Young girl with icecream at Movie World

The Ultimate Guide to Gold Coast Theme Parks

Theme Parks have put the Gold Coast on the map when it comes to holidaying in Australia’s favourite playground. And no doubt you’ll want to visit them all. So with you in mind, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to Gold Coast Theme Parks. You’re welcome.

But First – Which Gold Coast theme park?

From gravity-defying roller coaster rides, animal encounters that’ll make your heart soar and characters to take you right back to the magic of your childhood, our theme parks have it all – which is why you might not want to choose just one.

But if you do need help deciding on where to head first, take our quiz to find out which theme park is for you.

If you’re still in dreaming phase and want to know more about the Gold Coast, click here.

Bang For Your Buck

Buying multi-park-passes is the way the locals do it, so take their lead and supersize your experience by fitting in more. Village Roadshow has a Super Pass that covers seven consecutive days entry to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Paradise Country and Wet’n’Wild. Dreamworld combines animal encounters with the thrill of wet and dry rides with their park combo pass for three consecutive days entry.

It includes Dreamworld and WhiteWater World (right next door to each other) and Skypoint Observation Deck in Surfers Paradise. But all Gold Coast theme parks have a range of tickets to suit all occasions, and you can buy your tickets online so you’re ready to go as soon as those gates swing open.

Looking for a budget-friendly holiday? Here are 20 free things to do on the Gold Coast.

Join the Club

Road Runner roller coaster | How to do Movie World in a day

If you have automotive membership such as RACQ or NRMA or you like to collect Shopper Dockets, some great deals for members are often available.

Do the math and consider the annual pass if you intend to visit more than once a year. All Gold Coast theme parks have annual passes and often do work out significantly cheaper than buying the consecutive day passes. Plus, they can give you greater visit flexibility if you want to split your days.

Theme park hack: Consider going halves in the cost of annual passes with the grandparents and convince them to take the kids on a special “second” holiday at some point during the year. You’ll get a bonus kid-free holiday too.

Strategy is Everything

A pre-planning meeting prior to a visit is also great idea. The Gold Coast theme parks all have maps you can download online in advance. And if you’ve already got a rough idea of the distance and direction you’ll track before you arrive, you’ll fit more in. Be sure to include show times with an allowance to get there at least 10-15 minutes early for prime seating or position. And if you have kids, have a look where the closest toilets will be near rides and plan any lurching or spinning rides for pre-lunch if you can. It is always a good idea to have some fresh clothes packed too – just in case. Also remember to check the theme park website for show times.

Plan to Fun and Sun Safely

With your Gold Coast theme park preference sorted, what to wear is important too. You’ll be doing a bit of walking, so comfy shoes are mandatory. And make sure they allow you to run, as the excitement might just propel you to do childlike things. Plan to be cool, but covered, as the sun has quite a bite. Light layers in breathable fabrics are best and lather up the sunscreen and pop on a hat.

Plan to be out of the sun as much as possible during the hottest hours of the day between 10am and 2pm. Most attractions do have shaded waiting areas and undercover rides, but if you can alternate in and out of the sun all day, your comfort and energy levels will be maximised.

Getting The First Jump

Movie World kid jumping

When it comes to gates opening – it really is the most exciting time to be at the front of the line. So get there a little early (15 to 30 mins is plenty) to have your pick of your top rides first. Movie World and Sea World throw open the gates at 9:30am, with rides starting at 10am while Dreamworld, WhiteWater World, and Wet’n’Wild open at 10am on the dot.

The Storage Situation

No one wants to be lugging anything unnecessarily around the park, or leaving personal belongings unattended. If everyone in the group intends to ride, hire a locker and safely store all the things you don’t need to carry on you. Lockers are also a great place to make as your emergency meeting station should anyone get lost or you plan to split up and reconvene later. Details are available on the Gold Coast theme parks websites.

Go Cashless

Losing a purse or wallet down a water slide or on a ride is no one’s idea of fun, so consider trading cash for a clever currency at Wet’n’Wild with Splash Cash. You’ll be issued with a waterproof wristband that can be swiped to pay for any items on the go. Pre-load them for the kids (also a great way to stick to a budget) plus any unused credit will be returned to you on departure.

Because Parents Like to Have Fun Too

Movie World playing games

For parents who like to ride too but have kids who don’t – Movie World offers a “Parent Swap“ service. One parent rides while the kids are looked after by the other, and then the favour is returned. The second parent sharing ride responsibilities can go to the front of the line without waiting again. Ask the ride attendant at each ride for details.

Parks for Everybody

All parks offer disabled parking, ramp access, bathroom facilities and wheelchairs for hire. Check in advance with guest services prior to assist in arranging your visit and be sure to mention if you’re a carer, as you’ll receive discounted entry.

Feeding Time at The Parks

Dreamworld kids

Photo by @tashdignum

Before you turn up with the esky, each Gold Coast theme park has different rules when it comes to BYO food. Wet’n’Wild welcomes BYO, except for commercially prepared food (Maccas or KFC for example), alcohol or glassware. Coin-operated barbecues are available if you want to make everyone else envious of your park planning prowess by sending the delicious smell of sizzling sausages over the water park. Expect to make plenty of new friends if you do.

Sea World and Movie World don’t permit food or drinks in the park unless you have a dietary requirement (like a food allergy), or you’re visiting with infants and babies. But, you can bring in fruit and bottled water.

Dreamworld also doesn’t permit food and drinks to be brought in without a genuine medical reason, but right next door at WhiteWater World you can BYO picnic. If you have a multi-park pass, time a play at the water park for pre-lunch and enjoy a shaded picnic spot too. As a luxe option, consider booking a poolside cabana. Cabanas are also available to book at Wet’n’Wild.

Theme park hack: Leave your esky in the car boot and ask for a pass-out to have your own quick picnic in the car park. Most parks have grass areas just outside their gates too.

VIP Me

There are ways to do all the parks in style, but it will cost you a little extra. Here are some of the most popular:

Fast Pass

From a VIP Pass where you get the run of the park with your own personal guide; to smarter fast passes that will hold your place in a line while you go off to ride something else. All parks offer advantages at associated costs. Check the websites to compare.

Coco Cabana

For a day at either Wet’n’Wild or WhiteWater World – hiring a cabana will  give you a cool, poolside position to swan. At Wet’n’Wild the Wave Pool cabana hire includes a meal pack, lockers and a fan. And if you pre-purchase online, you’ll get it cheaper.

If sitting poolside isn’t your thing, here are the best beaches on the Gold Coast.

Go Wild

From swimming with dolphins at SeaWorld to getting up close with tiger cubs at Dreamworld. Gold Coast Theme Parks aren’t just about the rides. The parks are always adding more activities and adventures, so check in regularly to stay up to date.

If you’re visiting in summer, get your summer school holiday guide to the Gold Coast here.