“Me Time” vs “We Time”: The ideal Brisbane and Gold Coast family holiday
Planning a five-day family holiday is no mean feat.
In fact, arranging a NASA space mission sometimes seems easier than designing an itinerary that caters to the whims of tiny travellers.
This itinerary alternates much deserved “Me Time” (for mum and dad) with “We Time” (for the whole family) because holidays are all about balance, right?
Consider it a holiday sandwich – cut, crusts off, into the perfect triangle or square shape – to suit your little ones’ liking.
ME TIME: A Brisbane breakfast favourite
Everybody knows all good holidays start with breakfast. However, this statement gains even more meaning for mums and dads who usually rush out the door with a cold piece of Vegemite toast clenched between teeth.
Not on holidays. No sir.
On holidays you drink two coffees at the table and think nothing of it. That’s why you should take a short stroll from your South Bank hotel to West End to make new sacred breakfast rituals.
Local Brisbane institution, The Gunshop Café, has a great courtyard for family dining – i.e. you won’t be judged if someone spills their frappe all over the place.
WE TIME: Burn that 10am energy-burst off
From this bustling breakfast hot spot, you’re a stone’s throw from West End local’s favourite park, Orleigh Park, which has a playground as good as its river views.
Under the shade of the towering Moreton Bay Fig trees, race off all that breakfast pannacotta and pancake madness with one of Brisbane’s cutest slides, which sees kids whizzing down a frog’s tongue onto the soft fall below.
Enough said. Hop to it!
WE TIME: Lunch on the go
Take a wander down West End’s main street, Boundary Street, to pick up lunch on the go.
Options like rice paper rolls, sushi, and bento boxes are aplenty on this bohemian main street. Pick up some takeaway sushi from Miso Hapi (which is as cute as its name appears) if you don’t have time for the full dine-in train experience.
WE TIME: Treat Time
Be ready and waiting at Gelato Messina when they throw open the glass doors to gelati heaven at noon. The early bird avoids the queues – a prize worthy of mentioning to anyone who’s had to line up for their late-night gelati fix.
For kids, classic flavours like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry narrow the choices. For adults, things get a bit more difficult with another 20-odd flavours and a specials board to contend with. Flavours like baklava and Snickers have this writer’s attention, always.
WE TIME: Get cultured
With energy levels suitably set to silly, you’re ready to take on a Brisbane’s cultural precinct, which at face value might look like “Me Time” but will quickly morph into “We Time”.
The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is known for its world-class exhibitions and outstanding kids programs, which are great for young and young at heart. Activities promise to have everyone hands-on, while lifts, ramps and cushioned seats help break up the experience when little legs get tired.
If time permits, or the kids rock-paper-scissors it out for another “We Time” activity, stop by the Queensland Museum & Sciencentre, which seamlessly blends education with entertainment, just next door.
WE TIME: Alright stop, nap time
By the time afternoon ticks by, the kids won’t be the only ones in need of some time on the recharger. As the saying goes, families who nap together, stay together.
We recommend settling in for a quiet afternoon in the cool, dark, air-conditioned embrace of your hotel room, Rydges South Bank.
Or, if the family is wired and up for more action, make this guide to South Bank your plan of attack.
ME TIME: Take a romantic ferry ride to dinner
Nothing says “amore” like a gondola ride through Venice. In Brisbane, nothing says romance like a CityCat at sunset from South Bank to Hamilton under the twinkling glow of the CBD and Story Bridge.
Have your own “Jack, I’m flying!” moment at the bow of the boat, and feel the wind in your hair as you scoot down the prettiest reach of the river.
If you fall in love with cruising the river by Cat – check out this pub crawl by City Cat (next time you’re having ‘me time’ without the kids).
WE TIME: Order what you feel like… but not through room service
Avoid the temptation to order room service and call it a night – because Eat Street Northshore (and all the cronuts within) awaits!
From its Hamilton Wharf location, you’ll find a bevy of international street food and drinks to choose from – all tucked inside shipping containers at this former port.
Here, catering for fussy eaters is just a matter of moving from food truck to food truck – a relief for weary parents who find themselves at a loss come dinner time when their family dinner is frowned upon by toddlers who embrace their inner restaurant critic.
From wood-fired pizzas to doughnuts and Malaysian wok-tossed wonders, Eat Street Markets has more options than any foodie (big or small) can handle.
With bellies full and ears filled with good music, take an encore ferry ride to home base or simply catch a taxi/Uber for a direct route to sleep town population: You.
Overnight: Rydges South Bank
ME TIME: Coffeeeeeee
Keeping breakfast close to home, step out from the shade of Rydges South Bank for a casual breakfast at Espresso Garage. You’ll find coffee done right with a no-fuss breakfast menu – perfect for young families who like to eat and leave rather than eat and laze.
Pull up a pew and watch as South Bank comes alive and the cyclists begin to roll up. Don’t worry, the lycra uniform is optional – it just signals that the coffee is legit.
WE TIME: Playgrounds and koalas and picnics, oh my!
Release the kidlets to play in South Bank’s colossal grounds – home to three distinct playgrounds to handle every type of jungle-gym junkie.
At the Riverside Green, there’s no shortage of grassy knolls to perch upon with the morning paper or a good book and take turns on playground duty.
Pre-warning: this is only a pit-stop en route to bigger things – so don’t get too comfortable in South Bank’s sensory overload.
Up next – you’re cruising to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, so you’ll need to start prying the kids off the equipment with enough time to make tracks to the Cultural Centre Pontoon, where the Mirimar boat cruise leaves at 10am.
The cruise arrives at Lone Pine around 11:15am and departs for the city again at 2:15pm – the perfect amount of time to spot all the koalas, kangaroos and other weird and wonderful native Australian wildlife and enjoy an easy picnic lunch within the grounds.
To find out more about cuddling koalas in Queensland, you need to read this post.
ME TIME: Early Dinner at River Quay
If you have to dine early, let it be at a place which specialises in aperitivo hour – that quaint Italian meal time, bridging the gap between afternoon tea and dinner.
Back at South Bank, we suggest enjoying the atmospheric spoils of the River Quay Green Space. Here you can dine alfresco and enjoy an early dinner at Popolo.
If your kids are the right age, you might even get away with letting them play roly-poly on the grass while you watch from an arm’s length (with a drink in the other arm, of course).
On Sunday afternoons the banks of the Brisbane River here come to life with a Sunday session on the green, so try to time your visit for a free concert.
Overnight: Rydges South Bank
WE TIME: Buckle up for a Gold Coast adventure
Pack the car and enough entertainment to fill 100km and hit the road to holiday Gold Coast-style.
Before checking into your digs at Peppers Broadbeach, venture a little further down the M1 and take the Burleigh Heads exit for brunch on James Street – Burleigh’s answer to Brisbane’s high street, packed with boutiques and cool eateries.
ME TIME: Brunch like a #boss
Dig into a taste of the new-look Gold Coast, with the Middle Eastern inspired all-day breakfast or lunch menu at Canteen Coffee and Kitchen – great for local dog-spotting and the coffee is arguably the best in the ‘hood.
A no-bookings policy makes timing your visit after the commute a piece of cake, and the communal outdoor tables make things easy for the messy eaters in the group.
WE TIME: Beach yourself
Make like a local and set up on the beach for the day – check out this guide to Gold Coast’s best beaches.
Even if swimming is off the cards with a tribe so young, no one ever said no to building sandcastles on 57km of famous Gold Coast sand.
If the kids are a bit older, or you’re game to try surfing, check out this post on choosing the right surf school for your brood on the Goldie’s famous shores.
WE TIME: Dine out like the good old days
Save the award-winning Pan-Asian cuisine at Rick Shores for when it’s just the two of you, and grab fish and chips for the family and throw down a picnic rug on Burleigh Hill – you can’t go wrong either way.
For other foodie ideas, check out this blog post.
WE TIME: Walk through a natural wonder
See the little patch of green behind the Burleigh gold, and take a spin around the Burleigh Headland this afternoon.
Burleigh Head National Park is pram-friendly (if you’re comfortable carrying the pram up the couple of stairs at the start), picturesque and absolutely perfect for a post-lunch stroll.
The Oceanview Walk is 2.6km return and the Rainforest Circuit is 2.3km return – an easy walk for anyone, even if they’re still new to their own two feet.
WE TIME: Return to Peppers Broadbeach
Check into your apartment-style living at Peppers Broadbeach.
With cafes, bars and even a Woolworths downstairs, there is no limit to the DIY catering that can be done from your fully self-contained apartment.
A heated resort-style swimming pool is a big hit with the little ones all year round – and makes for the perfect alternative when the beach is just a smidge too chilly in winter.
Use this afternoon to settle in and get ready for tonight’s family outing.
WE TIME: Outback Spectacular
Nothing says family entertainment like dinner and a show so drive 30 minutes north of Broadbeach for an evening of showmanship at the Australian Outback Spectacular.
Saddle up for a magical night as you journey through the tales and tribulations of the ANZAC heroes, all staged live in the arena with a three-course Aussie BBQ meal included in the ticket price.
Overnight: Peppers Broadbeach
WE TIME: Lights, Camera, Hologram
Gear up for a morning at Holoverse – the world’s first holographic entertainment centre and most futuristic theme park at Southport.
First, you’ll don a pair of special glasses, a waistband and wand then you’ll trek through 40 state-of-the-art hologram rooms where you can play in the jungle, dive underwater, fly over mountains and blow your minds as you walk through walls.
It’s as much fun for big kids as little kids and a nice change of pace when you need an indoor activity for when the sun is at its harshest.
ME TIME: Lunch like a local
There’s something to be said for putting a buffet in front of picky eaters, and The Kitchens at Robina Town Centre does just that.
Picture a shopping centre food court on overdrive – with over 50 restaurants and food retailers, spread across two levels of dining goodness.
From family-friendly Betty’s Burgers to “mummy needs a wine” Greek at Jimmy Grants, vegan to Argentinian and good ol’ fish and chips, there’s something for all tastes here, while live cooking demonstrations might inspire your next family MasterChef-style cook-off.
ME TIME: Shopping is inevitable
Robina Town Centre has all the big retailers and a host of speciality shops, making it a bit like a health clinic… only one that specialises in the therapy of the retail variety.
Use as much time as the little ones will give you before meltdown-mode to browse your heart out.
If you don’t think you’ve got any shopping time in you, make a bee-line for Woodland Play Park with the kids. This playground feels like an enchanted forest with tree mural-covered walls, grassy plains, and life-sized animals to set little imaginations on fire.
WE TIME: Pizzas in Palm Beach
With two days between you and your last Italian meal, head to Balboa Italian at Palm Beach for a dining experience where the exposed brick is paired with grand chandeliers.
Here, you can ogle at charcuterie through a glass cabinet and share authentic wood-fired pizzas.
Pace the bambini and save room for the highly-bragged-about Nutella pizza for dessert.
Overnight: Peppers Broadbeach
WE TIME: Breakfast like champions
Cook up breakfast in your apartment-style suite and make the most of Peppers home-away-from-home vibes or ease into that final check-out feeling with one of the Gold Coast’s best breakfasts just down the road.
Elk Espresso is the cream of the Broadbeach cafe crop. With meals like breakfast gnocchi and blueberry pannacotta, it’s easy to see why.
Outdoor dining is a godsend for children who end up wearing their breakfast. A quick sluice of water and this concrete-cafe-playground looks as good as new.
WE TIME: Beach it one last time
Don’t zip up the beach bag just yet – there’s time for one more beach frolic before Broadbeach gets swapped for Brisbane.
If the winter sun is kind (as it so often is in the sunshine state) the water might be inviting enough. If not, sandcastles and “just getting my feet wet” will suffice for the beach-lovers in your clan.
Shake the sand off at the park before embarking on the finale activity – it’s the kind where you won’t want wet togs to cramp your style.
WE TIME: Return to Brisbane via LEGO Store, Dreamworld
We say “We Time” but this one could equally be “Me Time” – depending on how deep your LEGO-love runs.
What better souvenir to take home from your holiday than your own customised family LEGO set? To get it, you’ll need to get past the ten life-size Stormtroopers and a seven-foot Hulk that guard the LEGO Store, at Dreamworld.
We’re talking about Australia’s first official LEGO store, where you’ll find enough LEGO to fill two Olympic swimming pools. Luckily there are 20 ‘brick specialists’ on hand to assist you with your lego needs.
The LEGO Store is accessible both via and external to the theme park (your choice if you want to make a day of it at Dreamworld too).
Looking for more family fun in south-east Queensland? Don’t forget to check out this 7-day family holiday itinerary.