Australias Gold Coast Theme Parks - an Overview

We travelled to the Gold coast, Queensland, Australia theme parks in 2013 and 2014 as a family. For those who live outside of Australia, the Gold Coast is Australia’s premier location for theme parks. It is located about 80km from Brisbane. We bought World Pass (Dreamworld, White Water World and Skypoint) 12 month tickets, and Gold Passes (also 12 months) for Movie  World, Sea World and Wet n Wild. All one year passes worked out cheaper then the one day pass so that is Tip no. 1 - get 12 month passes even if only visiting one day. We went there twice in a 12 month period. The second visit, we only needed to pay for accommodation and plane fares. We spent six days visiting five Gold Coast theme parks. As we went twice in a year, we also experienced the parks during Queensland School holidays and again during Queensland school terms (much quieter). The lines during school term were non-existant. We literally walked straight on to the Scooby Doo ride. During School holidays however, the Scooby Doo ride wait time was more like an hour! Most wait times, at their worst were closer to 20 minutes though (not bad compared to Disney times!). It is important to note that a lot of the rides were actually closed during school term time, so make sure you check the websites carefully about ride closures to avoid disappointment.

Queensland theme park rides are a taste of what the Disney parks and Universal Studios rides are like. I would compare Dreamworld to more like Disneyland, with its Animals, Shows and kids dark ride (Wiggles Big Red car ride). I would compare Movie World with being a lot like Universal Studios with 3D and 4D rides and the general movie theming of rides. Some readers might disagree with this, but just in a general way to describe what they are most similar to.

We stayed at the Quarterdeck Apartments (a 3 star apartment) at the Gold coast, and about a 1 hour drive from the Coolangatta airport. I am not sure that I would totally recommend it – but I would definitely recommend location wise as the apartments were walking distance to the beach,  multiple restaurants, food outlets and a Coles supermarket (Coles located at the corner of Gold Coast Highway and Elkhorn Ave, Chevron Renaissance Shopping Centre). In fact, the best meal we had on holiday was a Barbecue Chicken we bought from Coles – together with fresh salad and eaten at the apartment! Our apartment was so close to the ocean we could hear the waves crash at night nearby and it was nice to listen to- and the apartment had a great view. We also got a five day public bus pass too and it was only a five minute walk from the apartment to a public bus stop that takes you to all the parks (on Ferry Road). Each bus thankfully, indicated on the front of the bus which park they were going to. On our first day we arrived at our apartment at 2:45pm and we were at Sea World at 3:30pm – by public bus!

Please note that these apartments also had no balcony or fly screen when you open the windows. So when you open the windows, it’s a clear drop down. This is not good for young children! And yes, my daughter who was 6 at the time discovered this unadvertised feature when we were on the 11th floor!

Sea World
The first thing we did at Sea World was go on a Skyways (chairlift) ride which took us to the other side of the park, very quickly, where we caught the Dolphin show. In contrast to San Diego Sea World (which is run by a different company altogether), Sea World Gold coast was much more educational. Every talk was set up to teach you something about these magnificent animals and there was comprehensive signage about the animals too.  There is also a monorail to get around the park too. There are a few kid friendly rides at the park as well as rides for the bigger kids like the  Log ride, Sea Viper and Storm Coaster rides.

 There is a daily parade and lots of shows from water skiing/ jet stunt extreme shows to animal talks. There is also a huge underwater aquarium.

The animals are the main feature though and you can see a wide range of animals and can pat them too in touch tanks. Please note you cannot pat the dolphins like you can in the U.SA. There are also no Whales here. Just animals like Sealions, Polar Bears and Penguins. The Penguin enclosure is great. It is also somewhere cooler to hang out for a while to escape the heat.

Movie World
 Movie World really targets kids in the age 5-12 age bracket. There is an entire section of the park set aside for them. There is the Tweety bird ride, yellow taxi ride (like go-carts), a small coaster, a train ride and other rides too!  Combined with the character meet and greets, this park was a hit with A.J.

The Scooby Doo ride is an indoor rollercoaster, that starts off quite tame it is just fun and laughable, but halfway through, it quickly turns into a moderate level full-on rollercoaster that even goes backwards – in the dark. It is a lot of fun, but depending upon the age of your kids, they may or may not like it. A.J wanted to get off the ride midway and didn’t like it, but she was glad in the end she experienced it. The ride is 17 m high and races at 45 km/hour. The Scooby Doo movies with Sarah Michelle Geller were actually filmed at the movie studios next door. One part of one of the movies, looks like its directly from the Scooby Doo coaster ride!

There is a parade every day at Movie World, which is under cover which is great. Great photo opportunities with your favourite Warner Brothers characters can be had at the parades. If you love Scooby Doo (which most of A.J’s classmates do), there is a live show about Scooby Doo that goes for about 15 minutes. The crowd love him and it’s a popular show.

The Justice League 3D ride (similar to Buzz Lightyear ride in Disneyland, but different theming), is a lot of fun. You shoot at these aliens as Earth is under attack. You help your Marvel superheroes kill the aliens with laser guns and you  get a score at the end for your efforts.

Hollywood Stunt Drivers 2 will entertain the older kids with a stunt car/bike drivers show. It is certainly entertaining for all ages.

There is a 4D movie theatre here too at Movie World. I have seen it play Shrek (exactly the same 4D as Universal Studios in Singapore and L.A!!) and the ‘Lost World’ so they do change the movie every so often.  In 2017 they are playing Looney Tunes in 4D. The 4-D cinemas are where the seats move together with the action on the screen. Sometimes there is water sprayed on you too during the show. If you are pregnant or get motion sickness, the back row doesn’t move – so sit there!

Arkham Asylum and Green lantern are Roller Coasters, but more for the thrill seekers.
Wild West Falls Adventure ride is a 20 m drop log ride. You will get wet, but there are drying stations near to the rides exit.

Wet 'n' Wild
I personally love the Kalypso pool, which as a waist high lazy pool, where you float on plastic tubes in a tropical setting, that does a loop around the park. The loop takes about 20 minutes. Gosh that water looks so good! Note that during the off peak season, this area is restricted to weekends only (so we were mega disappointed when we turned up and we couldn’t go in the Kalypso pool. There was nothing on their website about this)

There are plenty of water play areas in Wet n Wild – even sand pits to build sand castles.

There are also lots of very different wild water slides here, a wave pool and hot tubs/spa’s (for winter). They also seem to be expanding the park, with more rides.

I love Dreamworld, and it is probably my favourite park on the Gold Coast. There was a terrible  accident here in 2016, where four people lost their lives on the Thunder River Rapids ride, which was also my favourite ride in the park. As a family, we went on this ride about 10 times in a row once (there were no queues). This ride since the accident has been retired permanently. My heart goes out to the poor families who lost family members in this freak accident. The theme park rides are being scrutinised by engineers to ensure that they meet safety requirements and that this terrible event never happens again.

There are other aspects apart from rides at Dreamworld though that I think get under appreciated. There is a large number of animal displays. You can hand feed Koalas and Kangaroos, watch sheep shearing shows, walk through reptile exhibits like giant crocodiles,  walk through bird avaries and more. There is also ‘Tiger Island’, which has a few tigers and includes a tiger talk and show. There are also general walk through areas like rainforest walks too.

There are also plenty of photo opportunities at Dreamworld and if your kids love Madagascar, there is a live show there that all kids love. There is also a place called ‘Mad Jungle Jam’ where you shoot soft balls at everyone in this large enclosed space. Often the kids gang up on the parents and it is loads of fun.

Mad Jungle Jam
Kids can also drive 1920’s  vintage cars around a track. Note that this also only seems to run on weekend during off peak time.

Dreamworld also has ‘Wiggles World’ which I would totally recommend for kids under five, or any older child who just loves the Wiggles. For those that don’t know about the Wiggles, there is a pre-schooler Australian Show called the Wiggles, with presenters in brightly coloured skivvies (long sleeve tops) who sing catchy songs and dance, along with some other characters like Dorothy the Dinosaur.  There are plenty of rides for these much younger kids here – including ‘Big Red Car’ – an indoor dark ride, which is a bit Disney-like in feel, where in your big red car you travel from room to room experiencing the Wiggles house. Young fans will love it. There is a shop and a mini-museum of Wiggles memorabilia at the end of the ride. It is also air conditioned, so a good escape from the heat. My daughter A.J was a bit too old at 6 years old to fully appreciate Wiggles world – so the ideal age would be 3 and 4 year olds. In Wiggles World there is also a Big Red Boat ride, a Giggle and Hoot Pirate ship to explore.

Other fun Dreamworld rides for the kids are ‘Gingy’s glider and Shrek’s Ogre Go-Round (which is a bit like Disneyland’s Dumbo, only it is Shrek themed)

There are Character meet and greets too at this park, including Alex the Lion and King Julien the Lemur from the movie Madagascar. Also characters from Shrek and the Penguins from Madagascar.

Other big kid rides at Dreamworld include the Kevil Hill Zombie Evilution is a zombie war apocalypse  with lasers and you wear a vest. Not recommended for young kids (there are dead bodies form the ceiling etc)

Tower of Terror is a 160kmhour ride that goes over 100 m in the air. It is very loud and is very noticieable in the park each time it runs as it makes a loud noise.
The Claw is a 27 m high swing, that takes you 9 sotires in the air!

The Giant Drop – a The world’s highest free fall ride in the world, where you drop 39 stories at extreme speed.

White Water World
This park is adjacent to Dreamworld, and you can actually get into Dreamworld once inside this park. So if the queue to get in is long at Dreamworld – go to the side entrance once inside White Water World. If you have a park hopper, you can visit both parks in one day. White Water World is basically a smaller version of Wet n Wild, without the calm lagoon. There are many elaborate waterslides here and a big wave pool. It is impossible to get a seat near to the Wave Pool. Our towels and belongings were far away from the wave pool. Our daughter A.J at age 6 was not allowed on some of the kiddie waterslides and play area as she was deemed too tall (!) for the kiddie waterslides at Wiggle bay. So she was quite disappointed at that.  It is a good place in general to cool off though if it is hot, and a nice break form Dreamworld when it gets too hot there. Dreamworld do have mist stations (where you can get wet) which is a relief from the heat too.

Food options – we did not eat at all in the parks theme park food. We bought all our food at the local Supermarket in the Gold Coast and brought it in to the parks. Remember to pack Freezer bags so you can wrap up food bought at supermarkets. I think by bringing in your own food, it was healthier and cheaper!

Hope you have enjoyed learning more about the theme parks of the Gold Coast

Have a good week,

To read more about other Sea Aquariums:

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