Queensland’s Gold Coast gets a bad rap for being too touristy, but that’s precisely what makes it such a perfect family holiday destination. With three major theme parks, stunning beaches and wildlife interactions, this is kids’ paradise. Kelvin Ang, father of Ashton (8), Ayden, (7) Alethea (2) and Cheekiemonkies tells suitcases&strollers why every Aussie family travels to the Gold Coast with kids at least once – and so should you.
What’s so good about the Gold Coast?
It's a place where the kids will feel free with a smile on their lips and the sun on their cheeks. The Gold Coast's tagline is “Famous for Fun!” and it's easy to see why actually. It has things to see and do to satisfy all kids (and parents) of all tastes, year round. Love theme parks? Check! Love pristine beaches? Bountiful! Love the hinterland? Done! Love animals? Plenty! Love nature? You got it! Love sunshine? Got that too!
Isn’t the Gold Coast really tacky and touristy?
Just like how tourists to Singapore rank The Merlion at Marina Bay as one of their must-see destinations while some Singaporeans view it as tacky, it’s unfair to label the Gold Coast. In fact, considering that Queensland is blessed with year-round sunshine and a mild winter (especially from April to July with day time temperature ranging from 20 to 22 degrees centigrade), the Gold Coast is the perfect location for families seeking a destination that is extremely child-friendly.
Each theme park has a different selling point. If you love superheroes from DC [Comics] or Bugs Bunny and the gang, then Warner Bros. Movie World would be it. If SpongeBob and company are more your kind of thing, then head down to Sea World. The latter houses a wonderful sea life aquarium too. Dreamworld is the place to go if you like the cartoon characters from Dreamworks like [those in] Madagascar, Kungfu Panda and Shrek.
Which did you like the best?
We went to all the three major theme parks and all of us unanimously voted Warner Bros. Movie World, as our favourite. The DC superheroes were an obvious hit with the boys while the two girls in the family loved the Looney Tunes characters. As for me, I prefer the thrill-seeking rides at Movie World out of the three theme parks.
What else is there to do in the Gold Coast other than theme parks?
Head down to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to hundreds of animals and birds in 27 hectares of natural bushland and rainforest setting – one of the largest collections of Australian native wildlife in the world. Or go on a Glow Worm Night Tour in the world heritage-listed Springbrook National Park where Natural Bridge is home to an amazing colony of glow worms whose lights can be seen only after sunset. Better yet, take off in a hot air balloon and be mesmerised by the picturesque expanse of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Join in a 4WD Safari tour and do some jungle bashing in Lamington National Park where you get to ride through eucalyptus forests, spot koalas and kangaroos, try your hand at whip cracking and boomerang throwing and end the tour with an Aussie barbeque lunch on a private estate. Or if you prefer, the entire family can enjoy the cool, crisp mountain air and spectacular views with an overnight stay at the legendary O’Reilly’s Rainforest Guesthouse.
And if you are at the Gold Coast between June and October, you're in luck. Catch the annual migrating humpback whales on a whale watch cruise and behold the acrobatics show that they put on.
Which are the best beaches in the area?
Frankly, I feel Surfers Paradise is overrated. Perhaps it's too crowded for my liking but I prefer the beaches at Coolangatta and Burleigh Heads more.
Which part of the Gold Coast did the kids like the best?
Sometimes the simpler things mean the most to kids. For my kids, the part they loved best was actually a park which we stumbled on to near Sea World. Anzac Park was – as they put it – awesome! The park had pedal rides where they could pedal round the perimeter of the playground. There was a flying fox, a huge jumping pillow and lots of other climbing structures to keep them occupied.
(We haven't visited it yet but I have read that Laguna Park at Palm Beach is a locals’ favourite.)
What surprised you most about the Gold Coast?
Everything is just so laid back which is definitely good news for one's blood pressure. I really enjoyed their weekend markets or, more specifically, Carrara Markets. I am not a shopping person but I was thoroughly taken in by the sights and sounds.
Carrara Markets is Queensland’s biggest and best permanent market. Over 500 stalls covering 10 acres, [it makes for a] popular family day out with buskers, pony rides, merry go rounds, bungy trampolines and face painters. Free entry, free parking, indoor and outdoor shopping, over 100 fashion outlets, over 10 cafes, six plant nurseries, tons of fun stuff for the kids.
Where did you stay and would you recommend it to families?
We stayed at Sea World Resort & Water Park primarily because guests receive free unlimited entry to Sea World and Warner Bros. Movie World for the whole duration of the stay. There is also a huge water play area for kids, with a SpongeBob SplashBash – essentially a bright and colourful waterplay area themed around SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick Star, Gary, Squidward and cool jellyfish.
The other cool thing is the meet and greet opportunity with either SpongeBob SquarePants, Patrick, Dora, Diego or one of their friends in the lobby at 9am.
You do not have to enter the theme park through the main gate. There's a monorail station at the resort which brings you inside Sea World or at the monorail station there is a gate which will lead you to the back entrance of Sea World (effectively bypassing all the queues at the main entrance!). This means we got to sit on the rides that we wanted at Sea World before [crowd] madness set in.
What are your top 3 must-do things for families in the Gold Coast?
2. Soak up the sunshine along the 72 kilometres of pristine Gold Coast beach including Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads and Broadbeach.
3. Cruise over to Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island. There are loads of activities for the family but the highlight has got to be hand-feeding wild bottlenose dolphins. Every evening at around 6.30pm these dolphins swim up near the Moreton Island beach for a feeding session.
Another popular activity at Tangalooma is the 4WD sand safari adventure which will take visitors through the bush and to the edge of a huge sand blow. Then climb up a 70-metre high sand dune and plummet down at top speed on makeshift toboggans!
To read Kelvin Ang's humorous piece on the joys (and terrors) of flying with kids, click on the suitcases&strollers story Kids On A Plane: 5 Stages of Frustration
To read more from another prolific Singaporean blogger and father, see the suitcases&strollers story Profile: Chubby Hubby