Talking to people about the Gold Coast immediately conjures up the image of sunshine, hot weather, beaches, and theme parks. It is Australia's biggest tourist hotspots, attracting more than 12 million visitors, and generating almost $1.5 billion in revenue per year (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).
There are eight major theme parks on the Gold Coast, with a range of family activities, wildlife and heritage parks, as well as rides and movie-themed attractions. The benefit of having so many, and located so close to each other, is that you can often get package deals for entry to several of them at once, for a cheaper price. These are particularly good for large groups, and family outings, or for the adrenaline junkies who are looking to go as often as physically possible.
But first, here is a quick rundown of these major theme parks.
Sea World Seaworld Drive Main Beach, Gold Coast, QLD 4217 Phone: 13 33 86
If you love your marine animals, you can't go past Seaworld. This is a marine mammal park, with animal exhibits, rides, and other attractions, as well as research, conservation, and rehabilitation programs for rescued animals. This is a great place for children to get up close and personal with penguins, dolphins, seals, and a huge range of other marine animals, and learn more about them in the process.
Castaway Bay. Image by @beaujames84, Sea World Facebook
What's also convenient about Sea World is that it has a dedicated monorail line, which connects the park to the adjoining Sea World Nara Resort, and stops at three different locations around the park. Great for family groups with young children.
Movie World is the only movie-related theme park in Australia, with motion-simulators, roller coasters, and costumed characters wandering about the park and putting on shows. If you, your child, or your friends are movie nuts, this one is for you!
Looney Tunes characters in the All Star Parade. Image by @yiiwen, Movie World Facebook.
The two biggest sections of Movie World are the DC Comics Superhero Hub, which features Batman, Green Lantern, and other Justice League-themed rides; and the Kids' WB Fun Zone, for younger children. There's also the Main Street, and the Wild West area, which is home to other popular attractions such as the Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster, and the Wild West Falls Adventure Ride.
Wet'n'Wild is a water park that features water slides, rides, and pools available all year round. It's great for summer, but just as good in the colder months, when the slides and pools are heated. If you're a fan of swimming, love the thrill of giant water slides, or just want to have a splash about, you don't want to miss this!
River Rapids ride. Image by @wetnwildgc, Wet'n'Wild Facebook.
Paradise Country Paradise Country Farm, Oxenford, Gold Coast QLD 4210 (behind Movie World and Wet'n'Wild)
Phone: 13 33 86
This is more of a farm than a theme park, where visitors get a chance to interact with a wide variety of Australian animals, tour the farm, watch shows and demonstrations of billy tea making and stock horses, and try panning for gold, or mining for opals. Not only is it fun for the whole family, it also gives your children insight into a major part of Australian history. You'll also get a real Aussie lunch with a single day's admission.
The Outback Spectacular is a three-course dinner, accompanied by a dazzling show, starring Australian animals and other talented performers. The Arena is designed with an authentic Australian High Country feel, a fully themed landscape, and matching decor, to transport you to the high country from the moment you walk through the doors. Show change seasonally, but are all centred on tales of the Australian outback.
High Country Legends. Australian Outback Spectacular Facebook.
Dreamworld and WhiteWater World are located right beside each other; WhiteWater World is essentially a water-park extension of Dreamworld. It is the biggest theme park in Australia, with over 40 rides and attractions, and seven themed areas. Dreamworld appeals to all age groups; Wiggles World has gentler rides for the younger children; Rocky Hollow boasts the world's tallest free fall ride, The Giant Drop; and several times throughout the year, they will open Screamworld, after dark.
These are different to the theme parks listed above, because they are part of the Queensland Heritage Register and protected by legislation. You can interact with wildlife in their animal encounters and feeding sessions, demonstrations and exhibitions such as sheep shearing, and learn more about the conservation and rehabilitation of the animals in their care.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a zoological garden known for its flock of wild Rainbow Lorikeets, and various other wildlife shows and encounters, including dingos, crocodile feeding, and its sanctuary house.
Fleays Wildlife Park Corner Loman Road and West Burleigh Road, West Burleigh QLD 4220
Phone: (07) 5576 2411
Fleays Wildlife Park was founded by Dr David Fleay, who worked extensively to protect and conserve native Australian animals. The park is dedicated to educated and increasing awareness of wildlife, through interactive experience and talks with experienced rangers.
Squirrel Gliders. Image by Maxime Coquard, Queensland Government.
Ticketing Deals And How To Find Them
As you can imagine, there are quite a few deals you can find for these theme parks. A good thing about doing a quick online search is that, because Movie World, Sea World, Wet'n'Wild, Australian Outback Spectacular and Paradise Country are all owned by Village Roadshow Theme Parks, you can usually get a package deal with entries for all, or most, of them. The same applies to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World, both of which are owned by Ardent Leisure, and located right next to each other.
Right now, you can get a VIP Magic Pass that grants you an unlimited number of entries into Movie World, Sea World, and Wet'n'Wild until 30 June 2015, for just $99. Dreamworld has various World Passes that give you unlimited access to both Dreamworld and WhiteWater World, during different time periods, starting from $84.99.
You can also get some good seasonal deals at Experience OZ NZ, Shopadocket, GroupOn, and OzBargain. It's a good idea to check these out first, because they can often offer even more bargains, especially compared to buying tickets at the gate.