The Big Five - Guide to Gold Coast's theme parks

If your idea of a perfect day involves free-falling 38 stories on the appropriately named Giant Drop, or getting swept away on the world's fastest thrill ride, the Tower of Terror II, then you've come to the right place.

The Gold Coast's famous theme parks, particularly the Big Five - Dreamworld, Wet'n'Wild, Movie World, Sea World and WhiteWater World - are guaranteed to please the young and young at heart with some of the tallest, fastest, biggest and scariest thrill rides in the world. But it's not all just adrenaline-pumping spills: at Australia's most famous theme parks you can also get up close and personal with sharks, discover how movie special effects are created and learn how to throw a boomerang.

If you're going to visit more than one theme park (and why wouldn't you?) then before you fly, look into buying a multi-park pass, which allows you to make repeat visits during the same holiday.

Where dreams come true

Since opening in 1981, Dreamworld, Australia's largest theme park, has expanded to include Tiger Island, where visitors can eyeball the world's most fearsome predator, Main Street, which features wacky interactive shows and the LEGO Store which offers one of the largest ranges of the coloured bricks in Australia, along with life-size LEGO models including Stormtroopers and the Incredible Hulk. The main attraction, however, remains the Big 9 Thrill Rides, including the BuzzSaw, the highest inversion roller-coaster in the Southern Hemisphere, the Cyclone and the appropriately named Tower of Terror II.

Getting wet

You don't have to go far to experience Dreamworld's sister water park, WhiteWater World. Just next door, in fact.  With a range of pools and slides, visitors can dive into a world of watery fun. Ride the wave pool, learn how to surf or just career down enormous water slides as many times as you want. The newest addition to this popular theme park is Triple Vortex, where you can rush down a 145m tube slide on a two-person raft. Adults can also chill out at a private luxury cabana, which can be booked online before you fly.

Polar bear, Sea World, Gold Coast, Australia.

To the sea we go

One of the Gold Coast's favourite theme parks, Sea World mixes the majestic creatures of the ocean with thrill rides, making it a great place to visit for kids of all ages. Check out the penguins, sharks, polar bears and giant stingrays from the multi-viewing platform or, if you're feeling brave, join the Shark Encounter, where you're submerged in water to watch the predators feed.

Lights, camera, action

Hollywood comes to the Gold Coast at Australia's only movie-related theme park, Warner Bros Movie World, the home of such movie-themed rides as The Superman Escape, the Scooby Doo and the latest attraction, the electrifying DC Rivals HyperCoaster which is the longest, fastest and tallest hypercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere, reaching speeds of up to 115km an hour. These rides, and the costumed entertainers such as Bugs Bunny and Batman, sit alongside working movies studios where you can take a peek at how the movie maestros work their special effects magic.

Getting wetter

The name says it all - Wet'n'Wild. Beat the heat at this watery theme park where you can spend the day lazily floating through tropical gardens, shooting down slides at 60km an hour or in a giant wave pool. The pirate-themed Buccaneer Bay will keep the kids entertained, while adrenaline junkies will be satisfied with the 360-degree coils and 30-metre drops. The pools are also heated in winter months, making this a year-round destination.

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