From knowing the best time of year to go, to organising your transport to and from the airport, here’s a list of top tips and tricks for your theme park adventure on Australia’s glittering Gold Coast.
Action, adventure, adrenaline – there’s no shortage of all three when you visit the Gold Coast theme parks on Australia’s East Coast, known as the ‘Theme Park Capital Of Australia’. Meet your favourite movie characters, challenge yourself to ride on some of the tallest and fastest rides, splash around in the pools, and squeal with delight as you whiz down a water slide, all while soaking up the gorgeous Queensland weather and laid-back vibes.
There are five main theme parks on the Gold Coast: Dreamworld is Australia’s largest theme park and highlights include Tiger Island and The Tower of Terror 2 – one of the tallest thrill rides in the world; WhiteWater World is full of exciting water slides and attractions; Wet’n’Wild is the biggest water theme park in Australia and combines water slides and leisure pools; Sea World doubles as a marine research and rescue centre where you can see dolphins, polar bears and penguins; and Warner Bros Movie World is where all your favourite movies come to life.
Whether you’re on the Gold Coast for school holidays, a long weekend or an event, there’s so much action to see and do, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed. Which theme park should you visit? Can you get a pass for all of them? What’s the food like in there?
No stress – we’ve compiled a list of useful tips to make the most out of your trip to ‘Australia’s Theme Park Capital’.
1. Get there early
Most of the parks don’t open until mid-morning, but you can actually enter some of them before the rides open to get your bearings. This way you can wander around before the crowds arrive to find out where all the main rides are, organise a meeting place incase anybody in your group gets lost, and familiarise yourself with the park. Here are the opening times for each park:
- Movie World: Gates at 9:30am; Rides at 10:00am
- Dreamworld: Gates and rides at 10am
- Sea World: Gates at 9:30am; Rides at 10am
- WhiteWater World: Gates and rides at 10am
- Wet’n’Wild: Gates and rides at 10am
2. Buy tickets online
Feel like waiting for ages in the queue when you arrive to buy your tickets? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Avoid the lines by purchasing your passes online before you go. For Dreamworld and WhiteWater passes, a one day ticket will cost you $75, a three day ticket is $79, seven days is $89 and an annual pass will set you back $109. There are a number of other tickets you can purchase for special events too, like a VIP experience or Wildlife Experience.
Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild fall under the Village Roadshow umbrella, which is separate to the other two parks, and as such requires a different pass. You can buy a single day pass for $79, a Super Pass (7 Days) for $149, a Mega Pass (14 days) for $179 or an Annual Pass for $199.
Dreamworld is Australia’s largest theme park
3. Skip the queues
Let’s face it, queues are not fun, especially if you’re waiting an hour for a two-minute ride. Each park gives you the option of skipping the long waits on your favourite rides for a real VIP experience. It’s best to check each park’s website before you purchase a queue-jumping pass, as some limitations do apply. Dreamworld offers a ‘Ride Express’ ticket, while Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild offer ‘Fast Track’ tickets.
Note: These are in addition to your park entry pass.
4. Time your visit
Australian summer school holidays (December/January) is the peak season for the Gold Coast. While it’s the most convenient time for many people, it’s also when crowds are huge, lines are long and temperatures are hot, so it’s worth factoring this in when planning a trip. If crowds aren’t a bother, fantastic! Summer school holidays are buzzing at the theme parks and often have school holiday specials.
For a happy medium, consider planning a trip on a weekend during school term. Even the winter school holidays get busy, as interstate travellers in southern states venture up north in search of sunshine and warmth (though it’s usually less crowded than summer time). By travelling in the low season, you’ll avoid the (sometimes hour-long) queues, the harsh summertime sun, and won’t feel like a sardine in a can.
Each park gives you the option of skipping the long waits on your favourite rides for a real VIP experience.
5. Stay hydrated
Queensland gets hot! Even winter can be quite warm, and you’ll be spending a large amount of time in the sun either on the rides, wandering around the parks or waiting in queues. Bring water bottles that you can fill up at water fountains throughout the day to keep up your H20 so you don’t get dehydrated. On that note, it’s important to be sun-smart as well. Pack sunscreen (waterproof if you’re heading for the water parks) and reapply throughout the day, and wear a hat and opt for time in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
6. Dress for the weather
It’s not called the Sunshine State for nothing, as you’ll quickly find out on a trip to Queensland. As mentioned, sunscreen and plenty of water are important for a theme park holiday, but so is what you wear. It may be tempting to wear shorts and a singlet, but consider how much time you’ll spend in the harsh sun. Protecting your shoulders, face, ears (and feet – sunburn on your feet is very unpleasant!) will help you avoid turning the colour of a tomato. It’s also important to note that clothing with things like zips, studs and rivets may not be permitted on some of the water park rides, so it’s best to avoid them if you don’t fancy stripping to your undies for a ride on the waterslide.
From giant water slides to leisure pools, you’ll definitely cool off at the many water attractions these theme parks offer
7. Pre-book your airport transfer
The Gold Coast Airport in Coolangatta is the closest airport to travel to and from when visiting the ‘Theme Park Capital of Australia’. The easiest way to get from Gold Coast Airport to your hotel and back is by airport transfer. Whether you want a private transfer for just you and your family or a shared shuttled, Jayride.com works with thousands of local transfer companies so you can find one that fits your needs and budget.
You can also access the Gold Coast by flying into either Brisbane Airport and Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. If you’re planning to hit the rides straightaway, just enter the theme park address you’re travelling to and from and choose from the transfer companies who’ll take you straight there. Easy!
8. Know what food you can bring
While bringing your own food is a logical way to save some money (theme parks can be notorious for over-priced, unhealthy food), it’s important to know that each park has a different set of rules when it comes to BYO before you whip up some sandwiches.
Wet’n’Wild: It’s fine to bring your own food as long as it’s not commercial take-out, like KFC or McDonalds, and you can’t bring alcohol or glassware. There are coin-operated barbecues available here, so you can bring some sausages and burgers for a BBQ to fuel up between waterslides.
Sea World: Unless you’ve got a very specific dietary requirement, such as an allergy (or travelling with infants), you can’t bring in any food or drinks (bottled water and fruit are okay to bring though).
Movie World: Similar to Sea World, Movie World won’t let you bring your own food unless you’re travelling with infants or have a dietary requirement that you need to cater for.
Dreamworld: Unless you have a genuine medical reason such as allergies, you can’t BYO food into Dreamworld.
WhiteWater World: Hooray, you can BYO picnic to WhiteWater World! The best part is, if you purchase a World Pass you can pop on over from Dreamworld (it’s just next door), enjoy a picnic in the shady areas, then head right back.
It’s also a good idea to have a big breakfast before you head off to help fuel you for the day. It’s the most important meal of the day, after all, and you’ll need it.
9. Plan a rough schedule
Plan, but be flexible. There’s a lot going on, from character meet and greets and parades, to special events, shows and animal displays. Make a list of everything you want to do, find out which events clash and plan your day around it so you don’t miss out. Check the park maps, read the ride descriptions (and height restrictions if you’re travelling with little ones) and show times on the websites before you leave to help plan out the day. Aim to do the big rides before lunch (a full tummy and an upside-down roller coaster ride is not a good mix) and try to seek out shade in the heat of the afternoon when the sun is at its strongest.
Once you’ve booked your airport transfer from Gold Coast Airport on Jayride.com, all that’s left to do is enjoy everything the Gold Coast and its theme parks have to offer.