If you’re after a holiday that combines relaxation with natural beauty and a sense of solitude, then you should avoid the Gold Coast theme parks at all cost.
On the other hand, if you’re after adrenalin-pumping action in an environment built on fantasy and fiction, then you really must not miss these worlds of entertainment.
There are five main parks in the area – Sea World, Movie World, Wet’n’Wild, Dreamworld and Whitewater World – as well as a number of related attractions.
Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your visit.
1. If you possibly can, avoid the school holidays
This is particularly true of the warmer months, when crowds can increase the queuing time to up to an hour for a two-minute ride. By contrast, in low season or outside holidays and weekends the only limit on rides may be your own stamina.
2. If you can’t avoid peak times, consider paying for fast track passes
These operate differently at different parks, but the queue-jumping concept is similar. At one park, we paid $20 per person for the right to jump four queues in a 1.5 hour period. While the cost adds up for a family, it still makes more sense than buying several $15 buckets of popcorn to help time pass while waiting in a queue of frustrated holidaymakers. Better to maximise enjoyment in a short time and then head to the beach for the afternoon, rather than stretch out the experience (and end up forking out piles of cash on expensive food and drink).
3. Eat breakfast and bring snacks
Which brings me to the third tip – remember that food and drinks at the parks are expensive, not particularly healthy and in peak times – you guessed it – can involve queues. Have a good breakfast, bring your own water and snacks (bear in mind some parks have restrictions on what they say you can bring in, though of course special dietary needs are excepted) and be prepared for a family ice-cream indulgence to leave a slightly bitter taste in your mouth alongside the delicious creaminess.
4. Consider putting the kids in their wetsuits
Consider wetsuits if you’re visiting a waterpark in the colder months or at peak times. Even on a warm day, the waterslide water can be chilly, and if you have to wait between rides, they’ll be glad they’re in more than Speedos.
5. Ride while the shows are on!
Several of the parks offer spectacular shows – such as the dolphins at Sea World and the stunt shows at Movie World. Remember that while the front rows can be great for viewing, there are plenty of other seats with a good view that can be exited more easily when the show ends and hordes of people are all swarming in one direction. The best time to enjoy rides and exhibits in peace is when a popular show is running – but nearly as good is to watch the show and then nip out quickly at the end while others are caught in a bottleneck!
6. Several of the parks offer multi-park deals or annual passes
These quickly become good value if you are visiting more than one park run by the same operator. Keep an eye out, also, for specials offered by motoring organisations, fundraisers and others.
But with all the scheming to avoid crowds and overpriced merchandise, don’t forget to have fun! The variety of rides, entertainment and activities at these parks is truly amazing. A little planning can ensure you get the most out of your visit, but flexibility is also key. It may be some time before you are back again, so loosen the purse strings, try something different and leave any real-world troubles at the park entrance! You are entering a fantasy world, after all!
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