In September 2016, my family escaped Adelaide’s bitterly cold winter and jetted off to the Gold Coast. After a really tough year, the holiday was a godsend. Tonnes of fun, lots of sunshine, surprisingly good coffee and a break from the day to day routine…yippee!!
Please note: this post is not sponsored by any of the businesses, attractions or locations referred to in this post. Links have been provided so you can make your own enquiries if something we did/saw sounds like it would be a good fit for your family.
It had almost been a decade since I visited the Gold Coast. My last trip was at the tail end of my honeymoon where I dragged my (then) new husband Marc to Dreamworld for a Big Brother eviction (which was EPIC by the way!!). At the time, I remember saying we probably wouldn’t be back until we had kids. Luckily, the 10-year gap meant that every experience felt ‘shiny and new’ and it was exciting to do all the so called ‘touristy’ stuff.
I know a lot of people put travelling with kids in the ‘too hard’ basket, but trust me – if I can do it, anyone can do it! My girls were 4 and 18 months at the time of the trip which ended up being great travelling ages. My sister Lindsey also joined us on the holiday and having an extra pair of adult hands certainly helped (particularly in keeping an excited 4-year-old in check).
So, in this post, I’m sharing all of my tips, truths and intel about travelling to the Gold Coast with kids 🙂
1. Getting to & from the Gold Coast
I live in Adelaide so we flew up to the Gold Coast. Both Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly direct to/from Coolangatta from Adelaide, but I recommend you check their websites for current time and route information. We flew Virgin both ways as the flight times were a better fit with my 18-month old Sienna’s routine.
Our outbound flight departed at 8.50am so we managed to keep Sienna awake until take off and then she slept ~75% of the way there. Despite her age, I bought Sienna her own seat so she had her own space for take-off and landing. This was only an option because I bought the flights super early and in hindsight, it was worth every penny.
We loaded up the iPad for my 4-year-old Giuliana with lots of episodes of Peppa Pig and My Little Pony but it was too noisy on the plane for her to hear anything (and I forgot to pack headphones). Instead, she spent most of the flight playing with a bag of small toys. The other thing that kept her occupied during the flight was….food! Our carry-on luggage was bursting with snacks – Tiny Teddies, Jatz, sultanas, apple pieces, sandwiches, Smarties etc. Worked a treat.
A girlfriend of mine had a brilliant suggestion for distracting Sienna on the plane. She had recently returned from a holiday to Cairns and gave her daughter a pad of Post-it notes to play with. A good hour of the flight was spent with her daughter peeling them off and sticking them to the seat, tray table, herself etc. There was no mess, they don’t roll off the tray table, easy to clean up….MAGIC!! However, I accidentally packed them in a suitcase rather than our carry-on luggage….on both flights! Next time 😉
By default, travelling with kids means you need to take a lot of stuff. For 3 adults and 2 kids we travelled with:
- 3 large checked suitcases (4 on the return flight)
- 5 carry-on bags
- 2 car seats
- 1 stroller
- 1 partridge in a pear tree! (well, it felt like it)
I packed a canvas duffle bag in one of the big suitcases that we checked in on the return flight. We didn’t do a lot of shopping, but the items we did buy were heavy and the airlines are getting very strict these days about baggage limits. For the last few years, I have always travelled with baggage scales; no one wants a rumble at the check in counter!! #trapsforyoungplayers
1.2 Car Seats
We opted to take our own car seats to 1) save some money and 2) some of the car seats we’ve hired in the past have been very average! Marc would be a gold medal contender for his ability to install/uninstall car seats 🙂 Car seats are classified as oversize luggage, so don’t forget to allow an extra 10-15 minutes to ensure they get dropped off at the right area and scanned in.
Grrr, the stroller caused us some grief on the flight home. If you are travelling with an infant (0-2 years), it’s free to check in a stroller. However, because I bought Sienna her own seat (despite her true age), she technically wasn’t classed as an infant. This wasn’t a problem on the outbound leg because we technically had a ‘spare’ piece of luggage, but given I checked in the canvas bag for the return leg we had too many pieces. The lady at the Virgin counter took pity on us and didn’t charge me for the extra piece, but I will know for next time that I should have ‘bought’ an extra bag at the time of booking.
1.4 Coolangatta Airport
Can I just say that my blood pressure always rises when I’m in Coolangatta Airport?? The terminal is far too small for the significant amount of traffic the Gold Coast generates, so I always try and transit through quickly as possible.
2. Car Hire
We hired a Kia Carnival through Red Spot and it was an excellent choice and met all of our needs. There was ample room for all of us plus our mountain of luggage. Having our own wheels meant that we didn’t need to rely on public transport, taxis or transfers to get us to the theme parks or for our day trip to Bryon Bay.
Unfortunately, there was a snafu when we picked up the car from Coolangatta Airport. Marc was the designated driver for the whole trip, but when he presented his driver’s licence at the counter his licence number had worn off so Red Spot wouldn’t accept it as a valid form of identification. Long story short – Marc had to order a licence transcript from EzyReg to validate his identity prior to hiring the car. This took almost an hour 🙁 – thank goodness this happened on a weekday.
Once we got that sorted, it was smooth sailing 🙂
It’s obvious, but always return your hire car with a full tank of fuel. All hire car companies will flog you up to 3 times the pump price if you return it with a partial tank which can be a rude ‘post-holiday’ shock the following week when you check your credit card statement!
Just quietly, I hit the jackpot when it came to our accommodation. Pre-kids, Marc and I had only ever stayed in hotels/resorts in Surfers Paradise or Broad Beach so I needed to find family friendly accommodation with 3 bedrooms so we could all stay together. Thanks to my old mate Google, I happened across NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Park. Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!!
Treasure Island is in Biggera Waters (an easy 20-minute drive back to Surfers) and Coles, Woolies, Dan Murphy’s and 2 Sushi Trains were no more than a 5-minute drive away (all essentials). Similarly, Harbour Town Gold Coast was just around the corner, so all of our discount shopping needs were covered too.
Biggera Waters is on the northern side of Surfers making it a great run out to all the theme parks. Dreamworld (the furthest one) is approximately 30 minutes from this location.
As for Treasure Island itself, everything about the park is very family friendly i.e.
- Jumping pillow
- Several pools
- Water park
- Kids club (some activities at additional cost)
- Tennis courts/mini golf/bike hire (some activities at additional cost)
This list excludes all the facilities and amenities you would expect to find i.e. bar, restaurant, BBQ’s, laundry, camp kitchen, outdoor gym etc. Check out the park map to see the extent of the park and its facilities.
The jumping pillow and playground were a particularly big hit with Giuliana. The area was fully fenced and while Parent/Guardian supervision was expected at all times, this could be accomplished from the comfort of the deck with a glass of South Australian wine in hand 🙂
To be honest, Giuliana was a smidge too young to really participate in the Kids Club offering. She did sign up for a Father’s Day craft activity that she really enjoyed. The Kids Club itinerary changes daily and caters for indoor/outdoor activities, sports, cooking and an outdoor cinema on the lawns several times a week. We stayed at Treasure Island over the Father’s Day weekend and Kids Club was PUMPING! This is clearly an area the park as spent a lot of time developing making it a wonderful offering for families with kids 4+.
3.3 Room Type – 3BR Riverside Townhouse
As mentioned above, the initial appeal of Treasure Island was that they offered 3 bedroom townhouses. The park has an extensive range of room types ranging from unpowered camping sites to the 3BR Riverside Townhouse where we stayed. Photos and floorplans for all room types and locations are on their website – so handy.
The 3BR Riverside Townhouse was perfect for us – the main bedroom, bathroom and kids bedroom (with double bunk beds) was upstairs, with the kitchen, living space third bedroom and bathroom were downstairs. Lindsey took the ground floor bedroom/bathroom thereby allowing her to have some separation from all the ‘kid shenanigans’ 😉
Our particular room type was in the back corner of the park and one of the lovely pools was no more than 5 meters from our back door. A laundry and BBQ area were also mere meters away – the extent of the facilities was amazing.
The townhouse itself was crisp, clean and functional. I was delighted to find a baby gate in the storage room ready to be installed on the stairs. The kitchen was well equipped and we ate all but 1 breakfast ‘at home’, made our lunch for all our day trips and had lots of cooked dinners.
My only criticism of the room was my standard accommodation ‘bug bear’ re ironing. The ironing board was rickety, the cover was too big (and flat as a tack) and the iron was basically powerless and missing its little jug. 5+ years in Travel Procurement (my old corporate job) means I have seen hundreds of hotel rooms and apartments in my time and this is such a common problem. When I had a grizzle to Marc about this his response was ‘yeah, so??’. Clearly my issue only 😉
Finally, there was limited Foxtel in the room as well as a DVD player. We did pack a handful of the girls’ favourite movies from home that were well used throughout the trip.
3.4 Baby Stuff
Because of Sienna’s age, we hired some baby essentials from a local baby hire company – Baby by the Beach Hire for the duration of our stay. We hired a full sized cot (including mattress and linen), a baby bath and high chair. Treasure Island does offer complimentary porta cots for guests, but we didn’t want Sienna sleeping in one for 10 nights straight.
Sleeping baby = happy holiday 🙂
The bath and high chair were Ikea staples but 110% functional for our needs. The 3 items were ordered (and paid for) online via their website and were delivered to our townhouse on the morning of our arrival. On the day we left, we dropped the 3 pieces back at reception for collection – easy peasy! The cot, high chair and bath were all we needed for our stay, but Baby by the Beach Hire has an extensive range of gear including breast pumps, car seats, prams and toys for hire.
The Wi-Fi at Treasure Island was ‘hit and miss’. The park is extensive so the signal was either strong or non-existent depending on where you stay/spend your time. My own mobile has a huge data allowance, but this quickly disappeared after a few days all thanks to Giuliana’s night time iPad usage. I bought $30 of additional data blocks to keep her happy (and so I could keep playing Pokémon Go) #gottacatchemall
4. Theme Parks
Holidaying on the Gold Coast and visiting the theme parks often go hand in hand. Our theme parks are Australia’s version of Disneyland; not quite as good but far more accessible.
Currently, there are 6 major theme parks on the Gold Coast to choose from:
- Warner Bros Movie World
- Wet n Wild
- Sea World
- WhiteWater World &
- Paradise Country (I’d never heard of this one)
Limited time and the ages of the kids meant we only visited 3 of the theme parks on this particular trip, namely Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and Sea World. Unsurprisingly, we had an amazing time at all 3 of them. Below are my general tips for getting the most out of your theme park experience followed by some park specific advice.
4.1 Location/Getting There
All of the theme parks are located north of Surfers Paradise (or south of Brisbane). Dreamworld is the furthest away (located at Coomera) with Sea World being the closest (located at Main Beach) with all the others somewhere in between. Depending on where you stay, it could take you an hour or more to reach some of the parks, but check out Google Maps for exact distances and time estimates.
Our hire car meant that we could arrive and depart the parks at our leisure, and despite the kids being young, we were still at each of the 3 parks for almost a full day. On-site parking is free and there’s lots of it. On previous visits to the Gold Coast, Marc and I have utilised the transfer service which loops around all the hotels/apartments in Surfers (and surrounds) in the morning and then drops you at your chosen theme park at the opening time and then does the reverse in the afternoon. This is a great service but it can get expensive (up to $70 return for a family of 4), particularly if you visit all of the parks over the course of several days. Public transport is also available to and from the theme parks but visit TransLink for the latest routes and schedules.
Regardless of the theme park, the biggest tip I can give you (other than wearing some decent walking shoes) is buy your tickets in advance. I redeemed some FlyBuys points and bought a 7-Day unlimited family ticket to Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and the SkyPoint Observation Deck. We arrived at both Dreamworld and Sea World just after opening time and there were already 100’s of people lining up to buy tickets. We waited 5 minutes in the ‘pre-bought’ tickets line and went straight in.
There are lots of places you can pre-buy tickets, and often at a discount – online, FlyBuys (in my case), RAA outlets (or your state equivalent), tourist and visitor kiosks in Surfers and the concierge desk at your hotel (not an exhaustive list). Lindsey bought her 7-day ticket at Treasure Island reception prior to leaving the park that morning and we bought all our Sea World tickets there on the day too.
However, the cost of admission isn’t cheap, so please ensure you always buy tickets from reputable merchants.
4.3 Plan Your Day
Unlike the Royal Adelaide Show (or your local equivalent), once you enter a Gold Coast theme park almost all of the rides and attractions are included in your admission. Each park will often have exclusive or VIP attractions you can book in advance or on the day for an additional fee.
I recommend heading to the theme park’s website prior to your visit to check the event schedule to avoid missing out on a big attraction. For example, the Affinity Dolphin Presentation at Sea World is only on twice a day and if you miss it….too bad, so sad 🙁
Food/drink is expensive. Full Stop. We did BYO wherever possible but sometimes you just have to buy what’s on offer to satisfy a starving child who won’t give you a moments peace until they have eaten something else.
The first day we visited Dreamworld Lindsey waited in line for over 30 minutes to buy 2 wraps for over $30. They were delicious but the price was crazy and the wait time was ridiculous given we deliberately sat down for lunch at 11am to ‘avoid the rush’. The chap behind the sandwich counter was in a world of his own and was overly dedicated to his craft.
To add more insult to injury, we spent the next 20 minutes trying to protect our lunch (and children) from some insanely aggressive ibis birds. WARNING – the Dreamworld ibis’s are mean little bastards with no fear. I saw one jump onto a nearby table and steal the top off a hamburger mid-bite. Feeding of the birds is strongly discouraged, but expect to find them around the eateries. I hate birds with a vengeance so I was in a constant state of fight or flight all during lunch.
The older I get, the more of a chicken I become when it comes to rides. I used to love the adrenalin rush of a screamer, but these days I am too conscious of what can go wrong. On the other hand, Giuliana has NO fear whatsoever. She would have gone on the Giant Drop if I had let her. Crazy child!!
Both Sea World and Dreamworld had a range of rides for different ages and degree of thrill seeker. Dreamworld is affiliated with Dreamworks and so had rides themed with Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar whereas Sea World’s rides reflect their character partnership with Nickelodeon (Dora/Diego, Sponge Bob and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).
Height restrictions and ‘thrill expectations’ are listed on both websites as well as any rides that are off line due to scheduled maintenance. The theme parks may have special seasonal events from time to time and details will also be on their websites. For example, both Sea World and Dreamworld have special events planned to coincide with Halloween. The park may be open at night or offer one-off activities that require an additional ticket.
4.6 Sea World
I have always thought of Sea World as a bit ‘ho-hum’, but I really enjoyed it on this visit. The penguin exhibit was awesome and I later realised that you can book a Penguin Antarctic Adventure where you can join the penguin keepers inside the enclosure and get up close and personal with the King & Gentoo penguins. Similar experiences are also available with the polar bears and dolphins – head to the Sea World website to learn more about price and age restrictions.
Giuliana fell in love with the Viking Revenge Flume and went on it again, and again and again! Luckily she doesn’t weigh much so we didn’t get too wet going on (Marc, Lindsey and I all took turns in accompanying her). I cringe every time I see people loading up their log with 4 fully grown adults; the heavier the log, the wetter you get. Of course, on a 40+ degree day in summer this would be one of the most popular attractions.
Because of our 7-day ticket, we visited Dreamworld twice during our trip; one full day and then a half day followed by a half day at WhiteWater World (which is located on the other side of the Dreamworld car park).
I love Dreamworld…I always have. Giuliana went on tonnes of rides, I got to pat a tiger cub and it was great to relive lots of old memories.
I was sad to find that my favourite ride – the gold rush mine cart ride has now been retired (it felt pretty unsafe 10 years ago so I’m not wholly surprised) but Dreamworld has certainly upped the ante with a new scream fest called the BuzzSaw. Yikes!!!
Unfortunately, we visited Dreamworld 2 weeks prior to the grand re-opening of Tiger Island 🙁 Even through the security fencing, the new facilities looked amazing….oh well, next visit. Australia’s first LEGO store was also under construction. What a brilliant idea – the kids are going to go nuts!
Dreamworld offers a virtual queuing service called Ride Express allowing you line hopping privileges so you don’t have to wait. A smart phone is required and there are 3 levels of queue hopping; the more you pay the closer to the front of the line you get. If my kids were older and we were travelling in a peak season (summer or school holidays) I would have happily utilised this service. No one wants to be standing at the marker that says ‘your wait time is approximately 1 hour at this point’.
It’s worthwhile checking the website prior to your visit to see if there are any special events scheduled. For example, the Wiggles and/or ABC Kids program presenters (e.g. Jimmy Giggle) do make special appearances from time to time. It can never hurt to check 🙂
4.8 WhiteWater World
Despite being a swimming teacher for more than 10 years, I hate pools and try to avoid any water-related activities (unless it’s sitting next to one with a cocktail). I had already ruled out visiting the water parks for this very reason. Unfortunately, Giuliana had other ideas. She’s a little fish and loves water slides so understandably she had a ball at WhiteWater World.
There were a lot of slides for much older kids/adults that we ignored so we spent most of our time in Wiggle Bay (a Wiggles themed area with 4 small slides), the Pipeline Plunge and then one of the bigger slides that she could use when accompanied by Marc called the Super Tubes Hydro Coaster.
Luckily for me, I ‘had to look after Sienna’ so was spared from getting in the water (and Lindsey had to keep me company).
WhiteWater World had cabanas you can hire for a daily fee giving you access to you own covered/enclosed space, fridge and comfy seating and day beds. Head to the website for the current prices and availability. In the heat of summer, I can imagine these little babies would be a very popular option 🙂
4.9 SkyPoint Observation Deck
The 3rd destination on our 7-Day unlimited ticket was entry to the SkyPoint Observation Deck – the highest point on the Gold Coast. Located in Surfers Paradise, we checked it out early one morning on a weekday so we were able to go straight up. 2 hours of free parking is included with your ticket for those visiting SkyPoint (recording your licence plate at the desk is all that’s required).
Unsurprisingly, the view of the Gold Coast was amazing, we took our obligatory selfies….and then we left. Giuliana chose this moment to have a tantrum over how hungry she was and Sienna had a leaking nappy to deal with. Older kids might be more interested in the history and engineering side of the building…but not my 2.
That being said, SkyPoint would be a lovely spot to take a book/laptop and soak up the view. This is a popular option for many local residents who purchase an annual pass to SkyPoint. Breakfast is also served daily (reservations recommended).
Adventurous types can book a SkyPoint Climb with several options available such as day/twilight or climb and dine packages.
5. Byron Bay
Marc and I LOOOOOVE Byron Bay. We’ve been several times and went there for our honeymoon (this is the week BEFORE I dragged Marc to a Big Brother eviction). Lindsey had never been so we decided to do a day trip to share all our favourite haunts.
Unfortunately, this visit fell a bit flat, possibly because it was the equivalent of a ‘kiss and drop’; far too quick and rushed. However, we still had a nice few hours pottering around.
5.1 The Drive
It took approximately 90 minutes to get from Treasure Island to Byron. We left home around 8am and arrived just after 10am (after a mandatory coffee stop at Skull & Bones Espresso Boutique). It’s an easy drive once you clear the Gold Coast Highway with great quality roads. It should be noted that there is only 1 road into Byron and as soon as we turned off the highway you are at a crawl to reach the centre of town (based on our arrival time).
The food in Byron is generally outstanding. There has been an explosion of new dining options pop up since our last visit and selecting a target for breakfast was tough. We chose Dip cafe – great food, pleasant people and good coffee #missionaccomplished.
5.3 Byron Bay Farmers Market
The Byron Bay Farmers Market is held every Thursday (weather permitting) at Butler Street Reserve and it’s an old favourite of ours. Like everything in Byron, it’s very relaxed, filled with locals and tourists alike, lots of top knots, shoes are optional and the produce is AMAZING. We deliberately pencilled in our day trip for a Thursday so we could have a gander. It wasn’t the same as on previous visits because we weren’t looking to buy ingredients for a dinner that night, but had we stayed the night we would have bought up. However, we did get a cup of sugar cane juice which is an absolute must. Yep, it looks like brown water but it’s amazing!
We drove up to the Cape Byron Bay Lighthouse to take in the view (and so Lindsey can say she’s visited the eastern most point in Australia). It was a beautiful clear day (with minimal wind) so the view was lovely. Giuliana was too young to climb to the top of the lighthouse (age restriction) so we took some obligatory selfies, basked in the serenity for a bit and then headed back down the hill.
5.5 Byron Bay Cookie Company
You can’t go to Byron without visiting the Byron Bay Cookie Company retail shop in person. I’d been looking forward to stocking up on ‘seconds’ for weeks leading up to the trip. Only one word is required…..awesome! We walked out with $50+ of broken (but delicious) cookies and I splurged on a fancy pants tin of a new release – passionfruit and dark chocolate. So, so good.
I often dream about spending my retirement in Byron Bay (if I can afford it). It’s such a lovely place with a relaxed vibe….there is really nothing not to like. We did notice the aggressiveness of motorists has certainly ramped up since our last visit. We got overtaken turning right onto the main street!! Whaaa!! In a place Byron I thought “really?? What’s your hurry??”.
My other grizzle was that parking meters have been installed all over town (and it’s not cheap either). I’ve spent many lovely days wandering about town popping in and out of shops (and eating) whereas now, you’d need to be conscious of ducking back to the meter every couple of hours to re-swipe your credit card.
And finally, we did a quick lap to show Lindsey and the girls all our other favourite spots –
- The Byron at Byron – our favourite resort. We have so many wonderful memories of this place
- The Villas of Byron – we stayed here one year when The Byron at Byron was closed for roof repairs. It was 5 star eco-haven but pushed us well outside our comfort zone with a self-composting toilet and outdoor shower. It also had its own yoga room….swish!!
- Fundies – it’s a quirky little café/shop full of uber healthy food and organic coffee
- Beach – the beach is spectacular. The weather was ‘cool’ by Bryon standards on the day we visited, but the water was still filled with surfers catching a wave
- Dr Moose – this is an essential stop in Byron if you love pop culture and want to have a custom t-shirt printed. We’ve had lots made here on previous trips, but Marc opted for a stubby holder for this visit.
Until next time Byron Bay xx
If shopping were an Olympic sport, then I’m Michael Phelps. I love it, (I’m good at it) and on the Gold Coast there is plenty of it to be had. With close to 12 million visitors per year, shopping is the obvious respite when families are all ‘theme parked out’.
When shopping in the Gold Coast, there is something for everyone. Harbour Town Gold Coast was around the corner from Treasure Island catering for your discount outlet shopping. Similarly, Pacific Fair is another HUGE shopping centre ranging from staples such as Target and Sportcraft to all of the luxury brands such as Tiffany and Christian Louboutin. Surfers Paradise is also filled with boutiques and mainstream stores. In a nutshell – tonnes of places to spend your money.
This trip wasn’t about buying ‘stuff’ but enjoying the experience as a family. As a result, the Gold Coast economy definitely suffered a blow…I hardly bought a thing. I picked up some clothes for the girls to put away for next year and Marc bought some t-shirts….and that’s about it. Very unlike me. Below is a wrap of what to expect at the major centres:
6.1 Harbour Town Gold Coast
Harbour Town Gold Coast is BIG with over 240 stores it’s almost twice as big as the one in Adelaide. Due to the high end stores located at Pacific Fair, several of the luxury brands also have a discounted shop front at Harbour Town (such as Coach).
We picked a Saturday to hit the shops, arrived at 9am and were finished by 2pm (including lunch). Being a weekend, it was busy by the time we left but we were able to have a good poke around in the morning with minimal effort (going into all the shops with a stroller). There was a lot more that I could have bought, but they were items that were suitcase/plan un-friendly and therefore I managed to keep my Amex in my wallet. The website has an extensive directory so you can check if your favourite brands have a presence on site.
Suffice to say, Harbour Town Gold Coast is big, well laid out and has a great range of shops and food outlets. Definitely set aside a day or morning to check it out.
6.2 Pacific Fair
Pacific Fair has undergone a significant renovation since my last visit. The original building remains relatively unchanged but the outside space has been transformed. It used to be a hodge-podge of extra shops but it’s now a high-end shopping haven filled with the world’s best designers and luxurious relaxation areas. The outside space reminded me of a Las Vegas resort; day beds, seating that doubles as art…it was insane. Here are some photos.
I already have too many pairs of Louboutins (ha!!) so we did some high-end window shopping and then focused on the stores that haven’t yet made it to Adelaide such as Sephora. Of course, the total range of shops is insane. If you’re the type of shopper who likes to visit every shop then put aside a whole day. Here’s the store directory and map for some pre-trip planning 🙂
We visited the Parents Room and I’m embarrassed to admit this but it was nicer and cleaner than my own bathroom. If they awarded Michelin stars to Parents Rooms…..this one would be 5 stars!
Pacific Fair was amazing. If only I’d been there for a girls shopping weekend instead of a family holiday….
I’m not going to lie; 10 nights away in another state was expensive. Flights, accommodation, car hire and travel insurance are a huge hit to the wallet and you haven’t even bought your first coffee yet. However, we only go on a holiday every few years so it’s easier to justify the financial outlay.
However, pennies were still tight so were frugal in some areas so we could see more/do more in others. Below are some of my top tips for making your spending money go further:
- Food – we took our own snacks, lunches and drinks to the theme parks which saved us a small fortune. We still bought a treat at each visit (i.e. ice cream)…which DID cost us a small fortune – $15 bought us 2 x single scoop waffle cones one day!! With the supermarkets so close to home it was easy to take bottled water, make sandwiches etc.
- Entertainment Book – this was a light bulb moment for me. When the 2016/17 books were for sale earlier in the year, I bought the Gold Coast/Byron Bay edition specifically for the holiday. We more than tripled our savings (over and above the investment) and used vouchers for food/coffee/tickets to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary/a play café and more. On the day we flew home, I left the book at the back door of another family who were holidaying in an adjacent townhouse because I knew they were staying a few more days #payitforwaard
- Shopping – As mentioned previously, this holiday was all about ‘experience’ rather than ‘stuff’. Yes, we ‘shopped’ but only for items that were highly discounted or the obligatory souvenirs that a 4-year-old won’t let you leave Dreamworld without! The kids ages certainly helped – Sienna is too young and Giuliana was happy to leave the Dreamworld fairy shop with a lip gloss worth $2.95. We didn’t buy presents for anyone back at home which also helped with our luggage limit. This will no doubt get harder as the kids get older…but, I’ll worry about that when the time comes.
8. ‘Missing in Action’
As mentioned, I had some ‘me time’ during the holiday when I attended ProBlogger Event – a 2 day blogging conference at RACV Royal Pines Resort Gold Coast. Just quietly, it was AWESOME and I’ve already decided that I’ll be attending again in 2017.
Anyhoo, while I disappeared for 2 days, Marc and Lindsey continued the holiday festivities without me. Below is a summary of their activities while I was MIA:
8.1 Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
I am terrified of birds so I was relieved to miss the trip to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary! My gang arrived shortly after opening time and stayed for a few hours. Kangaroos were fed (Giuliana loved this), native Australian animals were seen and playground equipment was given a workout – everyone had a great time.
However, Lindsey did pass on some advice that may be useful when planning your visit:
- The park is ‘hilly’ in places which made pushing the stroller hard work. Similarly, due to the natural feel of the environment, the stroller had to go ‘off road’ and be maneuvered over significant grass areas and unsealed foot paths. This is by no means a detractor, but if you visit with a pram/double pram be sure to eat your Weet-Bix that morning!!
- Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. There is lots of shade but it’s spread out so don’t forget to Slip! Slop! Slap!
- Currumbin had a couple of very impressive elevated play grounds but they were a smidge to advanced for a 4-year-old. The skills/balance requirements would have been better suited for 6-8 year olds.
8.2 The Barefoot Barista (Coffee)
Marc and Lindsey were both disappointed to discover that the Barefoot Barista was wearing shoes (ka boom ching!) but agreed that this was another excellent coffee to add to the tally.
8.3 Play Café – AbraKiDazzle
On the day it rained, the girls spent the morning at AbraKiDazzle a play café approximately 10 minutes from Treasure Island. Abrakidazzle was in the Entertainment Book offering discounted admission – whoo hoo! Giuliana had a ball (what 4-year-old doesn’t love a good play café??) but there was a separate area for little ones. Play cafés rarely cater for babies and small toddlers but the area at Abrakidazzle was extensive and Sienna had a ball too. Note: socks are mandatory in the play areas so BYO or they do sell them in the onsite café if you forget.
As mentioned above, we ate almost every breakfast and dinner in our townhouse primarily because of cost and because I wanted to maintain Sienna’s night time routine as much as possible. In general, food on the Gold Coast isn’t overly expensive EXCEPT when you arrive at a theme park or major attraction – then you can expect to pay $6 or more for a bottle of water. Ok, this might be a slight exaggeration but I’m not far off.
Conversely, QLD being a warmer state certainly has its fresh food charms. One day I saw punnets of amazing looking strawberries for 69c each…#winning
Because of the ages of my girls (plus some lovely generosity from Lindsey) Marc and I were able to sneak off for a ‘grown up’ dinner on one night of the holiday. We indulged in some traditional yum cha at a restaurant at Harbour Town Gold Coast called….Yum Cha Cuisine. The food was yummy, the service was quick and I excitedly took home some steamed custard buns for dessert…one of my faves.
While I was at ProBlogger Event, Marc and Lindsey ordered pizza for dinner one night (I was attending the obligatory cocktail party) from a place called Three Kings Pizza. On my return home that night I was met with feedback such as ‘best pizza I’ve ever had’ and ‘Best. Pizza. Ever’. Marc even made his first ever Instagram post over this pizza it was that good. What flavour??– Pulled Beef (here’s the menu). Three Kings Pizza are the first guys you should call when the hankering for pizza strikes 🙂
As you probably know, I care deeply about my coffee so more time than I care to admit was spent researching where to procure the best in the Gold Coast. Our top 4 were (in no particular order were):
- The Barefoot Barista
- Skull & Bones and
- Stairwell Coffee
I lost count of the number of times we visited Merlo in the delightful Brickworks Centre and Skull & Bones had multiple visits too. I was pleasantly surprised to find how active the Gold Coast’s coffee culture is….bravo guys!
Full disclosure – I hate packing. I even wrote a blog* about my poor packing abilities in preparation for the holiday in the hope of leveraging on the success and tips of others. The verdict – I still suck. It’s been the coldest, crappiest winter in Adelaide and I still failed to anticipate what we would all be wearing in temperatures 10+ degrees warmer than the median. We overcame this with regular loads of washing (using the Treasure Island laundry facilities) and a quick run to target to grab a handful of extra t-shirts for Sienna.
Regretfully, I took my laptop with me…and turned it on once. I was sure that I would be suffering a major case of digital FOMO and be checking emails every night, but I was able to completely switch off as soon as we arrived – the trademark of a great holiday!
Marc packed well, but took far too much stuff. He took at least 10 t-shirts (for 11 days) and then proceeded to buy 5 more golf shirts whilst at Harbour Town. Thank goodness I had the sense to pack that extra duffle for increased luggage capacity on the flight home.
*If you’d like to check out my packing blog, here’s the link.
We were so unbelievably lucky with the weather for our entire stay. Compared to Adelaide, the Gold Coast was positively balmy with the temperature ranging between 20-25 degrees everyday (our travel dates were 1 – 11 September).
If you’ve travelled to Queensland before you’ll understand when I say ‘the air is a bit different’. Poor Giuliana had some frizz issues but she got to break out her new summer dresses so she was a very happy girl.
The nights were still cool, so we swung between winter and spring pyjamas as needed. In hindsight, I wish I had packed my ugg boots…maybe when my packing improves 🙂
There was only one instance where it rained during the day and that’s the day Marc and Lindsey took the girls to the play café for the morning.
Marc and I have often travelled to Queensland in September/October to take advantage of the awesome weather. If you’re a surfer/beach lover you’ll probably want to travel in Summer, but this time of year is always perfect for us.
As you’ve probably gathered, the trip was very special to me. Yes, we visited some great places and had lots of fun but it was so restorative to escape the day to day routine for a while.
The girls were a handful at times, but travelling to the Gold Coast is more fun with kids. You quickly turn into a kid again yourself when you see them go crazy to have their photo taken with a giant Hootabelle or witness their smiles of joy whilst on a scary ride.
I already had our next trip to the Gold Coast mapped out before we’d even packed our bags to come home. We’ll be back in 2019, my rationale being:
- 2017 – too soon (and not enough time to save up)
- 2018 – the Gold Coast is hosting the Commonwealth Games so unless you plan to attend, I would give the area a wide berth
- 2019 – all the tourism and hospitality workers will have recovered from the Commonwealth Games and will be ready to welcome visitors again
I hope you’ve loved reading this post and find the information useful when planning your next family holiday to the Gold Coast.
Have you visited the Gold Coast before?? Love it?? Please share your experience with me by leaving a comment below.