Ambleside Distillers: a taste of accessible tourism in the Adelaide Hills

Ambleside Distillers has made continuous improvements to its venue to ensure accessibility.

Ambleside Distillers is a small-batch gin-maker that’s big-spirited. The doors to its Adelaide Hills premises are open to as many visitors as possible. Accessibility is a vital ingredient.

At its 2016 launch, the Ambleside tasting room in Hahndorf had smooth concrete floors and ample space between tables. There were vehicle spaces near the door for disability parking permit holders. From the start, a smooth brick path led to the nearby entrance.

However, for Ambleside’s owners and staff, accessibility is a journey not a destination. They have continued to make improvements. Along the way, the Austrade-led Accessible Tourism Mentoring Pilot Project has helped the distillery assess its progress. Ambleside is now an accessible tourism champion as a result.

Baked in from the start

Matt Dickson, who owns the South Australian distillery with parents Trudy and Steve, is a former builder. ‘He is a stickler for safety and accessibility,’ says Bella Ventrice, Ambleside’s head of creative and Matt’s partner. ‘He always considered accessibility heavily from the beginning.’

That’s not only because of building standards, says Ventrice. ‘It’s very important to allow everyone to be able to come and visit us.’

Mixing G&Ts with accessibility

South Australia’s population is older than that of any other mainland state. (Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, National, state and territory population, September 2023.)

While Saturdays bring a youthful crowd to Ambleside, Ventrice says the general audience is mixed. The tasting room is open Thursdays to Mondays for gin tasting, cocktails and light snacks. The distillery also gives masterclasses in gin blending and cocktail mixing.

On many days, Ventrice says, the business caters to an older market. By its nature, the Ambleside distillery experience is not just accessible but also inclusive.

‘Most of our offerings – tasting flights and masterclasses – are very hands-on,’ says Ventrice. ‘We try to make sure no-one comes into our venue and feels they’re alone.’

The distillery also hosts functions and weddings. With different generations attending, ‘a wedding has to be accessible,’ says Ventrice.

An elderly woman with her back to the camera walks up a path to the entrance of Ambleside Distillers.

Ambleside Distillers designed its tasting room for accessibility from the start and has continued to raise the standard since.

Expansion a chance for improvements

In late 2021, Ambleside Distillers renovated and added to its interior. It enlarged its tasting room to 80 seats and installed 2 new Australian-made stills. Customers now overlook a 970-litre gin still that sits behind fireproof glass. Beside it is a 1,250-litre whisky still, as Ambleside diversifies.

At the same time, the business installed an automatic sliding door for better accessibility. It erected a side gate. This was to control entry to the rear of the property ahead of landscaping work. It also installed accessible toilet facilities, adding braille signage.

Accessibility assessment

Ambleside was among the 11 accessible tourism champions in the national Accessible Tourism Mentoring Pilot Project. During the project in 2021–22, the business also audited its accessibility.

Austrade partnered with state and territory tourism agencies to fund and progress the project delivered by Push Adventures. The project helped Ambleside to confirm it had created an inviting and accessible space. It was a positive process for staff to know they work at an inclusive business.

Behind the scenes

Ambleside Distillers has now streamlined its tasting room for accessibility. The decking and tables behind it are on the same level. However, the land at the rear slopes down to a creek and is bumpy.

Ambleside often uses this part of the property for events. Having erected fencing for safety, the distillery plans a path down to the backyard. It also intends to flatten out the yard.

‘We want to put sand down there and grow grass over that,’ says Ventrice. ‘We want a flatter, accessible and comfortable space for people to sit out in summer.’


Ambleside Distillers is also one of a group of Hahndorf businesses talking to the local council about public footpaths and road crossings. A popular tourist town, Hahndorf often faces congestion. Different solutions have gone back and forth. Ambleside Distillers is part of the community hoping to see improvements for pedestrians soon.

Ventrice says: ‘There’s nothing more important than making sure that anyone who enters your venue is comfortable and there’s a place for them.’ However, she’s also conscious of the wider role Ambleside Distillers plays. ‘A massive part of our business is how to bring things to our community.’

Learn more

Supporting visitors with disability can give your business access to a growing market.

In the June quarter 2023 alone, Austrade's Tourism Research Australai estimates people with accessibility needs and people who travelled with them spent $6.8 billion on domestic travel. This equals to 21% of total domestic tourism spend in that quarter.

Accessibility is a key focus of THRIVE 2030, Australia’s national strategy for the long-term sustainable growth of the visitor economy.

Growing the visitor economy

THRIVE 2030 is Australia’s national strategy for the long-term, sustainable growth of the visitor economy.