real life

TRAVEL: Queensland: 2 kids, 3 theme parks & a whole lot of fun.

Just part of the amazing aqua park at Paradise Resort

“Mummy, I’m a bomb!”

So chirped my bouncing 4 year old son as we checked in at the airport, right next to the “We take airline safety very seriously! Don’t even joke about it!” sign.

Oh God.

I instantly knew he was referring to the iPad app “Fruit Ninja” to which he’s become addicted, an innocuous game requiring players to slice up fruit while avoiding ACME-esque bombs. But no one else knew that. And there we were, me in my headscarf, my husband clearly Muslim and 3 of the 4 of us with identifiably Muslim names.

“Mummy, I’m a bomb!” he repeated insistently, jumping like the Fruit Ninja graphic.

Oh dear Lord, we are going to be taken to Guantanamo Bay before we even left Victoria.

“Yes darling!” I said, very loudly. “You like the Fruit Ninja game, don’t you? That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”

“Mummy, I said – “

“COME ON EVERYONE, THIS WAY!” I was now practically shouting to drown him out, and yanked my son’s arm before he could say anything else incriminating. The check-in woman considered us thoughtfully, but before she could say anything, we’d gone.

I was convinced anew that holidays with children are a terrible idea.  Helli-days, really.

Tourism Queensland disagreed however, and was sending me, my husband and our two kids (aged 4 and 8) to the Gold Coast to prove me wrong.  The promise of sun beckoned me, the theme parks beckoned the kids, and fear of my wrath beckoned my husband. So we went.

Arriving at our resort was the first sign of feasibility. Our room gave kids their own themed bunk beds, TV and playstation. It boasts a massive aqua park with water slides, fountains, a swimming pool and spa. The resort also offers Z4K, where parents drop off their children with the friendly staff, giving kids a place to make friends and do cool activities while giving parents a few hours to go out, have a coffee, or book themselves in for a massage. Or remember what uninterrupted conversation is like.

Attacking the theme parks was my next lesson in Being Wrong About Family Holidays. At the fantastic Dreamworld I was pleasantly surprised to find quite a few rides we could go on together. I took my daughter on her first rollercoaster and was forever immortalised as a wuss by the automatic photo snapped at a scary point in the ride – my eyes firmly clamped shut in terror. Dreamworld also offers an automated queuing service called “Q4U” that allows electronic queuing to prevent wasting all your time standing in lines. We stuffed ourselves with lunch at the Billabong restaurant, and again I noticed the way kids and adults were accommodated; nuggets and chips for the kids, with more grown-up offerings for us. I had seconds. Okay, fourths.


Nearby, White Water World was spectacular. My husband and I weren’t just watching our children have fun; we were all running around, splashing, swimming, mostly shrieking. Highlight was the bucket that dumps 1000L of water on people below. And Sea World truly delivers with its animal shows: If the dolphins are the acrobats of the animal world, the sea lions are the clowns. Both shows captivated us, and the sea lion show was laugh-out-loud funny. The rides are limited, however, and mean they often have discouragingly long queues.  Food there is also hit-and-miss – our very average burgers and chips cost more than $60.  After shelling out a considerable amount on admission, it starts to pinch.

We tried Outback Spectacular, and if you like Australiana, go along.  Think horses, corny “true-blue” jokes and acubras. The 3 course meal was good and the horsemanship is excellent, but the storyline was beyond our kids. My daughter slept through most of it. It would be ideal for overseas guests, however.  They’d even get their own hat! More Australiana can be found at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can cuddle koalas, pat kangaroos, and feed lorikeets.  Again, perfect for overseas guests – or for locals like us who’ve never had the chance to shake hands with Skippy. Kids and adults will love being so close to the animals (just prepare yourself for bickering over who gets to hold the koala for the photo. Husband is still in a huff about missing out).

This was a holiday much like the Muppets: superficially pitched at children, with enough brilliant subtext to make it not just endurable but enjoyable for adults. Our resort and the theme parks were the same. Paradise Resort ostensibly caters for kids (the aqua park, Z4K, child-friendly everything) but there’s plenty to pamper adults (hot stone massages, facials, café, childminding,). The theme parks are every child’s dream but I was amazed at how much my husband and I enjoyed ourselves there. Not to mention, the simple rule that when kids are happy, parents are, too. It’s a law of nature, like thunder following lightening.

This is certainly not the cheapest holiday available, and if you go in peak season, some wait times for rides and shows could ruin the fun. But as a one-off family trip everyone will enjoy, the Gold Coast would be hard to beat.  Just take my advice and ditch Fruit Ninja.

Susan Carland and her family were guests of Tourism Queensland.

Check out the gallery below…