A family adventure
Queensland's Gold Coast is a popular holiday choice for
New Zealand families - only a few hours from home and reasonably
affordable, with plenty of activities to occupy the whole family.
Emma Fahy shares the highlights of her week-long family
Ah, the family holiday! there's something invigorating about them,
despite inevitably coming home more tired than you were when you
left. My grandparents spend every winter on the Gold Coast, so each
year we head over and visit them for a week. This year my sister,
Claire, tagged along as well - she's an early childhood teacher so
the perfect companion for a family holiday. I always look forward
to it; even more so this year as we missed out last year as I was
busy having a baby. The girls were hyped up for days before we
left, and even one-year-old Chiara seemed to sense the building
excitement in the air.
We picked up the keys to our rental car at the
airport, and as we hit the highway headed up towards Palm Beach
with the windows down, the stereo blasting, and the sun shining, I
really started to relax.
We checked into our
apartment at Princess Palm on the Beach and I was immediately taken
by the stunning views. The warm weather helped to set the scene -
in fact, the average temperature while we were there was 22° (and
they call this winter!) and we didn't see a single drop of
One of the first things we always do when we arrive is venture down
to the beach to dip our toes in the water. It wasn't far to wander
- we stepped out of the basement of the apartment complex and
straight into the sand. The kids always enjoy building sandcastles,
and this year six-year-old Maya practiced writing everyone's names
in the sand with a stick. The rest of the day was spent finding our
bearings, catching up with the great grandparents and stocking our
holiday apartment with groceries. Then it was time for the real fun
Of all the theme parks we visited, the twins were most looking
forward to Dreamworld (www.dreamworld.com.au) - the lure of The
Wiggles Big Red Car had them chattering non-stop all the way there.
Dreamworld is huge, so we planned our day the night before to make
sure that we didn't miss out on anything.
Dreamworld has two areas dedicated to family fun
and adventure: Wiggles World for the youngest kiddies and
Nickelodeon Central for slightly older kiddies. Although most rides
in these two areas are suitable for children over one year of age,
children under four do need to be accompanied by an adult, so be
prepared to join in the fun!
We started our day at Wiggles World with the Big
Red Car ride and Dorothy's Rosy Tea Cup ride before
three-year-old twins Sienna and Mercedes completely exploded
with excitement, and then headed to Nickelodeon Central,
where Maya had her eye on the Runaway Reptar Rollercoaster - a
rollercoaster that's tame enough for kids, but wild enough for a
bit of a thrill. Even Chiara got in on the action with a ride on
the Backyardigans Mighty-Go-Round.
After lunch, we headed for Tiger Island to watch
the amazing tiger show., and then followed the path down to Koala
Country, which was the part of the day I was most looking forward
to. Where else in the world can you get so close to kangaroos that
you can feed them by hand, and see the baby joeys in their mothers'
pouches? Mercedes and Sienna were initially a little unsure, but
seeing Maya patting the kangaroos was enough to spur their
confidence, and we got some gorgeous video of them venturing closer
Sea World (www.seaworld.com.au) has long been my favourite of the
Gold Coast theme parks, and it didn't disappoint. We began with a
ride around the park on the Monorail - seeing all the attractions
and marine life from the sky definitely boosted our excitement
about the day ahead!
Our next stop was Sesame Street Beach, which is
a new attraction since we were last there. We arrived just in time
for the Sesame Street stage show, then took the girls on some
of the toddler-friendly rides. Most of these rides have no age
restriction, but children under 105cm in height need to be
accompanied by an adult, so again, be prepared for a hands-on
was spent exploring the park's marine life - the impressive Shark
encounter, the interactive dolphin show at Dolphin Cove and
finally, Maya's favourite, the polar bears. She could have stayed
for hours; she has been besotted with the polar bears since her
very first trip to Sea World when she was just two years old. We
were even able to go on a one-hour Polar Bear encounter, one of
many animal encounters on offer.
Warner Bros. Movie World
Movie World (www.movieworld.com.au) is a new experience for me. On
our recent trips we hadn't had time to check it out, so I was
looking forward to our day out. We arrived bright and early,
grabbed a map, and headed up Main Street, where the first thing
Claire spotted was Rick's Café Americain from her favourite movie,
Casablanca. We booked in for a buffet lunch there, then headed down
the street to the Kids' WB! Fun Zone.
We ended up spending most of the day here
(breaking for a yummy lunch at Rick's, of course), as this is where
the fun is at for young kids. Most of the rides are designed for
under 5's, some require an accompanying adult, but others allow
them go solo - Mercedes thought she was the queen of the road
driving one of Taz's Hollywood Cars all by herself.
Later in the afternoon, we watched the Main
Street Parade, took in the Shrek 4D show and then Maya and Claire
went on a couple of the "big kid" rides while the younger children
and I ate ice cream. On the way home, Maya told me Movie World was
her favourite of the three parks we visited - no comment from the
twins, who were both fast asleep in the backseat!
Other things to do
As a popular tourist destination, the Gold Coast has something for
everyone, so if the thought of back-to-back theme parks doesn't do
it for you, try:
* A wildlife experience - Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
(www.currumbin-sanctuary.org.au) is famous for its birdlife.
* Go shopping! I love Trade Secret (www.tradesecret.com.au) for
designer bargains, while Pacifc Fair (www.pacifcfair.com.au) is the
ultimate mall experience.
* Dinner with a difference - Dracula's Cabaret restaurant
(www.draculas.com.au) is a great night out, or try an Outback
Spectacular (www.outbackspectacular.myfun.com.au) dinner and
* Head out on the water - take a pleasure cruise, or try a spot of
whale or dolphin watching (www.whalesinparadise.com.au).
When I was planning our trip, my editor, Katherine, told me to be
sure to include some me-time amidst the theme park chaos. I'm not
really one for massages and facials, but I did spend some time
pampering myself with some gorgeous organic skincare and hair
products that I normally wouldn't have time for. Not only did it
mean that I came home with a real holiday glow, I was able to bring
the products home too so I can have a little bit of the tropics in
my shower every morning. I also took advantage of the balmy
evenings to sit on the balcony of our apartment, overlooking the
sea and the sunset with a book or three. Bliss!
All good things must come to an end
Why is it that holiday time always seems to pass twice as quickly
as work time? Our holiday came to an end before we even had a
chance to catch our breath. I'd love to say I spent the time on the
flight home reflecting on the fun we had, but I'd be lying -
fying solo with four children doesn't offer much free time for
reflection! That said, full credit to the team at Pacifc Blue who
went above and beyond to ensure we had a stress-free flight.
Touching down safely at home is always a good
feeling: the girls were pleased to see their Dad after a week away
and we have plenty of brilliant photos of our adventure to show
him. Maybe next year, we'll even be able to convince him to come
Emma Fahy is the former editor of the OHbaby! website, and Mum
to four girls: Maya Grace (6), Sienna and Mercedes (3), and Chiara
(1). She has nostalgic memories of being able to sleep in on
vacation, but says holidaying with her children is almost as much
www.Shutterstock.com; www.myfun.com.au; Emma
As seen in OHbaby!
magazine Issue 7: 2009
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