Queensland is known for many things – the laid back lifestyle, the beautiful beaches, the awesome State of Origin team (sorry NSW). And, of course, the theme parks.
Hitting all the parks when you are driving up the Queensland coast is probably not possible (and would be quite draining) so which ones are right for your family? Here is our go-to guide.
Let’s start on the Gold Coast. This is the undisputed theme park capital of Australia, with five different parks all just a few kilometres from each other.
Dreamworld is where Dreamworks characters come to life, so you can expect plenty of Kung-Fu Panda, Madagascar and Shrek-themed activities. There is a great jungle castle for younger kids, plus Wiggles World, Nickelodeon Central and eight intensely thrilling rides that flip you, spin you, drop you and pretty much make you think you might die.
Some of the big names at Dreamworld include the Tower of Terror, the Giant Drop, the Buzzsaw and the Zombie Evolution. There are also plenty of shows, such as Tiger Island and the Australia Wildlife Experience which is, essentially a zoo within the theme park.
Movie World is home to Warner Bros – including the Green Lantern, Superman, Justice League, Looney Tunes and more. It caters to every age, but I recommend it for older kids, especially those who enjoy superheroes. They have plenty of incredible shows throughout the year including White Christmas in December and a Halloween Spectacular in October.
The stars of this park are the Green Lantern and Superman Escape roller coasters but the WB Fun Zone is always a hit for the little theme parkers.
Moving on to Sea World, where thrilling rides are combined with animal encounters. For families with very small children, this one may be your best bet as it is a great introduction to theme parks, but also offers plenty of animal shows where you can simply sit and relax. There are rides but none of them have the intense thrill factor of the two parks above.
But Sea World does have polar bears, dolphins, penguins, sharks and much more. For those who do enjoy the rides, the Storm Coaster and the Sea Viper are both worth the queues. The really keen can even stay right next door at Sea World Resort, which gets you easy access through the gates each day.
During the warmer months, you may want to combine scary rides with water to keep cool so head straight to Wet’n’Wild. There are thrill seeking rides such as the Kamikaze and the Tornado, but there is also a Giant Wave pool and an area for the little ones known as Buccaneers Bay.
White Water World connects to Dreamworld and you can purchase tickets to one or both of the parks, depending on what you want to do. WhiteWater World isn’t as large as Wet’n’Wild but it does have the same layout with an interactive area for the little ones (known as Wiggle Bay) and a few slides for the older kids like the Pipeline Plunge and the Wedgie.
Head north and you will hit the Sunshine Coast and Aussie World which is also fun for families. It’s got a bit of that carnival feel, including a sideshow alley with plenty of show games. There are also a number of rides and a village to explore.
Sea Life in Mooloolaba isn’t a theme park, but is still worth a visit, especially if your kids love animals.
The further north you travel, the hotter it’s going to get, so theme parks are naturally replaced with water parks. Rather than sky-high roller coasters and drop zones, Coolum and Mackay have brilliant Aqua Fun Parks.
Hervey Bay has Wetside Water Education Park with rides and slides for little ones and Cairns has Sugarworld, which has a few waterslides for older kids plus plenty of pools and younger kid areas to explore.
Townsville and Cairns each have a free water play area which may not bring thrills, but will help you to cool down during the scorching hot sunny days.
Prices for theme parks vary, but many of the Gold Coast parks have packages so you can explore more than one. As a general rule, the further north you go, the cheaper the parks are going to be.
Tips for surviving your theme park visit
A visit to a theme park makes for a long day, especially for small children, so it pays to come prepared. These tips will help to ensure you get to make the most of it, without too many unforeseen hassles.
- Pack plenty of drinking water and snacks for the kids, unless you’re happy to spend another week’s pay on food while you’re there. That theme park food can get expensive! Fruit is always a great option.
- Pack sunscreen and hats for everyone and remember to reapply every few hours, more regularly if you’re swimming. And don’t forget your towels and a change of clothes for the water parks. Nobody likes hanging out in damp clothes all day.
- You’ll be on your feet all day, so comfy shoes are absolutely essential. Also choose shoes that aren’t too much hassle to put on or get off, especially if you are going to a water-themed park where you may need to remove your shoes more than once. Believe me, that gets old, quick!
- Pack a small first-aid kit – especially bandaids for the inevitable blisters and small scrapes that come with hours of walking and having fun.
- Download and print a park map before you arrive, so you know what attractions you want to hit (and which ones to miss), and where to find them. Kick your day off with a general plan in mind so you don’t waste too much time doubling back to attractions, which may make you miss out on others!
- Have an emergency plan in case someone gets lost. Choose a place on the map to meet up if you get separated, and make sure you visit the spot so that everyone knows where to go. Also talk to your children about ‘safe’ strangers they can approach for help, such as security guards and park employees.
- Visit the most popular attractions as early as possible to beat the long lines. If you have toddlers or small children, waiting in lines for hours can be the hardest part of your day. Best to get it out of the way while everyone is still in a good mood!
- Consider visiting the attractions backwards – heading to the ones furthest from the entrance first, and making your way back to the entry/exit area from there. This will not only beat the crowds to many attractions, but will mean that you finish your day close to the exit.
- Make sure you have comfortable hotel accommodation lined up to rest after a long day of thrill-seeking, water-splashing fun. You’ll be glad you don’t have to drive all the way home after a big day.
And most importantly … have fun!