The Gold Coast has it all for a family holiday with wild water fun, thrill-a-minute theme parks, beautiful bushland, animal experiences and plenty of sunshine. No matter where you wander there are stacks of activities and attractions for the kids. There are plenty of protected beaches that are safe for little ones, and yet others that will thrill kids who are into surfing, and at the Broadwater, thrill seekers can get their kicks jetboating, parasailing, kite surfing, diving and snorkelling.
Beyond all the sun, sand and water, the Gold Coast’s biggest drawcard is its world-class theme parks where families can slide, ride, coast and splash. Lovers of all things feathered, furry and finned aren’t forgotten either and there are many great animal parks where they can cuddle a Koala, get friendly with a dolphin or hand-feed a kangaroo.
Just 40 minutes’ from the coast is a hinterland of subtropical rainforest, dotted with quaint mountain villages, bushwalks, waterfalls and swimming holes. Take a hike above the trees at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk into the rainforest or check out the Thunderbird Park, a collection of unique attractions that includes horse riding and fossicking for treasures in the world’s largest thunderegg mine.
When it comes to where to stay, the beachside suburbs of Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Main Beach and Coolangatta are popular with families and offer a variety of accommodation including apartments, hotels and resorts, plus plenty of feature packed holiday parks offering self-contained cabins that are perfect for family travellers.
Gold Coast For Every Age
The Gold Coast’s fantastic wildlife sanctuaries and theme parks have created habitats that offer littlies real-life experiences with native Australian animals. They can mingle with a mob of kangaroos, hand-feed lorikeets, nurse a baby crocodile, feed sharks and stingrays and even smooch a seal. Dedicated to conserving Australia’s Indigenous, natural and historic heritage and culture, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary boasts animals of all shapes and sizes with plenty of opportunities to get hands on with the critters. David Fleay Wildlife Park is an excellent spot for little wildlife lovers to get up close and personal with a variety of native wildlife. It is the only nature park on the Gold Coast with platypus, and is also home to fresh and saltwater crocodiles, snakes, lizards, kangaroos, koalas, native birds and butterflies. And at SeaWorld the kids can steal a kiss from a seal, feed the Gentoo and King penguins or visit Polar Bear Shores, Australia’s only polar bear exhibit.
With a wealth of beaches, each boasting its own personality, families are spoiled for choice but Main Beach, Surfers Paradise, Northcliffe, Broadbeach, plus Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks, two not-so-secret secret swimming holes inland from Currumbin Beach, are the pick for younger kids. If you’d rather bush than beach, take the kids to the hinterland. At Mount Tambourine village, you can explore arts and antique stores, great cafes and some of the Gold Coast’s best fudge, and at Cedar Creek Falls, there’s loads of outdoor family fun. At Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, stroll through the rainforest canopy and over the valley before descending gently to the forest floor with its rockpools, waterfalls and butterfly lookout. If your kids like to dig and get dirty, the nearby Thunderbird Park has activities for every age including fossicking for treasures in a thunderegg mine as well as horse riding, mini-golf and laser skirmish.
A holiday to the Gold Coast ‘worlds’ is almost a rite-of-passage with Aussie kids and not a school holiday goes past without a member of the class returning with wicked tales of slides, rides and rollercoasters. Dreamworld is Australia’s biggest theme park and home to the Big 9 Thrill Rides, some of the country’s fastest, most action-packed, adrenaline-pumping rides. Partner park WhiteWater World boasts some of the coolest waterslides in the Southern Hemisphere including the alarmingly named Wedgie and The Triple Vortex, the hottest high capacity tubing ride in the world. Movie World is action packed with a mix of heart thumping thrill rides, chilled rides for younger kids and fantastic movie entertainment including the edge of your seat action of the Hollywood Stunt Driver Show. At SeaWorld, you’ll find everything from animal encounters to high adrenalin rides and rollercoasters, but for something completely wild it’s hard to pass a face-to-face encounter with dolphins or dive with the sharks.
When it comes to attractions to stimulate the senses, the Gold Coast is unbeatable, but there’s more than just theme parks thrills. A learn-to-surf class at any number of beaches is a must and at Broadwater, thrill seekers can choose from jetboating, parasailing, kite surfing, diving and snorkelling. Kids aged 12 to 15, accompanied by an adult, can take control and blast along the sub-tropical shores of South Stradbroke Island on a state of the art jet ski with Jet Ski Safaris. Or maybe you’d prefer to get airborne with Jetpack Adventures who will send you sky high as hundreds of litres of water blasts you up and out of the water. If you prefer to find your fun indoors, Game Over Gold Coast is Australia’s first Electric Indoor Karting track and comes complete with a high-tech Laser Tag arena, 16 climbing and adventure walls, an indoor zip coaster as well as the high speed go karts.
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With more than 300 days of sunshine every year it’s always a good time to explore the Gold Coast’s 70 kilometres of unspoiled coastline and 100,000 hectares of World Heritage-listed rainforest. While the Gold Coast’s consistent weather is one of the reasons it is a popular family destination every month of the year, April and May is the best time to beat the crowds and enjoy the most comfortable temperatures. On the flipside, huge holiday crowds and high UV ratings make December and January less ideal. It’s also worth noting that there is an increase in pricing during school holiday periods and you’ll need to book early if you are travelling during these peak times. It is also a wise idea to avoid the area from mid-November until the first week of December, when the Gold Coast plays host to the nation’s largest and wildest Schoolies week celebrations.
From its surf and sand to its theme parks, the Gold Coast is packed with plenty of unmissable family attractions. Here are 10 not to be missed. 1. Tackle the big five theme parks Sea World, Dreamworld, Wet’n’Wild, Whitewater World, and Movie World. 2. Meet the local Animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary 3. Watch the whales from late May to early November 4. Learn to surf on one of the Gold Coast’s iconic beaches 5. Hunt for thundereggs at Thunderbird Park 6. Take to the treetops at Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk. 7. Enjoy bird walks, animal shows, Segway tours and accessible trails at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. 8. Meet movie stars and monsters at the Surfers Paradise Wax Museum, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. 9. Trip out at Infinity, Surfers Paradise, a maze of multi-sensory environments and optical illusions. 10. Learn about the one of the oldest living cultures in the world at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
While Surfers Paradise is one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, The Gold Coast coastline stretches for an incredible 57-kilometres and boasts 19 other fantastic beaches where families can enjoy a dip between the flags, surf and soak up the sun. Beyond the beach, Currumbin Valley Rock pools’ slippery rocks and waterfalls provide natural slides into the freshwater and are another popular free swim spot for local families. If you’d rather stay dry, pack a picnic and drive to the hinterland to hike through the lush Gondwanan rainforest, along the rim of an ancient volcano or on one of the all all-abilities trails at Cedar Creek Falls. In town, head to The Broadwater Parklands, located in Southport, for fantastic free outdoor activities to amuse all ages. Younger kids will love playing in the mini water-park and the giant bouncy pillow while older kids might prefer to swim out to the floating play pontoon.
The food scene on the Gold Coast is ever changing and evolving with many established and new venues offering great dining options for families. With its beautiful weather, expansive coastline and a farm-filled hinterland, you can expect produce that is fresh and fabulous. You’ll find kid-friendly cafes, buffets, hotels and pubs that serve up kids’ meals with a side of playgrounds, arts, crafts and games. And the region positively buzzes with food and farmers markets, night and day. The weekend Night Quarter market is a particular favourite with families as it offers great food and fun entertainment for all ages. On Friday and Saturday nights families can also head to the private laneway precinct at Miami Marketta to taste food from all over the world as they listen to local musicians play. Don’t forget to hit the designated dessert hall, which is filled with gelato, crepes, homemade cakes and slices.
February – Surfers Paradise Sand Safari The Surfers Paradise foreshore becomes a sand and sea inspired art gallery during this weeklong event. March – Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Witness world-class surfing at Snapper Rocks on the first stop on the World Surf League Championship Tour. June – Cooly Rocks On Coolangatta hosts the biggest 50s and 60s nostalgia festival in Australia with two weeks of rock ‘n roll, and classic cars. August – Broadbeach Jazz Festival The Broadbeach Jazz Weekend boasts a fringe and family feel with free entertainment, eclectic street markets and activities for all ages. September – SWELL Sculpture Festival Currumbin Beach becomes an outdoor gallery with Queensland’s largest, free outdoor exhibition along with master classes and children’s workshops. October – Gold Coast 600 Main Beach is the spot to watch V8 Supercar Championship drivers battle through one of the world’s toughest street circuits to claim the race title.