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Australia’s Gold Coast

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The Squeaky Coast of OZ

    As a born and bred New Zealander, I have a few Australian jokes in my repertoire that I use when the occasion calls for it, but after visiting Australia’s Gold Coast, I had to admit, the Aussies know how to do things well.
    Australia is big on catering for the tourist in a nice way, without being pushy.

    After two trips to Fiji where it seemed every shopkeeper took my arm as I got off a bus and wanted me to purchase half the goods in their shop, I found visiting Australia much more peaceful and relaxing.  
    After one of our cold New Zealand winters, it's a burst of warmth to the soul to gather up the kids – sons Keegan, 11, Cayden, 9, and daughter Jaymee, 7 and fly up and over the rain clouds where the sun shines uninterrupted all the way to the Gold Coast. You just know it’s going to be a fabulous holiday even though the area gets over 30 million visitors each year.
 The Gold Coast, one of many views seen during our SeaWorld’s helicopter tour.    There are many accommodations to choose from and they all compete for the tourist dollar.  Some good specials can be picked up. The Internet is a valuable tool for searching out places to stay prior to traveling, or you can consult a travel agent. It pays to book early for the best choices because the Gold Coast is a popular spot for those on holiday from colder southern parts of Australia, as well as all the New Zealanders that flock over the Tasman.
    Good public transport is available all over the Gold Coast but when traveling with children or elderly relatives it's much easier to hire a rental car. Some great specials are available.  
    The Gold Coast begins an hour south of Brisbane International Airport at Sanctuary Cove, and the region stretches uninterrupted for 50 kilometers down to Coolangatta. The subtropical climate delivers an average of 300 sunshine days per year.  
    The central hub of the Gold Coast is Surfers Paradise, which was once a sleepy village until the Nerang Bridge was installed in 1925. Since then, the whole area has exploded in popularity.
    The Gold Coast is well known for its world-class shopping centers and one of the more impressive is Pacific Fair. The Centre has a train running through it which the kids love, and it offers boutique shopping as well as department stores such as Crazy Clarks and Best and Less. It's the kind of place you and the kids can spend a whole day in and not get bored.
   The theme parks on the Gold Coast are impressive, and they can take a whole day in your schedule. Most open at 10 am and close around 5:30 pm. It gets dark shortly after this time, as there seems to be no twilight. One minute the sun is up, and the next you’re plunged into darkness.
     Wearing sensible shoes is a must as the parks are big and you can walk for miles as you go round and around. If you can plan your visit outside Australian school holiday times, you will find the ques are shorter, and quite often you can just walk up to a ride and get straight on.
    SeaWorld, located 3km north of Surfers Paradise, was the first of the theme parks built. Sea World combines family entertainment with marine research and the rehabilitation of injured sea animals.  Not only can you view dolphin and polar bear shows from both topside and underwater viewing areas, but SeaWorld is also loaded with thrilling rides such as the Bermuda Triangle and the Viking's Revenge Our daughter Jaymee sits in the sand while watching the older kids play in the surf.Flume. You’ll find many activities and rides for younger children as well as those that appeal to thrill-seeking-adults, older children, and teenagers. For a little extra cost you can swim with dolphins and take scenic helicopter flights over the Gold Coast.
    Dreamworld is located on 30 hectares of landscaped gardens in Coomera on the Gold Coast. It offers “nature conservation through education” combined with terror inducing rides, entertaining shows, and wildlife displays such as Tiger Island. I found the food options for children limited at Dreamworld, so take your own supplies in a backpack and especially water and beverages
in disposable containers.
    Plan another full day trip to visit Wet n' Wild. Here you and the kids can ride in a giant bumper boat or soak away the hours in a pool of your choice.  Even as a grown up, I enjoyed Wet n’ Wild, just as much as my three children, if not more.
    Movie World seems to be a big hit with everybody, no matter their age. Seeing Wonder Woman, Marilyn Monroe, Batman and Sylvester Cat almost in the flesh, was like reliving one’s childhood.
    Save money by buying a triple pass to Wet n’ Wild, Sea World, and Movie World. Dreamworld isn't included in this deal, because it’s owned by another company. If you visit more than one theme park or wildlife park, plan at least one rest day between visits. It can be really tiring on adults and children alike, if you try to do them back-to-back.
    A must for Gold Coast visitors is a trip to the Carrara Markets on a Saturday or Sunday. The markets offer over 500 stalls. Go early Saturday morning to pick up some ‘early bird gets the worm’ kind of bargains, and on Sunday afternoon just before 3 pm closing time, you can pick up fruit, veggies and baked goodies that are going cheap or are sometimes free. The markets are close to Nerang, which is a short drive inland from Surfers Paradise.
    On Friday nights during the warmer months, you can find night markets on the beach at Surfers Paradise. The artwork and crafts on display are aimed at tourists with lots of dollars to spend, but they are very creative and worth a look. With the average night temperature being 20o C (mid 60’s F) in early spring, the night markets offer a warm evening stroll as well.
    The Hinterland is a wonderful area of scenic beauty that is just a short drive inland from the glittering attractions of the Gold Coast.  A large shield volcano once covered this area. Its weathered remains create a magical world of crystalline rock pools, scenic waterfalls, and rainforest that photographers can have a field day in.
    There are many educational opportunities on the Gold Coast. One such place is Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, on the southern end of the Coast. Here children can learn about snakes, crocodiles, a large variety of birds, kangaroos, koalas and many other species of animals. A train runs around the whole park, which makes it easy on the feet. You can hop on and off the open train at stations, to pet the kangaroos, photograph crocodiles, or attend shows on bird handling or dealing with snake bites. The sanctuary is well worth a visit, even just for a change of pace, and the entry fee is much less than some of the more thrilling theme parks.  
    The actual beach on the Gold Coast really is golden. The sand is soft like corn flour, which squeaks beneath your feet as you’re walking along. It's quite often windy because a strong breeze blows off the Tasman Sea. Sometimes the water is more suited to adults or teenagers, because it can be quite rough.  Younger children can enjoy paddling about in the shallows and making sand castles.
    The Gold Coast is one of those destinations that make you wish you had brought your money tree along. There'sso much to see and do and buy, the region definitely demands a return visit. Next time I’m packing the money tree...

More Information:

www.sunzine.net/goldcoast/welcome.html
(Accommodations, rental vehicles, transfers, attractions,
information etc.)

www.jasons.com.au
(A variety of accommodation options)

www.queenslandholidays.com.au
 
www.dreamworld.com.au

www.movieworld.com.au

www.seaworld.com.au

www.wetnwild.com.au

www.carraramarkets.com.au


– Victoria Purdie is a freelance writer and mother of 3 children ages 7, 9 & 11 who love to travel especially if the aeroplanes have TV screens in the back of the seats. Check out her web site at http://freewebs.com/victoriapurdie

 

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