Disabled Changing Room – 3 x large cubicles with fold down seat (noted no place to hang clothes when drying) – assistance is needed.
  • First Aid room is on offer with a changing bed if unable to use the ‘Disability Changing Room’.
  • Family Changing Room has a large bench and folds down infant bassinet.

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