Recently my family and I booked ourselves a trip to the Gold Coast. I’d been before when I was a lot younger and before I had a family. I was looking forward to experiencing it again, only this time we are taking our kids. The Gold Coast is the perfect place for families. We set ourselves a challenge and that was, we would take in a couple of the quintessential Gold Coast attractions, but we really wanted to find family friendly options off the beaten track!
We flew out of Queenstown on a direct flight to Coolangatta. What a fantastic and easy way to start the holiday. The flight took a little over three hours. My son Zack loved getting off the plane and feeling the heat as soon as you are outside. Being a smaller airport, customs was a breeze and we were soon picking up our rental car. If you are travelling with a family the chances are you will be travelling around quite a bit so a rental car soon pays for itself by the time you pay for transfers from the airport as well as transport to the theme parks etc. A word of advice would be to double check the size of the car you rent. We quickly discovered a small car is great and cheap to run but you still need to fit all of your luggage in the car from the airport! From the Gold Coast it’s a 20-minute easy drive to Turtle Beach Resort where we were staying . In NZ we travel to the north island and in particular Waipu Cove. We remarked that we can get to the Gold Coast and be settled into our resort a lot faster than we can get to Waipu Cove!
On a Saturday there is a great Farmers Market at Burleigh Heads from 7.00am to 12 noon. Just 5 minutes down the coast from Turtle Beach the markets were right on the esplanade. Perfect if some want to shop while others go for a swim in the patrolled beach. There is also a beautiful walk around Burleigh head to Tullebudgera Creek. This is a great option if the kids are not used to the surf. The weekends can be busy as we discovered, it’s obviously a favourite with the locals too.
A stay on the Gold Coast is not complete without a look at Surfers Paradise, which was once considered the centre of the Gold Coast. It has now been overtaken by the newer Broadbeach area. It’s a must, to have your family snap underneath the Surfers Paradise sign and to walk along the esplanade. By luck, when we were at Surfers paradise there was a zombie walk celebrating Halloween. The whole community seemed to be on-board and the streets were all decorated as we watched a parade of zombies and other beasts meander down the street lurching and scaring the kids (and if I’m honest, some adults too)!
Pacific Fair! Well where do I start with this colossus. It is a great shopping centre and although massive it is cleverly designed as an outdoor mall and caters really well for families with plenty of areas to rest, re-hydrate and eat. If you get a wet day, it’s an easy place to wander away a few hours. The Christmas decorations that they were starting to decorate the mall with were impressive! If mum and or dad want a couple of hours to wander the shops without the kids, the I-play arcade lets the kids play arcade games, laser tag, indoor bowls and even bumper cars!
No trip to the Gold Coast with families is complete without visiting the all-important theme parks. We decided to do something a little different and only visit one of the 4 traditional theme parks and then try a park not everyone would visit. So, to tick off a big park we choose Dreamworld and Whitewater World. Great park and lots of rides to suit any age and height. The native animal area is great and excellent way of seeing those iconic Australian animals if you can’t get to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary or the Australian Zoo. Whitewater World adds to the park a huge amount of water slides and pools with fun zones to suit any age. The facilities are great for families.
A big tip is to avoid the weekends as they are very busy. We visited on a Tuesday and had no lines for the rides.
Okay, so the big attractions is ticked off! Let’s explore what else the Gold Coast has to offer families. The next day we jumped in the car and headed for the Tamborine Mountains. Our main purpose was to visit Thunderbird Park. On the way we weaved up the beautiful Tamborine mountains. There are several roads and all offer beautiful views out to the coast as well as further inland. The national parks boast stunning forest and rainforest areas and there are cute villages along the way with quaint market stalls. Thunderbird Park itself is nestled amongst the forest. We had researched the park before we left home. My son loves rocks and my daughter loves horse riding. Thunderbird Park has horse riding treks as well as a rock fossicking area where you can mine for the famous Thunderbird eggs. Ancient volcanic rocks have created the most beautiful array of different minerals and crystals. They will even cut open any eggs you find to reveal the beautiful mineral packed centre. This was a fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. There is also zip lining, mini golf, laser tag as well as camping or cabins if you want to spend a night or two. This is a great park and a really nice day away from the city and beaches to take in the beautiful Tamborine Mountain area.
Back in the car and this time a day trip to Byron Bay. Taking the M1 it is approximately an hour and 15 minutes’ drive south. If you have time I suggest the Coast Road, stopping along the way at the trendy towns. Brunswick is fantastic with a laid-back feel. Plenty of good shops and craft boutiques. The Brunswick Hotel is famous locally for great live music in the weekends and very popular with the locals.
Byron Bay is a buzz of great shops, cafes and is well-known for its laid-back alternative pace lifestyle. It’s a beautiful town and somewhere you could easily spend quite some time. When you have a car, it’s well worth the trip down from the Gold Coast. Try to avoid that weekend traffic again as it’s a very popular place in the weekends.
Dining on the Gold Coast is great and for families there is a huge range of family friendly restaurants. Local surf clubs are abundant and offer great value for money. We tried the Kurrawa Surf Club in Gold Coast which is a huge club with stunning views straight out over the beach. Mermaid Beach, Nobby’s, and Burleigh Heads offer a choice of hip side-walk cafes and restaurants. Alfred’s opposite Turtle Beach serves great coffee. A number of top chefs are moving up from Sydney and Melbourne making the Gold Coast a surprising foodie destination.
So, did we accomplish what we wanted to achieve? For the length of time I would say yes. I would love to have had another week but hey there is always next time.
Call into your House of Travel store and book your next family break to the Gold Coast. Don’t forget to check out the Gold Coast great facebook page with heaps of family activities and places to see.