Gold Coast after dark: 8 fun things to do with the kids
A rite of passage for kids or a test of patience for parents? You be the judge.
For two people who forgot to procreate, the Gold Coast was either going to be a rite of passage for our borrowed tribe or a test of patience for us. Or both. We had five kids, four days, two clueless “parents” and one perfect Gold Coast beach holiday.
The days were a no-brainer (sand, sea, sun!), the food was sorted, so the final tick for the “best ever” aunt and uncle getaway was non-stop fun all the way into the night. Here’s our pick of fun things to do with the kids on the Gold Coast after dark.
1. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium (open till 9pm)
Five minutes inside this Odditorium and the four-year-old “Charlinator” (so-named because of his Terminator behaviour) loudly announces, “this is boring”.
That was until he came face to knee with a Robert Wadlow, a robotic replica of world’s tallest man – at 272 cm – rising from a wooden chair like Godzilla over the skyline. That simple animatronics cued more than an hour of night time fun.
Not surprising, the crowd pleasers for the device generation (i.e. anyone under 10 years of age) weren’t the shrunken heads or static artifacts, but the techie exhibits. Like the giant screen with a slo-mo control that explodes a watermelon frame-by-frame, a Mission Impossible-style laser beam security system that put the kids go through a real-life Hollywood heist, and a dance-hall that fired up by movement. Dabbing, according to Mr. Eight, is so 2016!
Verdict: There’s fun things to do for the whole family (both nerds and naughty ones) however due to the amount of reading, Ripley’s is probably best suited to kids eight years and over.
Tip: At $25 entry for adults and $16 for kids (aged 5-12) for more than an hour, it’s not too bad on the hip pocket. Buy tickets online and save up to $2 per adult.
2. Infinity Attraction (open till 10pm)
The first thing our tweenagers do at the Ekka (Brisbane’s Royal Exhibition) is hit the haunted house. So, it came as a surprise that they baulked at going headlong into Infinity.
Infinity is an overdose of crazy, futuristic techno lighting, with uneven floors and trippy music that feels like a full-on psychotic fit… bundled up with a lot of laughter. The aim is to navigate your way through 20 or so dark chambers and find the door to the next room while wearing white gloves and booties that light up like phosphorescent feelers.
The Verdict: Its fun for sure, but at $75.90 for the whole family (2A + 2C) for about 25 minutes, the price is a little steep, especially during peak season when the group behind us moved too fast and kept bursting into our space.
Tip: This is not for little kids, the faint-hearted or those with claustrophobia. Teenagers seem to love it, so buy them tickets and find yourself a nearby café and snatch some grown-up time
3. Australian Outback Spectacular (7pm till 10pm)
Odd how you can travel 20km one way and go back 100 years in time. That’s how it was moving from the high-rise jungle of Surfers Paradise to the Australian Outback Spectacular ho-down next to Warner Bros. Movie World.
Outback Spectacular is a schmick dinner theatre show crammed with equestrian feats, circus acts and hoon cars, all loosely tied around a country pantomime. If you like horses, dogs, cars, camels donkeys, and good food, this is the place for you. Sure, the acting can be a bit cheesy, but it tugs the heartstrings and the three-course meal is quite the miracle. (How they manage to feed a house full of 400 hungry guests simultaneously is a study in efficiency).
Verdict: The tweenagers voted this top activity of their holiday. They loved the whole spectacle of sitting ringside at a theatre show… and they’ve worn their free straw hat just about every day since. At $99.99 for adults and $69.99 for children (3-13 years), a night out here is always going to be a big ticket item, but considering you spend half that on dinner anyway, it turned out to be good value.
Tip: Designate your driver ahead of time and enjoy the beers (and wine) on tap and chilled.
4. Putt Putt Golf (open till 10pm)
A crowd pleaser for all ages, putt putt golf gets two clubs up, with both the teenagers and the little ones somehow fluking holes in one.
Putt Putt Mermaid Beach has three themed courses with waterways, statues and after-dark lighting that adds a little magic to the “sport”. Just when you think you have the game snookered, there are a few wild cards thrown in: spin a wheel and you may be tasked to putt with your opposite hand, the opposite end of the club or to even with one eye closed. That makes it a bit more fun.
Verdict: The more you play, the cheaper it gets. Seriously. A single game for the whole family cost $68 while the two-game pass was $70. Pay a bit more and for $99, you get two weeks of unlimited fun. Better yet, buy online and save 10%. The kids seemed to love this.
Tip: This is a perfect night-time activity. We played once during the day and literally fried under the summer sun.
5. Southport Cemetery Paranormal Activity Tour (8pm till 10pm)
This is one place where the dead can be rather lively! But a spirited word of warning, it’s best suited for fearless kids with a passion for the paranormal.
During our two-hour tour, a ghost host – with a lantern, no less – guided us through the Southport Cemetery, retelling tales of some of the 5000 souls that rest underfoot. The host also used divining rods to make contact with the other side. Watch out. There were some bouncy happenings at one of the grave sites.
Verdict: The night-time Southport Cemetery Tour is strictly for kids 12 years plus. It’s well researched, you learn a lot about the history of the region and it’s something you wouldn’t normally equate with the Gold Coast. Tickets are $44 per adult and $24 per child.
Tip: If it’s Christmas peak period, allow some extra time to transfer the 20 minutes or so from downtown to Southport. We near missed the whole spooky shebang.
6. Theme parks after Dark (various hours)
Every couple of months or so, Dreamworld, throws open its gates for some Park After Dark action. Edging in on the millennial demographic (kids need to be 14 years and over to enter solo), this feels a lot like a blue-light disco with hormones running on rollercoaster highs. About half a dozen of the big rides are open and it’s seriously a lot of fun. Your kids will love you for it.
Meanwhile, Lapland meets Oxenford over at Warner Bros. Movie World, where a million fairy lights, roving Christmas carollers and a grand parade fire up for a White Christmas event ten nights every summer. Everyone gets to join in the fun, with a cheesy focus on awkward family photos (wearing the mandatory ugly Christmas jumper) and decorating Christmas baubles.
Closer to the coastline, Sea World Resort & Water Park throws up a laser spectacular over the lake and live street entertainment during the summer period.
Verdict: The best things about parks after dark is the lines are smaller – as is the entry price – and sunburn is non-existent.
Tip: This is not a regular activity, so watch the websites and book online.
7. Markets with music (4pm till 10pm)
Jessica loves ballet. Charlie does air guitar. Daniel just likes to eat. We combined all three “wants” and hit two live music markets over two different nights.
NightQuarter at Helensvale, on every Friday and Saturday night (4pm until 10pm), is best for those staying on the northern end of the Gold Coast, while Miami Marketta is spot-on for holidaymakers stopping in Burleigh and below. Both are magnets for families with live music, food stalls and the chance for kids to go free range.
Verdict: Miami Marketta is probably best for older families – thanks to the licensed bar selling local brews like Burleigh Brewing Co. beer – and separate food and dessert halls that cater to every sweet palate including monster lamingtons. But the stage at Night Quarter is bigger, there are more acts, and it really does feel like a giant neighbourhood party.
Tip: There’s plenty of food here under $10 a hit and our tribe gave two thumbs up to the Maori Hangi wrap and the unicorn ice-cream cookie sandwich.
8. Paradise Country (5:30pm till 9:30pm)
Why stop at 10pm when you can extend the farm action through until dawn?
Paradise Country near Oxenford has just opened an overnight farm stay experience that pairs glamping tents (bunks for kids) with farm activities like campfires, egg collecting and milking a cow. It all starts from $200 for a family of four (five at a squish) and it makes for a big change from the beach.
Tip: If you’ve already booked your accommodation, the Farmhouse Restaurant at the same venue is open for everyone (no need for sleepovers). From 5:30pm until 9:30pm, little ones can play on giant Jenga and chess sets on a kid-friendly grassy space and then eat hearty stuff like chicken parmy and juicy burgers.