Gold Coast theme parks & adventures
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 rides in the world. But it's not just about adrenaline-pumping spills and thrills with Gold Coast attractions. You can also find long-lasting fun, like kayaking trips, treetop zip-lining, water bike snorkelling tours and stage shows.
Since opening in 1981, Dreamworld, 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. However, the main attractions are the thrill rides - Giant Drop, Tower of Terror, Buzz Saw and... coming soon... Sky Voyager.
Hollywood comes to the Gold Coast at Australia's only movie-related theme park, Warner Bros Movie World. Get out of your comfort zone on movie-themed rides like The Superman Escape, the Scooby Doo and 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.
The name says it all - Wet'n'Wild, also known as Wet and 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 washing about 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 heated in winter months, making this a year-round pick for Gold Coast activities.
A Gold Coast must-do, Sea World mixes the majestic creatures of the ocean with thrill rides and while also educating visitors and supporting marine research and conservation, 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. The illuminated Sea Jellies exhibit is truly spectacular.
Fun in the forest
Named after the Aboriginal word for the wild lime trees that grow there, Mount Tamborine is a must for nature and adventure lovers. At the TreeTop Challenge you can zip-line through a landscape that looks much the same as it did when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Once you've had enough adrenaline-pumping activity, head to the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, a leisurely 1.5km tree top walk that allows you to explore the stunning upper rainforest canopy via 300m of high-tech steel bridges and forest floor trails.
If you don't want to drive all the way to Mount Tamborine to play in the trees, there's also a treetop challenge at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the top Gold Coast tourist attractions that's right in the city.
A theatrical Australia attraction
Embrace all things Australian with an Australiana dinner and show package featuring Aussie animals, songs and bush tucker. You'll find this experience between Movie World and Wet'n'Wild Water World at Oxenford on the Gold Coast. 'Heartland' is the newest show; it tells the story of two Aussie battlers, Reg and Marge, who are forging a life on the unforgiving land. A three-course dinner is part of the deal.
Get up close and personal with the beautiful ocean along the Gold Coast on the Stradbroke Island kayak and snorkelling tour. After pickup from Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach, you'll start your adventure at Broadwater Tourist Park. Then it's paddling all the way to Wavebreak Isalnd and South Stradbroke Island for snorkelling and beachcombing. There's a good chance of seeing wild dolphins, turtles, stingrays and sea eagles. In winter and spring, humpback whales can also be spotted.
Another ocean-going option is a water bike snorkelling tour. Water bikes are fascinating contraptions that allow you to cycle across the water on twin hulls to Wave Break Island's reef. More than 450 fish species like to hang out here, so the snorkelling is sensational.
Other water-based activities on the Gold Coast include jet boat rides, jet ski hire and parasailing. And of course there's also the option to see the ocean from the sky with a tandem skydive. Indoor skydiving is also a thing on the Gold Coast; it'll give you the thrills of a real sky dive, but without the altitude.
The Gold Coast's best annual events
There are some big things happening on the GC this year, so you might want to tie your holiday to one of these events:
- Seafire, a spectacular fireworks show, at the end of May
- Surfers Paradise Kids Week at the end of September
- Sand Safari Arts Festival on the beach from mid-February
- Gold Coast Film Festival in early April
- Bleach* Festival, a combo of performance art and music, in April
- Gold Coast Marathon at the end of July
- Gold Coast Car Show in August
- Cooly Rocks On retro festival in June
- Blues on Broadbeach in May
- The Australian Surf Life Saving Champs in early April