Like thousands of other southerners, we followed the sun to Queensland in July. The average temperature was 21 degrees. In our 10 days, we had one rainy day, and even then, it wasn’t cold. Not Melbourne-cold anyway.
And like thousands of other parents, we agreed to brave the theme parks.
A VIP pass that allows unlimited entry to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild Gold Coast and Paradise Country until 30 June 2018 will set you back $109.99 per person (look out for deals – this price is often reduced to $99).
Our kids are aged from 6 to 13, so a spread of options in any theme park is always going to give us the best value for money.
We decided to do three parks in three days which maybe wasn’t the best idea. There was method in my madness; I was trying to fit it into Victorian school holidays, all the while avoiding Queensland school holidays. The sunshine kids started back on the Monday of our second week, so we timed it then, in the hope we’d have fewer people to contend with. I have no idea if this plan worked as I’ve never visited the theme parks in peak times. There were still plenty of people moving through the gates, but lines for rides were bearable, and in some cases, very short!
Here’s a summary of our experience.
This was our first stop.
I had gone online the day before to check out all the rides and shows, and had a vague plan for the day.
Out of four children we have two thrill seekers and two observers. At first, I thought Movie World may be a waste of money for the non-ride goers, but there is much more than just rides. We watched the Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 show at 11am, while having a drink and a snack. It was great fun and not too long. I noticed the line for the 1:50pm show was much longer, I presume because people move on after finishing lunch, so I’d recommend doing the morning one.
We saw the Looney Tunes 4D show which was interactive and a new experience (moving chairs and 3D glasses, along with random sprays of water!).
Then we divided and conquered – I went with the adrenalin junkies to try out the rides. Our favorites were the Scooby-Doo and the Road Runner Rollercoaster. We weren’t quite up for the completely crazy, lose-your-brain-and-catch-it-at-the-bottom kind of rides – namely, Green Lantern, Arkham Asylum, Batwing – so we happily watched others on those, from the safety of the ground.
My husband took the two conservatives to the dodgem cars, which they went on repeatedly, and then they browsed the gift shops.
Unfortunately, Wild West Falls was closed for maintenance but I’ve heard that’s a great family ride.
We had lunch in the square as superhero characters strolled the streets.
After lunch, all the kids tried out rides in the kiddie area – Junior Driving School, Taxis, Tweety Cages and Sam Train, Pounce and Bounce. These were much more sedate so the thrill seekers weren’t as excited.
The longest ride wait was 45 minutes. I think in peak periods it may be worth getting the Fast Track ticket that allows you to jump the queue, although this does add significant cost onto the entrance price, it would give you more rides and less time standing around in queues. It would just depend on how ride obsessed your kids were.
We spent six hours at Movie World and I feel like we had a full day that was good value for money and the kids weren’t too pooped.
- Wear comfy closed toe shoes – you will be walking a lot
- Hats aren’t allowed on most rides, so you can probably ditch them in winter
- BYO fruit and water (permitted)
- Set a spending amount for your kids – there is much on offer and unless you want to spend the day negotiating, I’d do this at the very beginning.
WET 'N' WILD
We tried to pick the best day, weather-wise, for this, which is always a gamble in mid-winter. It ended up being a mild day of 21 degrees but there was a little bit of wind, and once our kids get cold, add wind and you have frozen children.
In hindsight, I would have packed wetsuits, then we would have got more value out of the day.
We chose to go near lunchtime as the sun was out and the day had warmed somewhat. The kids loved it here – many rides to choose from – all levels are catered. The wave pool was a big hit, as are the water slides of all shapes and sizes. The only drawback for some of them is carrying heavy inflatable tubes up slopes and stairs. As neither my husband nor I went on the rides here, it was difficult for my 13-year-old to heave the inflatables up. It’d be great, if there was some kind of conveyor belt or similar system that returns the inflatables to the top without wet kids having to carry them up.
In winter, the park closes earlier – 3:30pm. Our kids had three hours of fun here but were starting to get cold, so the time we spent was long enough. There were hardly any lines, thanks to it being winter, but I have to say, it was busier than I had expected.
Quite a lot of the rides were closed due to seasonal demands – Kamikaze, Calypso Beach, Surf Rider. Although this was a shame, there were plenty of others in operation. The spa was very popular (although a little run down) and a great way to end the day.
There are plenty of grassy areas and undercover seating and tables, so setting up for the day in summer would be easy and a fantastic day out.
- Bring two towels if you can spare it – one towel gets very soaked after a few rides. A towel spinner or quick-dryer would have been a great addition, especially in winter when they just don’t’ dry quick enough lying in the sun.
- Bright rashies – these are so awesome when you are trying to spot your child amidst a sea of black rashtops and wetsuits
- Pack a wetsuit – your kids will last longer because they’ll be warmer
- This is the only park you are permitted to bring a picnic lunch into (however, no commercially prepared food or alcohol), so make the most of it and pack lots of healthy snacks and hearty lunches. Kids get hungry with all that energy expenditure!
This was our last day on the Gold Coast and a lovely way to end our holiday.
The day we went, there were a lot of people - I can’t imagine what the crowds in summer must be like if this was a cloudy day in July!
Because of the crowds, we couldn’t see one of the dolphin shows, nor could we get onto the monorail. The wait was 20 mins and then when it did arrive, no one was getting off so there was no space to get on! If you can get a seat, I think this would be a great way to see the park and get an overview of where everything is.
We did, however, see the “Affinity” at the Dolphin Beach stadium at 11.15am which was fantastic. We also saw the Jet Stunt Extreme show and the Fish Detectives Sea Lion show, which were also very entertaining. Again, preplanning to work around the shows is always a good idea so you don’t miss out while you’re laughing at penguins or intrigued by just how ugly sting ray are!
Two of the rides at Sea World ended up being my thrill-seekers’ favourites of all the parks: Storm Coaster and Jet Rescue. There were long waits for rides in the Nickelodeon area so we didn't try out too many of those.
Shark Bay was also a big hit – great viewing from glass windows under the water. We could have spent hours in there!
The grounds at Sea World are lovely. Again, plenty of grassy areas and places to relax and eat.
- Plan your day around the show times – these are a highlight of the visit
- If you can, grab a seat on the monorail first up so you can get a sense of the grounds and orientate yourself
- Merchandise is great and surprisingly reasonable. Stuffed toy polar bears were a big hit with my youngest child.
(NB: We ran out of time so didn’t get to see Paradise Country).
All in all, I enjoyed the theme parks much more than I thought. Most parents say it with such dread when they have agreed to visit them, but I had fun at all three. There’s enough to do for kids who aren’t ride obsessed, and plenty of space to relax and recharge too.
The bonus of visiting in winter is shorter queues and more pleasant temperatures.
Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Sea World offered a great combination of entertainment for adults and kids.
The kids are already asking when we’ll be going back. Hopefully before the VIP pass expires in June 2018!