As a child, most summers my family made a trek to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast for our annual holiday. I have great memories of wandering up and down the boardwalk, playing in the sand and going to the theme parks. Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast in general are still great destinations for families wanting an easy beachy holiday, as we discovered when we visited for some fun in the sun.
We booked a cheap flight online (try Webjet or Zuji) and had a very easy, fast trip. Pros: it’s fast. Cons: if your hotel isn’t walking distance from everything you want to see, you’ll need to shell out a lot of money in expensive shuttle buses or take public transport. You can also do the traditional driving route. Pros: you have a car at your disposal when you get there. Cons: you might have to pay for parking at your hotel, and the drive up is loooooooong.
What to do on the Gold Coast with kids:
The number one attraction in Surfers, and it’s FREE! Take a sun shelter, sand toys and plenty of sun screen.
Out of all the theme parks, this was the best for little kids. Lots of animals exhibits and shows like the seals pictured above, a few rides such as the carousel and the Viking Revenge Flume, and great character shows and meet and greets with Dora The Explorer and Spongebob Square Pants.
Warner Bros Movie World
Movie World has a great section for younger kids with smaller rides and a splash area for hot days. Several of the rides require kids to be over 100cm still, so for kids age 3 and under the ride choices are limited. The character shows and parade however are a lot of fun for littles, and run all day long.
Aquaduck For a short outing (it goes for an hour, departing from the middle of Surfers Paradise), the Aquaduck is great for for kids. The duck takes a drive along side the beach, and then takes to the water to give a tour of the glam houses on the lagoons. The best part for Cheese was getting to drive the boat.
When you have a three year old, your holidays are a little different than they were pre-kid. My needs in accommodation, for instance, have changed significantly. What I now look for is a fantastic pool, close proximity to the beach if we’re on the coast, a suite of some kind so we can close the door to our sleeping child after we put her to bed and watch some TV together while we eat, breakfast included and friendly, considerate staff. The last one obviously is pure luck. The others, I discovered through extensive research, were all features of the Surfers Paradise Marriot Resort & Spa.
As members of the Entertainment Book, we were able to get a great deal on a 1-bedroom Executive Suite. It included a king sized bed (we asked for a rollaway bed for Cheese), 1.5 bathrooms, a corner ocean view, complimentary valet parking and access to the Elandra Retreat Club where we were treated to a complimentary continental breakfast every morning, and wine and hors d’oeuvres in the evenings.
First impressions of the Surfers Paradise Marriot – it’s a large hotel, only one or two blocks from the beach, but also right on a lagoon, so it’s basically surrounded by water on all sides. The pool is a huge drawcard for families, probably because they have not just one pool, but two. One is a saltwater pool that has live tropical fish in it and a waterfall feature. Guests can swim among the fish – BYO snorkel or buy one at the hotel. The salt water pool is fantastic because it had a large shallow area, perfect for little kids who can’t swim yet to be able to splash and play confidently in the water.
Every morning at 9:30am, guests can meet poolside to watch staff feed the tropical fish. Guests with snorkels can watch from the water as the fish gather in big clumps for their morning feed.
The second pool is chlorinated and runs in a long, winding shape. One end features a grotto with spa – you can enter it through another waterfall. This pool also has a current that sweeps swimmers in a loop – a lot of fun for kids in floatation devices to get swept around the pool with zero effort.
Older kids will enjoy the water slide feature, too.
Our room was fantastic. The view from the living room, bedroom and even bathroom was spectacular.
The bedroom and living areas were well furnished in an elegant, minimal fashion. The bathroom was spectacularly big and featured a massive spa bath with a killer view. The bed was comfortable, pillows a little on the soft side for us, and the only bad thing I can say about the facilities was that while most of the bathroom had been renovated, the shower was a bit old and could have done with a refurbish. The living room included a little kitchenette area which was great for preparing basic meals for Cheese. A little fridge, sink and tea/coffee-making facilities – no toaster though.
Since Cheese is an uber picky eater, most nights we would return to the hotel and make her a simple dinner like a sandwich and fruit, and then, after she was put to bed, either order room service or local takeaway. The hotel was great with providing us with extra plates and cutlery to make her meals each day.
The inclusion of the Elandra Retreat Club access turned out to be one of the best parts of our stay. A lot of the guests who also had access to the club also had kids, so each morning we would arrive at breakfast and Cheese would disappear to play with other children while we ate. The food was a simple buffet, all fresh, including breads and spreads, warm pastries, bagels, meats, yoghurt and fruit, plus hot dishes like eggs, tomatoes and hash browns. Two staff members were usually on duty each morning – usually the same two – and they were just the sweetest people we could have possibly hoped for. The staff were always so kind and considerate, and really enjoyed engaging with the kids. As a result, breakfast every day was a really fun experience.
In the evenings, from 5:30pm – 7:30pm, the Elandra Retreat Club held a kind of drinks hour, with complimentary wine and snacks. While I was concerned initially that this wouldn’t be the best idea to take a rambunctious 3-year-old to, it turned out that all the families came and had a drink while their kids downed the cheese, crackers and fruit each night. It was a pretty chilled out affair, and the club had a great layout that meant adults who wanted a bit more adult time rather than toddler time could sit far enough away that they could admire the view and enjoy a drink in peace.
During the day, when we weren’t swimming we headed on down to the main area in Surfers Paradise (a 10-15 minute walk) to grab lunch or took a trip to one of the nearby theme parks for a change of scene. The location was perfect for an extended stay on the Gold Coast.
To sum up, our stay at the Surfers Paradise Marriot Resort & Spa was just about perfect. We had such a wonderful, relaxing and fun time, and can’t wait to return for another Queensland stay.
While I spent a lot of my childhood summers on the Gold Coast, I’d never visited Brisbane. Absolutely no reason why, other than that the opportunity hadn’t presented itself until recently. After a blogging conference on the Gold Coast, I stopped through Brisbane on the way back to Sydney and spent two days exploring the best that Brisbane has to offer families. If you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine state, you could easily spend a couple of days enjoying Brisbane with the kids. Here are my tips on a fun family holiday in Brisbane: Eat and play at Gasworks Plaza Book a table at Buzz for lunch right next to the gasring. You’ll enjoy the delicious food (the quinoa salad was divine) and gorgeous interiors by local designer Anna Spiro of Black & Spiro, and the kids can run off steam in the adjoining park.
After lunch, take a stroll down to the nearby riverbank. Kids can bike or scoot along the river, and will enjoy the street art and statue of Gloria the sheep, a tribute to the Teneriffe wool stores that lined the river in the early 1900s. 76 Skyring Terrace, Newstead
Shop at Growing World, Emporium
This gorgeous children’s store is filled with educational toys and books from all around the world. 1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley
Kids can roam inside the powerhouse, spot some cool graffiti art and dance to indie-pop and rock bands. Make a day of it by enjoying an early dinner or glass of wine at Bar Alto. Grab a balcony table overlooking the river while babies are napping and older kids are playing with your iPhone or colouring in. 119 Lamington St, New Farm
Run wild at New Farm Park Set the kids free in 18 hectares of gardens and open green space. The attached New Farm Park playground is a local family favourite with fortress-like constructions winding through huge fig trees.
No-fuss family dinner at Eat Street Markets The perfect dinner option for families with no pressure for kids to sit down and behave. 60 industrial shipping containers have been converted into mini shops and restaurants. Choose your meal from local food vendors (Italian, Mexican, potato rings on sticks, sweet potatoes fries and much, much more is on offer) then camp out on astroturf covered giant blocks to enjoy live music while the sun goes down. Macarthur Avenue, Hamilton
Book a free city tour with Brisbane Greeters Our tour guide, AnneMarie White, was a local expert who showed us the best places to eat and shop in the James Street district with and without kids. A remarkable woman with a background in broadcasting, it was a pleasure to learn about Brisbane through her own experiences.
Chic shopping and dining at James St Leave the kids with Dad for an hour or two while you check out local Australian designers and boutiques. Sass + Bide, Camilla, Zimmermann and more await your credit card.
If you’ve got a serious sweet tooth like I do, be sure to pick up a treat from the iconic Joceyln’s Provisions. While you’re deciding which delicious cake to order, poke your head inside their kitchen to see the pastry chefs hard at work.
Play time: South Bank Parklands
As well as being the cultural centre of Brisbane, the South Bank is filled with family-focussed entertainment.
Get arty at the QAGOMA The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art is a top choice for adults and children. Most of the gallery is free entry, including the Children’s Art Centre. Their current major exhibition, “Harvest” (open till Sept 21) celebrates food in art and includes interactive features for older children, as well as kid-friendly art such as large sculptures and a Shangai supermarket installation.
Take littlies to the children’s exhibition, “Pattern Bandits” (open until Nov 2), where they can explore a world of colour, shape and pattern in a completely hands-on environment. The free exhibition features craft activities that can be taken home or left to be put on display. Kids will particularly love the kaleidoscope corridor where they can see their own faces turned into bright patterns. Stanley Place, Cultural Precinct, South Bank
Segway Tours with X-wing Older kids will love seeing Brisbane’s South Bank on a mini-segway. Zoom along the river bank with a helpful guide to tell you all about Brisbane.
Get a bird’s-eye view
Take a spin on the Wheel of Brisbane for a panoramic view of the city.
This man-made beach with white sand and lifesavers is a summer oasis on the Brisbane river shore. It’s perfect for families, with shallow lagoons, sprinklers and crystal clear water.
Stop for a bite at South Bank Surf Club After a swim at Streets Beach, stroll the the nearby Surf Club for a relaxed fish and chips. 30aa Stanley Street Plaza, South Bank
Sweet Treats at Cowch Dessert Cocktail Bar Brisbane’s first dessert and cocktail bar offers build your own fro-yo, ice cream and a range of other sugar-coma inducing desserts. 2/179 Grey Street, South Bank
Our last day on the tropical island. I hadn’t even had a swim yet so the order of the day was water play.
After asking around we found out that there was some snorkeling to be done off the pier at low tide, so we filled in the morning with other water activities.
Canoeing around the island. We wanted to paddle to the island in the distance but were only allowed to go in a certain area. Staff members on speedboats were at the ready to stop any wanders trying to step foot in the island. That’s one of the annoying things about Club Med, so many rules!
Giving my waterproof camera case a workout.
In the pool practicing for netball. Shot!
The view back from the pier of the resort.
Under water. It was very cloudy with very poof visibility. I got freaked out by not being able to see anything and had to swim back to shore. I’m such a wimp!
The forbidden island.
We spent the afternoon reading and chilling out, then head off to the eighth hole on the golf course to watch the sunset.
The most beautifully situated golf course in the world?
Romance was in the air.
Nothing to do but watch the sun going down over tropical islands. Ahhh bliss.
Alec participates in a game where the object was to hit the ball close to the hole in the far distance. Nice swing Alec!
With no obligations today, we were free to relaaaax.
The view from our window.
I thought it would be a great idea for another bush walk – this time up to the top of the mountain on the island to admire the amazing view. It was about a 9km round trip, so it was a decent effort at exercise on another super steamy day.
Well worth the trek for the view.
And chilling out.
Little fellow who hitched a ride on Alec’s arm.
Drinking cocktails in the bar after our arduous climb.
The day started hot and humid, so we decided to go on a bush walk through the national park lands to see Coconut Beach. When we asked staff for directions, they looked at us with some puzzlement … which we later realised to be because they were wondering why we would want to trek though the bush on a day so humid most people didn’t leave the pool?!
The walk was beautiful. Extremely hot though, so we were sweating profusely after about five minutes of walking.
Cute bird – we saw them all over the island. They had cute little tail feathers that flicked up and down when they ran.
Lake with water lilies.
Finally, Coconut Beach!
It looks a lot more overcast here than it actually was.
Our walk was a bit longer than expected and we indulged a little too much at lunch – making us almost miss the wedding. A stressful half hour ensued where we washed sea salt out of our hair, threw on clothes, and ran up several hills in our party clothes to make the ceremony. We were on time, but were sweating a lot! On the plus side, if gave me a chance to try out my strategy with my new silver slingbacks that refuse to stay on. I bought some ribbon and tied them around the shoe – and they stayed on like a dream, even running – uphill!
The ceremony. Candice looking radiant with her new husband, Matt.
In front of the golf course following the ceremony, in a fit of romance.
After the 2pm ceremony there was a gap of three hours before the reception, so we went back to the room, showered again to remove the sweat, and relaxed. If felt much better getting dressed again in the cool early evening with plenty of time to spare.
The reception set up – all white candles and lace. Very pretty and elegant.
Cute little cupcakes.
Entry of the bridal couple.
Alec looking happy and relaxed.
Dessert tasting platter.
Us with Kat, one of Candice’s oldest friends, and Sarla, a friend from ACP.
No explanation needed. I can’t help myself.
Alec wonders why it took so long for the flash to go off.
My dear friend Candice decided to get married on Lindeman Island in the Whitsundays, Queensland.
Candice and I have been friends for almost eight years. We met in a Latin hip-hop class at the beginning of 2001 and have been close ever since. When the call came in that Candice was getting married, on a tropical island, at first we thought it would be way out of our price range. Luckily, Candice’s family managed to get us amazing deals to stay, so we were able to go to the wedding.
Hello tropical islands!
We had a stop over on Hamilton Island for a few hours before our ferry left for Lindeman. Not much to do when you’re just stopping over, so we had some ice-cream and vegged.
Happy day! Love going on holidays.
Sun setting as we leave the bay.
Purty! Bye Hamilton.
On Lindeman, dressed for our first night out – the group dinner before the wedding the next day. Alec looked very handsome.