29 reasons to visit the Gold Coast
Gold Coast insider, Holly Johnson, reveals why this Queensland playground is fantastic for families, whatever the season.
The Gold Coast is in overdrive when it comes to family fun. There's wild water fun, incredible animal experiences, cultural tours, thrill-a-minute theme parks and incredible scenery, from beach to bush. Here's our insider's guide to making the most of the Coast with your family.
1. Surfers Paradise Beach
Although the Gold Coast includes 20 different beaches along its 57-kilometre swathe of coastline, it's Surfers Paradise that is one of Australia's most iconic. Known for its pristine sand and highly distinctive skyline that sits right at the shore, families can enjoy a swim between the flags, before heading into Surfers for a bite to eat or to check out some of the 100 stalls at the weekly beachfront markets.
2. Dreamworld & WhiteWater World
Enjoy the fastest, most action-packed adrenaline-pumping rides at Australia's biggest theme park. Take on the Big 9 Thrill Rides or come face to face with big cats on Tiger Island. Littlies can join Dorothy the Dinosaur and friends for a wiggly song and dance show before having a splash and play at Wiggle Bay and the Pipeline Plunge. WhiteWater World's top water slides include the Super Tubes Hydro Coaster and Little Rippers.
3. Sea World
Sea World offers animal adventures for kids and adults alike. Swim with the dolphins, score a smooch from a seal or get among the sharks... if you dare. Sea World's latest standout attraction is Polar Bear Shores, the only exhibit in Australia where you can see the world's largest land carnivore, the polar bear, and its relatively tiny cub, up close.
4. Warner Bros. Movie World
Meet your favourite stars and super heroes and watch the spectacular shows at Warner Bros. Movie World. Let the littlies loose in the Kids' WB! Fun Zone and experience adrenaline-pumping thrill rides including The DC Rivals HyperCoaster, opening in October. The new coaster will be the Southern Hemisphere's tallest, longest and fastest, reaching speeds of 115 kilometres per hour.
Get wet and get wild. From the gravity-defying AquaLoop to the tight turns of the Constrictor, Wet'n'Wild's thrill rides are not for the faint of heart. Little kiddies will love the Junior Zone, which includes mini-thrill rides, eight slides and a giant tipping bucket and the whole family will enjoy a fab finish to the day cruising around Calypso Bay.
6. Mount Tamborine Village
A drive to this mountain village is a great day out. There's a choice of hinterland hikes here, from the all-abilities-access Cedar Creek Falls track to the more advanced Witches Falls and Sandy Creek Circuits. And, if you're looking for less scenery and more shopping, hit the village where you'll find antiques, cafes and some of the Gold Coast's most mouthwatering fudge. tamborinemtncc.org.au
7. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Cuddle a koala, walk a wombat, get slippery with a snake or hand-feed a kangaroo. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is dedicated to conserving Australia's indigenous, natural and historic heritage and culture. As well as seeing hundreds of native animals, kids can also get their hearts pumping in the Tree Top Challenge, which includes 80 aerial adventures including 11 insane ziplines.
8. Springbrook National Park
This breathtaking site is located in the Gold Coast Hinterland, just 45 minutes' drive from the region's glittering arc of beaches. Take a walk through the wilderness to find waterfalls, lookouts, wildlife and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The hinterland is close enough for a day trip, so make sure you stick around in Springbook National Park's Natural Bridge to see the glow worms light up the cave at night.
9. Currumbin Rock Pools
This not-so-secret secret swimming hole is just 15 minutes inland from Currumbin Beach and the perfect place to escape the crowds and explore the lush valley. Here, kids swing on ropes and leap off ledges into the cool, fresh water while parents lounge in the sun. Dogs are welcome and there are picnic tables, a barbecue area, toilets and a local convenience store just across the road.
10. O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat
O'Reilly's is the place to enjoy daily family-friendly activities including guided bird walks, animal shows, off-road Segway tours, and the famed Tree Top Walk. Order ahead for a packed lunch or picnic hamper before exploring one of 500 amazing waterfalls accessible via 160 kilometres of trails. There's so much to do; squeeze it into a day or stay the whole weekend in a Rainforest Villa. oreillys.com.au
11. David Fleay Wildlife Park
It is the only nature park on the Gold Coast housing live platypus, but David Fleay's cool rainforest is also home to fresh and saltwater crocodiles, snakes, lizards, kangaroos, koalas, tree kangaroos, gliders and butterflies. It's also an excellent place for the kids to spot native birds including jabiru, brolgas, owls and cassowaries.
12. Tallebudgera Creek
If you're after a water-based holiday, a stay by this estuary is for you. Pack your gear for swimming, fishing, boating, waterskiing, windsurfing and kayaking. Wave-seekers can head across the road to Tallebudgera surf beach, while nature-lovers can take the short stroll to Burleigh Head National Park for a walk through the lush rainforest.
13. Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Located next to Tallebudgera Creek, the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre offers an insight into the Yugambeh Aboriginal people, one of the oldest living cultures in the world. It's a great place for kids to learn about the Aboriginal history of the Gold Coast, discover traditional bush foods and hear Dreamtime stories.
14. Australian Outback Spectacular
Saddle up for a remarkable journey to the snow-capped mountains of the High Country, where legendary yarns come alive to commemorate the Centenary of the ANZACS. The whole family will be dazzled by the show's death-defying stunts, stunning aerial performances and incredible animal stars, while enjoying a three-course gourmet Aussie feast. outbackspectacular.com.au
15. Bike Hire Gold Coast
Hire a bike from Bike Hire Gold Coast to spend the day cycling from Coolangatta up to Surfers Paradise along the beachfront bicycle path. Venture out to The Spit or through the Broadwater Parklands, pass by the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre or take a peek at The Hill to see its sculptures. After a long day of cycling, stop at the beach for a well-deserved cool-off in the surf.
16. Paradise Jetboating
Like a theme park ride on the water, jet boating is a must-do family activity on the Gold Coast. Experience 360-degree spins, high-speed drifting, incredible beach buzzing and other exciting manoeuvres in as little as 10 centimetres of water with Paradise Jetboating. Be sure to keep an eye open for dolphins, wallabies and other wildlife, and hold on tight.
Challenge your senses and ignite your imagination at Infinity as you journey into a futuristic maze-like world of wonder. There are 20 multi-sensory environments filled with all manner of special effects: sound fields; sensuous aromas; groovy music; eye-boggling illusions that seem to go on forever; and a world-first, mindwarping, time tunnel.
18. Gold Coast Island Buggy Tours
Start your adventure with Gold Coast Island Buggy Tours with a luxury boat cruise from Mariners Cove to Couran Cove Resort before hitting the sand in a 4WD buggy for 90-minute eco tour through the tranquil forest over naturally built obstacles, sand dunes and onto unspoilt beaches. Family buggies are available, which seat two adults and two children.
19. SkyPoint Climb
Don't look down! Rising 270 metres into the air, this 90-minute open-air adventure at the very top of one of Queensland's most recognised landmark buildings – the iconic Q1 Building – is not for the faint-hearted. Whether you do a morning, daytime or twilight climb, you'll have your breath taken away by the incredible 360-degree views of the Gold Coast and beyond from SkyPoint.
20. Thunderbird Park
As Australia's largest adventure playground, Thunderbird Park has activities for the whole family, including horse riding, Laser Skirmish, mini-golf and fossicking for treasures in the world's largest thunderegg mine. Daredevils can even attempt the Tree Top Challenge with its 100 sky-high challenges and Canyon Flyer, Australia's largest and fastest guided zipline tour.
21. Game Over Centre
Get wild at Game Over Gold Coast, Australia's first Electric Indoor Karting track, complete with soaring Clip 'N Climb adventure walls, an eight-metre-high 'Leap of Faith' and a high-tech Lazer Tag arena. Channel your inner Tarzan on one of the 16 climbing and adventure walls, ride the adrenaline-pumping indoor zipline coaster, or battle it out as a laser soldier at this epic indoor attraction.
22. Ripley's Believe it or Not!
Ripley's Believe It or Not! is the most unusual attraction in Surfers Paradise, offering 16 themed galleries packed with 400 artefacts and interactive exhibits. See creepy shrunken heads, walk through the spinning vortex tunnel and re-enact your favourite spy movie as you duck, weave and slither your way through a room full of brilliant green lasers in LaseRace.
From arts and crafts to farmers' markets and car boot sales, the Gold Coast buzzes along both day and night. The weekend NightQuarter is a popular market for families as it brings together food, music, entertainment and shopping in one place. Make sure you try a mouth-watering cronut (half croissant, half doughnut) or quirky funnel cake for dessert.
24. Currumbin Valley Surf School
Queensland is something of a Mecca for surfing, so if you're looking to pick up some board skills or perfect your air reverse, the beaches of the Gold Coast are a top place to start. While there are plenty of great surf schools, Currumbin Valley Surf School has an excellent beginner-friendly location offering lessons for people of all ages and levels of skill. Who knows? Your kids could even become the next Mick Fanning.
25. Jetpack Adventures
Do your kids dream of flying? Then let them get their superhero on at Jetpack Adventures. The Gold Coast adventure company operates Jetpacks, Flyboards and Jetovators, which will see you, and the kids, get airborne as hundreds of litres of water blast through specially designed thrust nozzles that send you skyrocketing into the blue sky.
26. Jet Ski Safaris
Boasting a celebrity clientele including members of The Foo Fighters, Jet Ski Safaris will take you into the water for some serious fun. Blast your way along the shores of South Stradbroke Island through narrow tidal passages and around beautiful islands, sandbars and mangroves at high speed on state-of-the-art jet skis. Kids over eight can ride pillion, while kids aged 12 to 15 can take control if they're accompanied by an adult.
27. King Tutt's Putt Putt
Prepare for some friendly competition and family fun over King Tutt's Putt Putt's three individually themed 18-hole mini golf courses, right in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Where else could you find Cleopatra and deadly dinosaurs all in one place?
28. SUP in Paradise
What kid wouldn't love cruising along the Gold Coast's beloved Broadwater on a stand-up paddleboard? The Broadwater is a playground for water sports enthusiasts, but it can get a little breezy and one of the best places to hit the water is the protected area off Budd's Beach. Here you'll find SUP in Paradise trainers who will supply all the necessary equipment and give you tips on safety, balance and technique.
29. Broadwater Parklands
Located on Marine Parade in Southport, opposite Australia Fair, the world-class Broadwater Parklands offers a huge range of outdoor activities to amuse every member of the family. Kids can play in the mini water park, jump on the giant bouncing pillow or swim out to the floating play pontoon. And there are loads of free barbecues and shady spots for a picnic.
This article appeared in volume 53 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.