How to make the most out of a day at Sea World
The long, hot Australia Day weekend is not the best time to pack the Prius full of kids and head to Sea World on the Gold Coast, but with school holidays about to wind up and an empty promise sitting like the proverbial elephant in the room, this air-conditioned princess kidded herself into thinking it wouldn’t be too bad.
Wrong! It was fan-force hot. The park was packed. And we got lost more than a few times. But according to three kids aged eight to 13, it was “the best park ever – full of freaky animals we’ve never seen before”.
Along the way, I learned a few things about making the most out of a day at Sea World.
Tip #1: Stay onsite
Sea World is the only theme park on the Gold Coast with a hotel right next door. Look out for the incredible ‘stay and play’ deals that offset the cost of entry.
A sneaky peek at the hotel’s website AFTER our day out showed that a night’s accommodation for two adults and two kids (plus access to the park and entry to Paradise Country), starts from $360 for the lot. With Sea World tickets alone costing $89 per person, that’s a bargain in anyone’s language. Value aside, overnighting at Sea World Resort has its benefits; you can pop in and out all day and make the most of the rooms – and the pool – during the heat of the day.
Tip #2: Buy your tickets online and save
Okay, so we already had two adult and two kids’ tickets booked when the moody teenager decided to join at the last moment. No problem, we purchased his entry ticket at the gate but the difference was enough to buy snacks all round.
The online, locals-only VIP Magic Pass with a five-month validity was $79.99 online, while a one-day ticket to Sea World at the gate was $89. Lesson learned: Get your fingers working before you go (especially if you live nearby). (Eds note: ticket prices may have changed since date of publication. Please check website.)
Tip #3: Kill two birds with one stone
With so much to do and just one day to fit it in, we had to get strategic with time. Tipped off by a friendly staffer, the rest of the family headed to the Jet Stunt Extreme show 20 minutes early to nab a shady spot while I bought a round of sandwiches from a nearby cafe. By the time the 1:30pm show started, our tummies were full and we had the coolest seats in the stand.
Tip #4: Get out of the heat
Despite bunking down with the penguins for an awesome 20 minutes of air-conditioned antics, summer in a theme park demands water. Cue the Viking Revenge Flume, a family classic that has riders torpedoing at 58km/hr into a pool of cool water and the Battle Boats where you can step into Jack Sparrow’s shoes and water cannon everyone in sight.
The kids even decided to spend their pocket money and enter the Sea World Resort Water Park, home to a giant water slide and a knee-high pool. It cost $7 per person, and it was worth it. (Incidentally, access to the pool and slide is free if you stay at Sea World Resort.)
Tip #5: Have an animal encounter without paying for it
Sit down the front of the stands and act really excited. During the Sea Lion show our animated teen was pulled out of the audience to meet and kiss a large rubbery seal. It certainly livened the show up and was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.
Tip #6: Educate the kids and have fun
It never stops to amaze me how parks like Sea World, Dreamworld and Australia Zoo can influence the minds of the young. No matter what animal show we watched, the subtle message was one of conservation.
“Polar caps are shrinking; dolphin habitats need protecting; be mindful of what you throw into our waterways.” It was all delivered in a fun and caring way and those little minds walked away, well, more mindful.
Tip #7: Take the Sky-High Skyway
It doesn’t matter how many tonsil-tingling thrill rides the Gold Coast bags, the youngest one had her eye on Skyway, an overhead cable car that moves at a snail’s pace above the park action. We found the line up near the entrance almost half the length of the one at the other end of the park. The view – including a bird’s eye look at the Sea Lion show – was relaxing and worth it.
Make time for Penguin Encounter, voted by our three as the clear favourite. I think we spent 30 minutes with our noses glued to the glass watching the original version of Happy Feet in hyper-reality.