Julie Jones is the brains behind Have Wheelchair Will Travel, a family travel blog which features tips and tricks on accessible travel. Julie and her family stayed as guests of Reflections Holiday Parks.
You may think the Big Banana is simply a place to stop for a quick photo opportunity but on a recent visit to Coffs Harbour we found there’s plenty to appeal to kids, and big kids at heart. When AJ was younger she had a book which listed all the ‘big’ things around Australia and she was on a mission to mark off as many as possible. We managed to tick off the Big Merino, Big Pelican, Big potato, Big Prawn, Big Pineapple, Big Bull and many more. The Big Banana is the only ‘big’ attraction we’ve visited more than once and that’s because of the many activities on offer.
Travel certainly opens up the kids’ appetites, with morning tea and lunch on their minds seemingly the moment breakfast is finished.
We made our way through the wheelchair accessible interior of the banana to the café. Sitting down we scanned the meals of the families around us and although we spied hearty hamburgers, fish & chips and wraps the kids settled on banana pancakes. I agreed it would be a travesty not to eat something with banana when dining at the famous location.
The pancakes received a thumbs up and fuelled everyone for the afternoon’s activities. While in the café, make sure you buy some bananas freshly picked from the plantation. I enjoyed mine on my cereal each day.
BJ is a fan of toboggan rides and due to his need for assistance is allowed to double on the ride despite his age and height. As soon as we told him about the ride he was keen to get moving. Lucky Hubby had eaten a good lunch because access to the toboggan ride provided quite the workout. Although there’s ramp access, it’s super steep.
AJ volunteered to hold BJ’s place in the queue so Hubby could do the run up the ramp in one go. The ramp was too steep for us to queue with the wheelchair comfortably. The effort was all worthwhile to see the joy on BJ’s face. He absolutely beamed as he descended the run and was ready for another round.
Not all ice rinks allow wheelchairs on the ice so we always enquire ahead of a visit to avoid disappointment. Given AJ does weekly skating lessons, BJ suffers from ice skating envy. AJ is always keen to have the opportunity to share her love of the sport with him so when we discovered wheelchairs are allowed on the ice at The Big Banana, AJ was quick to pack her skates for the trip. Both kids gleefully anticipated the visit and watching them enjoy their time had Hubby and I filled with joy. It’s lovely watching them share an activity without one of us assisting.
ACCESS AT THE RINK
Activities at The Big Banana are spread out over the property and although you can walk between them, I suggest driving to the ice rink for easy access. Accessible parking is at the door and ramp access is available to the rink once inside.
The rink offers step-free access to the ice and BJ’s wheelchair cleared the width of the entry with room to spare.
A stand-alone accessible bathroom is available in the ice rink.
We walked BJ a short distance to get the photo above but if you’re are a wheelchair user, the best place we found accessible for a photo was on the roadside in front of the banana. A little naughty but there’s a pull in bay with a loading zone to the left of The Big Banana (as you look at it) which we used. The rest of the area in front of The Big Banana is no stopping and no doubt the loading zone is not ideal but it’s the only place to stop for the classic tourist shot.
Accessible parking bays are available in the car park close to the entrance to the café, shop and The Big Banana itself.
The café is wheelchair accessible and if you don’t have time for a sit down lunch there’s wraps and sandwiches available to takeaway.
A stand-alone unisex accessible bathroom is located near the café.
Although there’s ramp access to the toboggan ride, it’s steep. I would suggest families with young children in a wheelchair may manage but it’s inaccessible to the majority of wheelchair users.
Wheelchairs can go on the ice at the ice rink. Penguin skate aides are available as supports for young children at an additional cost. Many adults use the basic frames to help with balance.
We had an enjoyable visit at The Big Banana which was made extra special seeing the joy on BJ’s face on the toboggan and the united fun the kids had at the ice rink.
We visited The Big Banana as guests, enjoying complimentary ice skating and toboggan rides. Our delicious pancakes were at our own cost.