Thinking about a mid-year getaway for your family? OHbaby! Managing Director Angela Pedersen gives her verdict on the Gold Coast as a destination for creating happy memories.
Our friends thought we were mad. And I admit, I also questioned if our plan to take three kids under six to the Gold Coast theme parks, and return brighteyed and bushy tailed was just little naive. But we pulled it off! Our holiday started off so nicely, thanks to a friendly customs officer at Gold Coast Airport who told us about the fun parks, pricing and range of passes. We stayed at the wonderful Paradise Resort. They call it, "heaven for kids - paradise for parents", and I agree! This place is perfectly set up for families with prams, boogie boards and PlayStations for hire. At Sinbad's buffet restaurant the kids can eat for as little as AU$8. We certainly found the resort's convenience store lived up to its name, especially when we ran out of baby supplies. And that's not to mention the four pools, amazing adventure playground and the Zone4Kids kids' club where the children were taken care of while hubby and I got to kick back and relax. It was the perfect base for our four-day visit where we fully immersed ourselves in the Gold Coast experience, visiting the big theme parks - Sea World, Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. We also took time out to visit several fantastic playgrounds dotted along the coastline. (Go to www.VisitGoldCoast.com for more) Our goal was to have a holiday we'd long remember as a highlight of our children's early years and we did. All it took was some careful planning.
secrets to our success:
-The first and most important secret was to be flexible. This trip was about the children and us having a great time together and the more we saw our children having fun the happier we were! That's not to say we didn't have tantrums or whiny moments, but we would have had them at home too.
-Stick to your NZ body clock - as sad as it sounds, 4-5am was our usual wake-up time in Australia. On the New Zealand clock though the kids were waking up at a reasonable time, and in fact actually sleeping in a little. The trick was to make sure we went to bed early (7.30-8pm) so we all had a good eight-hour sleep. We had breakfast as part of our package and the restaurant opened at 6.30am so we got the children up, bathed and dressed, then let them watch a bit of kids' television until breakfast was served. It kept us occupied and ready to face the day. The kids were usually hungry as soon as they woke up so we fed them some crackers bought from the convenience store to stave off their hunger until the restaurant opened.
- Stay hydrated. While the theme parks ban bringing food and drinks on site, they were selling sipper bottles with cheap refills that you can use across their chain of theme parks.
- Take spare underwear, nappies, wipes and sunscreen in your day packs.
- When you arrive at the theme park, take the map of the park and circle all the restrooms. You'll want to know where they are - and fast!
- Map it out. Before we left for our trip I looked up all our destinations on Google Maps. It gave me a good perspective on the locations where we were heading, including the airport. I put markers on each place we planned to visit, took a screen shot of the full area, then small screen shots of each destination including its address and pasted them on one sheet of paper that we took everywhere. We used that to enter our destination address into the hire car's GPS system. Hiring a car was great as it meant we didn't have to arrange our schedules around public transport and, if we needed to leave because the kids had reached the end of their tether, we could.
- We hired a pram from the resort for our 20-month-old. This was great because he was able to have his nap in the pram while the older two were having fun on rides he would have been too young for, so he didn't know what he was missing!
Cost: Family (two adults, two children) AU$99.
For more: www.cws.org.au
Our first port-of-call from the airport was Currumbin Wildlife sanctuary which was en route to Paradise Resort. We walked around viewing a range of native animals, birds, flora and fauna and the kids loved the chance to touch and feed kangaroos. There was a great playground and flying fox that the kids really enjoyed.
Highlight: You can pay to have your photo taken with a koala. Although, as you can see in the photo over the page, our eldest, Ella, wasn't too impressed that she was only allowed to touch the koala and not actually hug it (understandably!).
Top tip: Hop aboard the train when you first arrive so you get a good sense of the layout of the park and can identify what animals you want to visit on foot.
Cost: Adults AU$74.99, children (aged three to 13), AU$49.99
Go to: seaworld.myfun.com.au
Sea World was wonderful, my three-yearold Eva is still telling people how she saw the "bickie monster" (aka cookie monster) in the Sesame Street zone. The magic of Sea World is the animals and natural beauty. You can get up close to dolphins, polar bears, stingrays, sharks, penguins, sea lions and pelicans.
Highlights: The stand-out show was the Imagine Dolphin show - such beautiful creatures doing such amazing acrobatics!
Top tip: Hit the furthest away activities first. There's a lot of walking.
Cost: One-day Family & Friends World Pass between Dreamworld and WhiteWater World (two adults and two children aged three to 13) AU$265. Q4U AU$10 plus $7.50 per user fee
Go to: www.dreamworld.com.au
From the moment you walk through the gates you're in the middle of a bustling town full of colourful buildings and tempting shops. Our girls were besotted with the fairytale treasures shop. There is no shortage of amusement rides the little ones can enjoy. Ours loved the SpongeBob Fly Pants ride, and driving in The Big Red Car in Wiggles World.
Highlights: Dreamworld has thought of some very clever ways to cater for families. From the "Q4U" scheme where you can book rides in advance so you don't have to wait in a long line with grouchy children. Then there's Parent Swap where you get to the front of the line for one of the Big Six thrill rides, tell the staff you'd like to do a parent swap, and at the end of your ride swap parenting duties and your partner is fast-tracked to the front of the queue for his turn.
Top tip: Dedicate a whole day to ensure you get the full Dreamworld experience.
Go to www.whitewaterworld.com.au
At WhiteWater World I stayed in Wiggles Bay with our two youngest while my husband Royce took Ella off on adventures around the Nickelodeon Pipeline plunge which had lots of fun slides, and a big water bucket that drenched the unsuspecting people below.
Highlights: Wiggle Bay was great for the young ones. There were Wiggles characters spraying water, and water slides of varying sizes. Parents need to wait at the bottom of the slides to catch their little ones but there are also lifeguards on duty.
Top tip: Dress yourself and the kids in your togs before you go. Once they see the water, the kids will want to dive straight in!