We all love to be amused, so it's a good thing Australia has so many places dedicated to diversion, ranging from wacky carnival themed parks to worlds of wonderment with thrills so extreme you could lose your voice, your lunch – or your bikini bottom.
Luna Park Sydney
Luna Park Melbourne Between the rickety-sounding rollercoaster, the profoundly menacing look on the giant clown face that serves as the entry gate, and local rumours of ghosts haunting the rides, one could be forgiven for steering clear of St Kilda's Luna Park. Then again, these may be some of the elements that attract dedicated thrill-seekers. Entry to the park is free, so visitors who are in two minds about the place can have a look around before deciding whether to brave the rides. Single ride passes are $7.50 for children and $9.50 for adults (anyone over thirteen is considered an adult) and day passes are $31.95 for children, $41.95 for adults and $125 for families (two adults and two children or one adult and three children).
Having had a bit of a facelift and some dental work, the entry to Sydney's Luna Park just under the Harbour Bridge is perhaps a little easier to 'face', being more picturesque than that of its counterpart in Melbourne. Luna Park offers all the classic carnival activities, with a Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Dodgem Cars, Mirror Maze, and Wonky Walk, as well as the more fast-paced adventures. Entry to the Sydney park is now free also, with ride passes priced by height rather than age. Cost is comparable to that of the Melbourne park, though there are more packages and specials available, and discounts for passes bought online.
Dreamworld A family favourite, Queensland's Dreamworld has most things covered, with daily shows, animal exhibitions (can't miss feeding time at Tiger Island), and rides galore. The Tower of Terror II and The Giant Drop are supposed to be two of the most thrilling rides around – and they are indeed a lot of fun. The Wipeout, on the other hand, would have to be the scariest, with all of its churning and spinning; it is not a ride to go on if you've had a drink or two on the Gold Coast the night before. The Rocky Hollow Log Ride and the Thunder River Rapids Ride are fun family rides that are exhilarating without making you feel like you're going to wet yourself – but you will end up wet nevertheless from all the splashing and water sprays. Day passes are $49.99 for children ages between three and thirteen years (free for children under three years old) and $79.99 for visitors aged fourteen years or older.
Part of the Gold Coast trio, a VIP Pass for $109.99 will get you entry to Sea World as well as Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet 'n' Wild Water World. Sea World is probably the most educational of the three, for while it has all the standard rides, the main attraction is the animals. Activities include the penguin exhibit, the sea lion theatre and the dolphin shows.
Movie World Something akin to a Warner Bros. version of Disneyland, this is where you come to hug Bugs Bunny and see Cat Woman on the prowl. There are all sorts of shows on each day at random places throughout the park, so don't be surprised if you're on your way to the Superman ride (0-100km in just two seconds) and find yourself suddenly being coerced into frisking someone as part of the Bonnie and Clyde act, or some other such unexpected activity.
Wet 'n' Wild You need your cosi for this one, and you'd best make sure it's secure or you might lose it somewhere between the wave pools and the rushing rapids of the convoluted water slides. The last thing you want is to come out of a tunnel into a pool of thigh-high water with your bikini bottoms suddenly resembling a g-string and your bikini top wrapped around your face. That said, the park is a lot of fun, especially given its location on the sunny Gold Coast.
Adventure World Let's not forget Perth – while the Gold Coast dominates by sheer number, there are still plenty of adventures to be found outside the sunshine state. This park is like a mix of all the other parks, with carnival themed amusements, animal attractions and wildlife exhibits, extreme rides, play areas for kids and water park activities. All single tickets are less than $50 with cheaper entry after 2pm and during off-peak season.
Tell us – which Australian amusement park is your favourite?