We were off to explore the beautiful Coromandel before the kids headed back to school. And looking forward to testing out our new wheelchair accessible van. We packed the van up with a borrowed Molift Hoist to lift our Finlay, his customised shower commode, sleep system, the battery chargers to charge everything and his all-terrain Hippocampe Wheelchair. We also packed his mic-key button feeds, medical supplies and personal care products. We were set! Myself, three kids, four suitcases and one powerchair.
“Packing for a family can be a mission in itself, but having to factor all the extra equipment needed for a teenager with additional needs can be a real challenge”
The drive took us approximately 2.5 hours to Cooks Beach from Auckland. It was a beautiful drive following the coastal road up with all its fishing spots, mussel farms and beautiful beaches to take in.
We arrived at Flaxmill Accommodation & Venue, a picture-perfect ‘holiday park’ boasting two charming three-bedroom, single-level chalets. Parking was only 20-metres away with a gently sloping ramp up to an awesome deck. The deck is equipped with a barbecue, set of comfortable high-backed deck chairs and a picnic bench out front. The deck enjoys the all-day sun because of its north-facing aspect. I could already visualise myself relaxing here with a refreshing drink in hand.
The main entrance welcomes you into the living area with a wide glass sliding door and lip-free access. The whole accessible route in made unpacking and moving in a breeze. Large sliding windows in many of the rooms open right-back to allow the outdoors and natural light to filter in.
Comfy white leather couches, bean bags, Freeview TV and good WiFi will keep everyone happily entertained.
Our typical ‘soon to be’ teenager made herself immediately comfortable.
Although we didn’t get a photo of Finlay at the glass dining table, we can vouch for his powerchair fitting under without a problem.
It’s seldom I review a kitchen and feel that it’s accessible for all users. This kitchen is well designed with microwave, sink, cupboards, drawers, stovetop, oven, washing machine and bins all accessible for everyone. It also provided plenty of room for Finlay’s powerchair to circulate in with other family members.
“He absolutely loved the inclusiveness this chalet gave him”
This kitchen is well-equipped and has everything you need to prepare and cook just about anything. We were very impressed with the standard provided. We really didn’t have to pack a thing … just the groceries!
Accessible Bathroom with Roll-In Shower
The entry into the bathroom is via a hinged door that opens out into the thoroughfare. We did feel that a sliding door would have been a great alternative. Although space was compact, I managed fine on my own with our Finlay. From a caregiving perspective, we could always do with a little more room to work with. However, a wheelchair user who can self-transfer will probably find that this bathroom ticks a lot of boxes. It has plenty of space for self-transfers and grab rails in all the right places. The shower curtain can also be pulled around to protect items from getting wet.
The sink, mirror, soap, and towels are accessible from a wheelchair. The lever taps are easy to reach and use. The toilet has been slightly raised to make it easier for the user to transfer on and off. We also noted the bin was easy to dispose of items in. This little touch is something providers don’t always think about.
Because of Finlay’s postural challenges we travel with his customised shower commode. However, this roll-in shower does have a good-sized fold-down bench seat.
Having space to perform hoist transfers is beginning to feature high on our list of access needs. In a perfect world, the accessible bathrooms would be large enough to enable a hoisting transfer and change to occur inside them. This bathroom was fine for us but I did need to perform the transfers outside of the space.
Master Bedroom with Ensuite
I claimed this room quick as a flash as it really was beautifully decorated and spacious. For the size, it would have better suited our Finlay. The super king bed is comfy and luxurious, it has a sizeable walk-in wardrobe and has its own entry through glass sliding french doors opening onto the deck.
From the bed, it is possible to operate the main bedroom lights as well as the bedside lamps. The clearance under all the beds in the chalet didn’t accommodate the legs of our hoist. So, in future, we will be investing in some bed raisers to help us with that issue.
The ensuite bathroom is not wheelchair accessible but very clean and well equipped. I particularly enjoyed the novelty of having two sinks.
The walk-in wardrobe was a good size and a great place to store the hoist.
Bedroom Super King
Yes, I probably should have given Finlay the Master Bedroom for its space, but we used this room instead. To create the space for his powerchair we had to move the bed against the wall for transfers. If the clearance under the bed was sufficient for the hoist we could have left the powerchair outside the room. Transferring Finlay manually from his chair to the bed in the confined space wasn’t without physical effort on my part. Next time I will definitely be bringing some bed raisers.
A wheelchair user who can self-transfer will find this room absolutely fine after moving the bed over to the wall. As with the master bedroom, the main lights and the bedside lamps can be operated from the bed.
This room is compact, but all the furniture is moveable if needing to re-arrange the space.
All three bedrooms have great wardrobe storage for suitcases.
Your own carpark is available on hard-packed gravel terrain with gently sloping ramp up to deck and entry into the chalet.
Wherever we stay our Finlay is always busting to get out and explore. Therefore it pays for us to have some great accessible places right on the doorstep to venture out to. The following photographs are of places we could wheel to right from the accommodation.
“Just across the road is a beautiful beach”
There are well-maintained paths on the coastal side of the main road that gives access to the beachfront.
This bridge took us to several bush tracks that lead to the Shakespeare Cliff Lookout.
We followed the track to see if we could make it to the signposted lookout.
The track took us quite a fair distance before we hit the steps!
Never mind we were expecting to come across our usual ‘steps’ barrier. Our walk was fun though, and if we’d been in our all-terrain wheelchair we could have returned back via the beach.
On our return, we explored some other trails before heading back for some tea.
Walking and wheeling distance up the road, you will find the local Eggsentric Café & Restaurant which provides wheelchair access. We found it easier to come in from the main road and front entrance. Parking can be found behind the café where a quirky outdoor garden. There is a steepish ramp that can take you inside if you choose to. They often have live music here and there is definitely a local creative vibe about the place.
The Ferry Landing is literally a 5-minute drive up the road and will take you right over the estuary to Whitianga in a matter of minutes. This ferry is wheelchair accessible but we were hesitant to use it with our son’s powerchair as there was a gap between wharf and ferry. The staff were adamant that they could get any chair onboard and had managed it on countless trips. With a simple fold-up portable ramp it would have solved any issues we had.
Depending on tide this gap might become easier to negotiate, but I would only attempt this with a portable ramp.
Once onboard the ferry access is fairly good.
We didn’t see anyone manning this ticket office but tickets can be purchased onboard.
There is only one mobility park down by the wharf. This was off-peak and already the carpark was full. There are overflow carparks further up the road.
How about a visit to Hot Water Beach!
If you a fancy a visit to the famous Hot Water Beach we did it! It is literally a 10-minute drive down the road.
Read all about our experience here!
More information on Flaxmill Accommodation
Flaxmill is owned by a New Zealand-based charitable foundation called Big Toe Foundation (BFT). As part of their philanthropic activities, they offer a 50% discount off their equivalent rack rate from 1st April through to mid-December during off-peak times. You can find out more here.
A unique part of this accessible accommodation is simply its own website! You have the ability to book the accessible chalets from it yourself. It also supplies images of the accommodation, plans and lists access features with measurements. The website even goes the extra mile to inform you about accessible activities you can do during your stay!
Check out their very welcoming and helpful website by visiting here.