The Gold Coast Feature
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Gold Coast Top Amusement Parks
Queensland's Gold Coast is littered with large outdoor theme parks, collectively luring millions of visitors annually with multimillion-dollar thrill rides, waterslides, kids' zones, live shows, and animal attractions.
The Gold Coast's theme parks offer an array of attractions as vast as their acreage. Some, such as WhiteWater World and Wet 'n' Wild Water World, draw crowds with massive wave pools, tubes, and waterslides. At others, the attraction is "true-blue Aussie" experiences: Paradise Country has an Outback farm focus with kid-friendly activities, animals, and tours; the Australian Outback Spectacular, a nightly big-budget arena show, highlights jackeroo (Aussie cowboy) skills. Dreamworld excites folk of all ages with high-tech thrill rides and action-packed shows, while Seaworld, a little farther south, has daily dolphin and seal shows and a polar bear park. Some parks double as locations for movies and TV series; Warner Bros. Movie World also has a daily live-action stunt show, wandering cartoon characters, and movie memorabilia. At all six you'll find a glut of merchandising and snack outlets.
Beat the Crowds
The Gold Coast's theme parks are often crowded, especially on weekends and during school holidays. To beat the crowds, arrive early, go midweek, visit on rainy days, or take theme-park excursions in winter, when crowds are thinner but days are often sunny (pools and water-rides are heated).
Prebuy tickets online (valid for a year), then use the e-ticket express gate. An Early Entry Pass (A$10 extra) lets you enter some parks an hour before opening time (these are limited; book early). Some parks hire out "virtual queueing" devices so you can explore the park while waiting for rides rather than standing in line.
Dreamworld, near the Gold Coast town of Coomera, boasts a vast acreage and the "big six"-multimillion-dollar, state-of-the-art thrill rides claiming global superiority on various fronts. Here, among the kids' rides, souvenir stalls, and snack-food outlets, you'll find the world's fastest, highest thrill ride, the Tower of Terror; the southern hemisphere's tallest high-speed gravity roller coaster; a Guinness-Record-breaking free-fall ride; and what is allegedly the world's largest pendulum, the Claw. Dreamworld's latest attractions include the fast and furious Motocoaster race ride and the stomach-turning underwater adventure Shockwave. For a true Gold Coast experience, try the Flowrider, a mix of surfing and skateboarding, or a surfing lesson in the Cave of Waves. The park also shelters a group of endangered Bengal and Sumatran tigers, supports one of the largest koala populations in the state, and houses 800-plus native animals in a landscaped sanctuary, viewable up close on the Sunset Safari. Don't miss the daily sliming at Nickelodeon World.
Too hot to traipse around Dreamworld? Pack bathing suits and head to its cooler neighbor, WhiteWater World. The focus of the Gold Coast's latest theme park is aquatic rides and water slides, including the BRO, a twisting eight-lane racer slide named after deadly Australian marine critter, the blue ringed octopus, as well as Australia's largest corkscrew-cored whirlpool ride, the A$1.4 million, 26-second Rip ride. You can also take a trip on an inner-tube "aquacoaster" known as the Temple of Huey; hang five in the Green Room, a 65-foot-high "tube" simulating a monster wave's innards; or face your fears on the park's newest power slide, the Wedgie. Anklebiters will enjoy Nickelodeon's Pipeline Plunge, and toddlers can play safely at Wiggle Bay. You can even learn to surf here three mornings a week.
It's tempting to pack both park visits into one day, but unless you're on a super-tight schedule, don't. You'll need a full day to do justice to WhiteWater World's dozens of slides, wave pools, fun zones, and attractions; an equal amount of time to enjoy Dreamworld. Fitting in everyone's activities of choice, queueing, changing, and showering all take time.
Virtual queueing with Q4U saves your spot in line for WhiteWater World and Dreamworld's most popular rides, leaving you free to explore (the device gives little reminder beeps). Rides can't be queued for simultaneously, but Q4U still saves you hours. It's A$10 (plus A$7.50 per person using it) and well worth it.
Prebook early-bird tickets, Q4U devices, surf lessons, and Flowrider sessions online, as all are limited and sell out fast. A two-day World Pass, permitting second visits to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World within a fortnight, is a smart idea for rainy-day (and cranky-kid) flexibility.
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