Australia, and the Gold Coast in particular, is home to a large number of highly popular theme and amusement parks that are always a huge drawcard for guests both young and old to visit when they are holidaying in the area.
But what about for those families that have younger kids? Choosing a park that is child-friendly can be another challenge altogether - thrilling rides might be great for teenagers and adults, but it isn't much good if they little ones can't join in on the fun - and there are few things more humiliating for a kid's ego than not passing the "You must be THIS tall to ride" mark!
Thus, we've put together a guide detailing which theme parks are the best for kids, along with highlighting some of the attractions and areas within each park that are designed to keep children entertained and help parents have a headache-free day!
NOTE: For the purpose of this guide, the term "child" will refer to kids of any age between the ranges of 3 and 13 years old, as these are generally the age ranges that children's tickets and their associated prices are attributed to.
With so many rides and worlds in one, Dreamworld on the Gold Coast is the top thrill-ride park in the area. The Gold Coast's Dream World is Australia's favourite ride-based theme park, and with so many "worlds" in a single location, you'll be able to plan your own adventure! With 13 worlds consisting of attractions from the tallest and fastest thrill rides, to live interactive shows and unique animal attractions, there is truly something at Dreamworld for people of all ages and levels of thrill seeking.
Dreamworld has recently expanded its "main attraction" selection of extreme BIG 7 rides to the BIG 8 with the addition of the newest to the arsenal, the Buzzsaw - but they also put significant effort into catering for kids as well. Their Wiggles World - an entire section devoted to the successful Aussie childrens musical/performance group the Wiggles, is always popular with the little ones, and features a host of mild rides that toddlers and young children will love.
Tea cup rides, the Big Red Car and Big Red Boat interactive rides, and various merry-go-rounds, pirate areas and aerial rides all provide a chance for kids to get a dose of fun without the scares that some of the bigger-name rides might offer; and also provide parents with some much-needed downtime throughout the day. Plus, Tiger Island and its other wildlife-related areas offer entertainment and animal-based interaction without needing to involve yourself in sometimes-draining rides all day long.
To book Dreamworld tickets online at some of the best prices on the Internet, click the link below - you'll not only get an instant e-ticket, but be able to skip the queue as well!
Sea World, located on the aptly-named Sea World Drive along the waterfront area on the Gold Coast often referred to as "The Spit", is different from the other major Gold Coast theme parks not only due to its location, but also due to its emphasis on wildlife and shows as opposed to solely on rides and thrill rushes. This helps make Sea World generally a good destination for families to take their kids; this is dependent however as to how high a level of "animal lover" your children are. Many of the park's attractions are based around aquatic life in some form, whether it be watching a show or getting a hands-on experience up close with marine life, so if your kids are easily bored with animals, another park may be a better alternative.
However, Sea World also has the most potential of any of the "big" parks to be an experience that is not only fun but also educational; many of the shows and exhibits are accompanied by informative commentary given by experts that is delivered in a way that is not overcomplicated so that children can understand, and they often incorporate humour that will get the little ones laughing (the various Seal shows - the currently running one of which is dubbed "Fish Detectives" - have long been a big hit with the kids as the seals are friendly looking creatures and the show is generally very amusing!).
Sea World also attempts to cater for children by having a number of different areas with rides and themes that are not too far on the extreme side, with some specifically designed for the younger crowd. Sea World has a section called Sesame Street Beach focused directly towards kids that features the cast of characters from the long-running children's show as well as themed rides based around the TV icons - Bert and Ernie's Big Dive, Oscar's Sweep the Beach, Elmo's Sea Subs, Big Bird's Bounce, Zoe's Sub Splash and the Cookie Monster's Cup Carousel were all added to the park in recent times in order to make it more family and child-friendly. Each of these rides are slower-paced versions of roller coasters, tea cup rides, and other conventional theme park mainstays, which is a nice touch. There is also the "Castaway Bay" area, which is a kids and family oriented section based around a "pirate" theme, allowing children to shoot water cannons while riding on the Battle Boats ride, along with the Sky Fortress, which is a cavalcade of rope bridges, tunnels and more.
Overall, out of all the major theme parks on the Gold Coast, Sea World provides the best overall balance of things to see, do, and ride that cater directly to kids. Be sure to bring clothes that you don't mind getting wet, or a change of clothes to switch into (both for yourself and the kids) after you are done, especially in Winter when the air can get cold.
Like Sea World, Warner Bros MovieWorld is another Gold Coast theme park that also has a lot to offer for kids as the park features a range of iconic characters from the Warner Brothers cartoon universe - they'll encounter Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the like both one on one and during the regularly-occurring Main Street parades and rock shows.
There is also the kids-focused WB Fun Zone which features rides directed purposefully at children, and includes rides such as the Tweety and Sylvester Cages (similar to a conventional teacup ride with a cartoony twist), Taz's Hollywood Cars the kids can "drive" in, the Looney Tunes Carousel (with a theme of colours and lights which is ideal for younger kids) and the watery Looney Tunes "Splash Zone", which features an interactive water foundation that can splash around in.
There is also the Road Runner roller coaster, which is designed to be a roller coaster that kids can enjoy as well, however there is a minimum height restriction of 100cm in order to ride, so the "little" little ones may miss out. The same applies to the Scooby Doo Spooky Coaster, which has a height restriction of 110cm and above, and may slightly scare some of the more nervy children. Many of the other rides are aimed towards the complete opposite end of the scale and focus more on providing adrenaline-rich experiences; high-end roller coasters, unique launch rides, and other thrill rides are great for older kids and teens, but shorties may have to give them a miss.
Still, MovieWorld has something to offer for all ages, and the value you get from the park will depend more on the temperaments of your kids rather than the fact that they ARE simply children themselves.
The country's most famous water park, Wet n Wild offers a huge range of rides and aquatic attractions to get wet on - thus, a strong requirement for bringing kids is that they have an affinity for, and are confident with, water. Many of the recent additions to the park have been orientated around the thrill-centric style, with a focus on higher adrenaline type rides which are great for teens and above but may spook some of the younger or less confident kids.
The park does a good job by having qualified lifeguards overseeing each and every ride and other attraction inside, but younger kids may feel left out if they are with bigger brothers/sisters who are able to go on a series of rides that they aren't as most of the non-children-specific rides have height restrictions of at least 100cm or higher. Thankfully, Wet n Wild also has a dedicated kid's area called Buccaneer Bay, which is a multi-level attraction based around a pirate theme and features a giant water-filled "tipping bucket" that periodically spills water down onto the kids below. There are also children's slides within this area that younger kids can go on without any great level of fear.
One of the theme park's main attractions has long been the Giant Wave Pool, which mechanically generates waves that rush back and forward and can have quite a bit of force behind them; children must be supervised at all times here, and flotation devices which are available for hire are strongly recommended. In short, if you're intending to go to a theme park with solely younger kids, Wet n Wild is a great choice. Those with a mix of young teens and children may find it difficult to synchronise rides and coordinate meeting places however as the older kids will most likely want to hit some of the larger slides that the younger ones may not be able to ride, so be sure to take these factors into account.