Making memories on the Gold Coast
For a family holiday filled with fun, thrills and water play, Angela Pedersen headed across to the Gold Coast and spent five days making memories.
Each year I ask my kids about their favourite memories of the past 12 months, and they always agree that our family holidays were the highlights. They’ll remember other things, but their stand-out memories are the times we went away and spent time together, without the distractions of cellphones or TV. This year’s trip to Australia’s Gold Coast is one of those memories that will be etched in our hearts forever.
There are many reasons the Gold Coast is a great destination for families with children of any age: the beautiful beaches, the balmy temperatures, the numerous theme parks, the almost-synchronised time zone and the short flight over the ditch are just some of them.
Our choice of accommodation really made our stay on the Gold Coast fabulous, and from the moment we stepped into the gorgeous marble-lined lobby of the newly opened 4.5-star Ruby Collection Resort, I was a very happy lady! The Ruby Collection is the first luxury apartment tower of four, and owned by Paradise Resort in Surfers Paradise. The Ruby Collection’s signature fragrance reminded me of my stay in the Crown Metropol in Melbourne, and I appreciated touches such as the beautifully curated artwork (up out of kids’ reach), the lobby lounge, the ‘pantry’ store (for those small must-have things you can’t be bothered going to a supermarket for) and the café, all designed with both the practical and aesthetic needs of guests in mind.
Checking in was an easy DIY process, and there was a lovely ambassador ready and waiting to help should my computer skills not quite be up to scratch. We had booked a three-bedroom ocean view apartment on the 24th floor – and it was stunning! We were gobsmacked by the view from the moment we opened the door, and from every room we could see the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the city below which lit up like a Christmas tree at night.
I have struggled in the past to find hotel accommodation to suit our family of five, but this apartment was generously spacious. It offered the perfect combination of luxury hotel services, such as digital concierge and daily cleaning, with the convenience of an apartment. The well-set-up kitchen means you can take a break from restaurants and dine in.
We enjoyed our breakfasts downstairs in Stones restaurant. The range of food for the continental breakfast was stunning. Here’s a helpful tip: it opens at 6am, which was fantastic for our slightly time-zone-confused bodies! The kids were in the Ruby Collection pool by 7.30am, having fun at the water park (situated on the Paradise Resort site and shared by both) while we waited for the theme parks to open. During our five-night stay we covered the top five theme parks here: Dreamworld, Sea World (my fave), Movie World, Wet’n’Wild and Sky Point, and also managed to fit in some shopping at Harbourtown, the outlet shopping mall.
A DREAM HOLIDAY
We had planned to spend the first day at Sea World, but my eldest was feeling a bit under the weather so we stayed at our apartment instead. Hubby and the kids spent most of the day in the water, going between the water park and the beautiful pool, and having lunch at the Terrace Café. It ended up being the perfect way to ease into our holiday; rested and adjusted, we were ready to take on Dreamworld the next day.
Dreamworld is a great theme park with rides that suit all ages from two years. We thought the Wiggles World zone and Shrek zone had the best rides for under fives, including the Big Red Car, the Big Red Boat, Dorothy’s Tea Cups, Shrek’s Ogre-Go-Round and even a mini ‘Big Drop’. Not far from Wiggles World are the Wildlife and Corroboree experiences, where you can view more than 500 animals and feed the kangaroos. There was also a spectacular tiger presentation several times a day, which is well worth planning your visit around. The rides our kiddos liked most were the Tower of Terror, the Motocoaster, The Claw and Pandemonium.
From a practical perspective, there were plenty of places to eat and many different types of food around the park to suit all tastes. Also, restrooms were always nearby, which is useful for parents to know! Allow a whole day for Dreamworld, because the site is quite large, and taking your time will allow you to enjoy the full experience – and exhaust the kids!
We spent day three at Movie World – brilliant fun and probably our most memorable experience of the holiday. You walk in and are welcomed into an amazing atmosphere: fun music, enormous roller coasters and the gorgeous Main Street on your right. We took Main Street first, and found ourselves in the Western area, so decided to jump on the log flume ride. That day the weather was overcast but rain didn’t seem imminent. We boarded the ride under cover and could feel a slight drizzle as we came out from the covered area. Suddenly, BOOM! Torrential rain hit us like a flood. We were sitting ducks – very wet sitting ducks – with no option but to ride it out. Honestly, if I had jumped out of the boat into the water, I would not have been wetter! We all had a great laugh about it and appreciated the fact that we had cooled down, but we were literally wringing our clothes out afterward.
Not so coincidentally, opposite the exit of the log flume is a drying machine – imagine a blow-dryer for your whole body. It costs $5, but after watching another family use it and transition from ‘drowned rat’ to ‘slightly damp’, we decided to cough up a fiver. It worked well, but here’s a tip for my more frugal friends: the hand dryers in the toilets do a pretty good job of getting the excess moisture out too.
There are several levels of roller coaster at Movie World, rated by scare factor. Fortunately for me, my eldest wasn’t so keen, so I had to sacrificially bow out sometimes and stay with her, so as to be sure the rest of the family didn’t miss out (that’s my story and I’m sticking with it). The only rollercoaster they didn’t go on was the jaw-dropping DC Rivals Hypercoaster (no, thank you!)
There is plenty of fun to be had for the little kids too, be it having a photo with a range of cartoon characters (including Tweety and Sylvester), riding the dodgems, attending junior driving school, taking the Yosemite Sam railroad train ride, a splash zone and so much more. The range of activities to suit all ages is perfect.
After we left Movie World, we zoomed back to the resort for a quick change of clothes, then went to dinner at the top of Sky Point on level 77 of the Q1 Building in Surfers Paradise. The 360° views were amazing, and we went at the perfect time to watch the sun set and the lights of the city come alive. The food was great, with a menu to suit both kids and adults, and it was quite a special dinner.
WETTER AND WILDER
Day four was the one my hubby was most excited about – the Wet’n’Wild water park. There are 15 different attractions at Wet’n’Wild, catering for all ages. There’s also a Wet’n’Wild Junior Zone, with mini versions of the bigger rides, small shallow pools and splash zones. We had a blast there, enjoying rides such as the Mammoth Falls, the Constrictor, the Aqua Racer and playing in the giant wave pool. And here’s another useful tip: when getting
refreshments you can buy a giant drink cup at Wet’n’Wild which you can also take and use at its sister park, Sea World, and the refills are cheap! We stashed our gear in the lockers available for hire, but noticed that many people just picked a seat under an umbrella and left their stuff there.
We were ready to leave Wet’n’Wild at about 2pm, which allowed us to spend a couple of hours at Harbourtown’s outlet shopping mall. The few shops we did manage to get to were great, and we were fortunate to be there on Black Friday – read discounts on already discounted products! We could easily have spent much more time there but it closed at 5pm and we had other plans for the week. If you like shopping, allow yourself at least half a day here.
On day five we visited Sea World, and because I love the beach and the water, this was my favourite experience of them all. I thought the park was beautifully landscaped and very considerate of its visitors, with sunshades all over the place. It’ll come as no surprise that the dolphin presentation was a real highlight for me, and I was in absolute awe of this amazing mammal’s natural beauty. Sea World has 40 different attractions, and again, has something for all ages. The brand new jellyfish experience was fascinating, but our top five were the dolphins, Ray Reef, Shark Bay, the Castaway Bay pirate ship ride, and Sky Climb. For the under-fives, Nickelodeon Land has lots of fun and family-friendly rides to enjoy, and there were Paw Patrol presentations and seal presentations as well. Something I’d look into next time is booking one of the one-on-one animal experiences available. Our youngest was most enamoured with the dolphins – okay, I was too!
The Gold Coast really does offer a great family experience for all ages. Because it’s so close to New Zealand, flying there with little ones is not too arduous, as evidenced by the fair few families on board our flights. We had such a great time, and from the stunning resort accommodation to our drenching during the log flume ride and everything in between, we really did create some beautiful family memories.
✈️ Buy theme park tickets online, in advance, and buy across all the parks.Dreamworld, White Water World and Sky Point are all owned by the same company, so you may be able to pick up deals across the attractions.
✈️ The same goes for Sea World and Wet‘n’Wild, both owned by Village Roadshow which has more parks under its umbrella too, so do some research into what your family would be interested in. There are Australian Outback parks as well, so lots to choose from!
✈️ Pack multiple pairs of togs for everyone, and don’t forget the sunscreen and hats.
✈️ Purchase travel insurance before you head away.
✈️ For more individual stories on the theme parks, including honest and entertaining reviews by kids, visit our travel section.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 45 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW