Overnight stays: The Log Cabin Camp, Natural Bridge; Tullebudgera Creek Tourist Park, Palm Beach (2 nights); BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park, Helensvale (3 nights)
I think nearly every kid growing up in Australia has vivid memories of visiting the Gold Coast theme parks. I remember Dreamworld’s Thunderbolt with two loops, the Police Academy stunt show at MovieWorld, The ultra-fast Corkscrew at SeaWorld, and incomprehensible water slides at Wet N Wild. It’s a right of passage for kids, but we realised there’s more to the Gold Coast than our memories suggested.
Natural Bridge National Park
Finishing one of the most scenic drives through the Northern NSW Hinterland, we crept into Queensland for our first overnight stay back in time.
Our fist night’s camp couldn’t have been any more of a contrast from the liberal ways of the Byron Coast, being a Seventh Day Adventist site, with a strict no alcohol, drugs or smoking policy. Didn’t bother us too much as we don’t tend partake in any of those Seventh Day sins.
Our objective was to check out the Natural Bridge part of Springbrook National Park, recommended to us by a grey nomadic couple a few weeks prior. We didn’t know a lot about it, but assumed it would be nice, and I had read a little bit about glow-worms, that were rumoured to exist here.
Keen to see for ourselves, we wandered 1km down the road at sunset, hoping for a nice little evening activity. We we’re blown away with what we saw – a beautiful unexpected Waterfall, and most impressive were the little green lights that started to appear, everywhere; glow-worms, hundreds of them!
The further we ventured into the forest, the more we saw, until we were greeted by hundreds of the brightest, greenest lights an insect could squeeze out as we entered the cave, at the base of the free-flowing fall.
Natural Bridge offered us a unique and magnificent park of the Gold Coast we didn’t expect; far from the six-packs, egos and high-rises that put this place on the map.
Not knowing exactly what to do with Cyclone Linda lurking off the Fraser coast, I had read nice things about Tullebudgera Creek and Burleigh Heads, so we decided on a couple of nights on the creek. This park reminded us a bit of Park Beach in Coffs Harbour, mostly because of the awesome water slides running into their pool.
We didn’t do a great deal here apart from chilling out, sliding like mofos, a few family bike rides, and a bit of fishing. The weather was yoyoing so it made it difficult to make any decent plans.
With the sun out we ventured on a walk through Burleigh Heads National Park to Burleigh Heads beach, which was a lovely walk by the lake, and up and over the hill. The simple walk was closed for maintenance so the harder walk took longer than a piece of string, but it was nice, and the view at the end was worthwhile, north towards the hustle of Surfers Paradise sixty storey towers.
The beach itself was a bit disappointing, with more pebbles than sand, and a greater chance of getting nailed by a wave than the Greens winning the seat of Batman.
This was the second ‘must see’ beach that had disappointed on this trip, but we’ve also found some unexpected rippers to make amends too – expectation is everything.
We figured this year for Liv is all the Aussie holidays she’ll never get, as we tend to spend our annual holidays overseas. And given it’s a child’s right of passage to do the Gold Coast theme parks, we figured, why not?
DreamWorld is still reeling from their recent fatal disaster, so our choice of parks was made easy with a Village Roadshow pass giving us 7 days of unlimited access to SeaWorld, MovieWorld, and Wet N Wild – perfect. And we found a caravan park only 7 minutes ride from two of the parks, so booked in for a few nights, but not before our first stop at SeaWorld, a short distance from Surfers Paradise.
I must say I was only marginally enthused about SeaWorld. I mean, the other parks have awesome rides and slides, so surely this is just a couple of hours at best, and we might sneak a few MovieWorld rides in before sunset.
Penguins, dolphins, turtles, sharks, Nemos, Dories, polar bears, rides, shows, and a water park, all enough for at least a days’ entertainment. Liv loved every minute, especially the grand finale dolphin show where they do all sorts of flips and tricks – something which is undoubtably going to set her benchmark if dolphin expectations for the remainder of the trip.
This park has always been my favourite. I remember riding the Lethal Weapon roller coaster not long after it came out with dad all those years ago, and similarly riding the Superman roller coaster and BatWing reverse giant drop with Loz not long after their additions.
Those rides still exist, but they don’t hold a candle to the DC Rivals Hypercoaster. That thing is the scariest and most exciting thing I’ve ever been on. No matter how many times you ride it, it gets you every single time, thinking you’re going to fall out multiple times over. So so good, I ended up riding it about 12 times, one of the benefits of visiting on a weekday outside of school holidays.
With Loz taking the prize as wife of the century, and doing all the kid rides with Liv, I circled between the Hypercoaster and Superman roller coaster, managing six rides per-hour for nearly the entire day. The best!
Loz and Liv seemed to have an equal amount of fun riding the mini giant drop, dodgem cars, carousel, driving mini-cabs, and meeting the various Warner Bros characters including Bugs, Tweetie, Daffey, and Sylvestre. Loz and I also managed to meet Batman, the greatest superhero there ever was.
Wet n Wild
We had tactically planned our Wet n Wild visit for the sunniest of the three day theme park foray, and it turned out perfectly. This place didn’t hold a candle to the others, but Liv loved it more than Cam Bancroft loves his yellow tape. She endlessly rode the kids slides, mixing between the solos and adult-supervised raft slides, which were surprisingly fun.
Sadly for us there were a few ultra-fast slides closed for ‘maintenance’, of which I conclude that they only open on weekends and holidays. I was also disappointed to discover that most adult slides involved rafts, of which require a 2 person minimum to ride. Given we obviously couldn’t leave Liv on her own, and the fact that there were about 15 people in the entire park, this meant these slides would have to wait until next time to feel the Davo wrath.
Saying that, there was one slide that was out of control fast, where you’re put into a pipe and a trapdoor opens below you, dropping you with enough pace to loop around and even slide above horizontal at one stage. The stomach drop never aged so I managed a few rides for the day.
On our way home, as we passed MovieWorld, Liv asked if we could go back there, of which we happily obliged, despite being absolutely shagged after 3 thrilling days. The girls again hit kidland, while I rode the Superman back-to-back for a couple of hours (the Hypercoaster wasn’t running).
We hope that Liv’s Gold Coast memories are as fond as ours, both as children, and parents.