Queenland’s Gold Coast is a family-friendly stretch of coast lined with spectacular beaches, famous theme parks and lush hinterland rainforests. It’s no wonder families return year after year to holiday in this paradise, there is just so much to do on the Gold Coast with kids!
The number one attraction on the Gold Coast, and it’s FREE! Take a sun shelter, sand toys and plenty of sun screen. Main Beach and Surfers Paradise are the glitzy attention-hogs of the coast, with Broadbeach a close third, but we prefer the quieter beaches like Burleigh Heads, the supremely family-friendly Tallebudgera Creek, Currumbin Creek and Coolangatta Beach. It’s no surprise that with so many gorgeous spots to choose from, that the beaches rate number one for our fave thing to do on the Gold Coast with kids.
Dreamworld is a theme park and zoo. The park features thrilling rides, kid-friendly rides, WhiteWater World (which is a water park area), live shows and entertainment, Tiger Island (part of Dreamworld’s Sumatran tiger conservation program), ABC Kids World, Wiggles World, Troll Village and Dreamworld Corroboree, which is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, culture, wildlife and stories. We’ve visited Dreamworld many times over the years and the tigers are always our favourite.
Sea World is a marine mammal park, oceanarium, and theme park located on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. It includes rides, animal exhibits and other attractions, and it promotes conservation through education and the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, injured or orphaned wildlife.
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 is Australia’s only movie-related theme park. Best suited to older tweens and up, Movie World features lots of thrilling rides, character meet and greets and live shows.
Movie World does 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.
This popular water park features rides and slides for thrill seekers and families. Their Wet’n’Wild Junior precinct is especially designed for kids aged under 10 and under 140cm tall, and features eight kid friendly water slides including miniature versions of the larger thrill slides, a shallow children’s pool and multi-level interactive adventure play area with a tipping bucket.
The iconic Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Australia’s Gold Coast is a heritage-listed zoological garden, built in 1947. Set on 27 hectares of Currumbin rainforest, you’ll need to dedicate a full day to exploring. Be sure to arrive early for the 8am free lorikeet feeding.
I’ve heard locals call Tamborine Mountain the “green behind the gold”, which is a beautiful way to look at it. The third oldest National park in the world, the Tamborine Mountain features 12 walking tracks, each one no longer than around 3km.
Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Cave
Did you know that glow worms are only found in Australia and New Zealand? Get a glimpse at these tiny, illuminated creatures at the Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Tours at Cedar Creek Estate, in a purpose-built cave filled with thousands of glow worms. The cave was built to take some of the attention off other areas of the mountain where the glow worms are found naturally and were attracting large amounts of tourists.
The cave ensures that visitors levels and interaction with the glow worms is kept at a level safe to the glow worms while also ensuring that their cousins in the wild are able to live with less tourist traffic damaging their habitat. As a bonus, you can see these glow worms from 10am-4pm year-round, whereas glow worms in the wild can only be viewed at night.
A 1.5km rainforest walk, the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk includes a 40 metre Skywalk Cantilever (steel-structured) and Cedar Creek Viewing Platform, which both give excellent views of the rainforest from the treetops.
The walk then continues on a winding path on the canopy floor. The walk takes around 45 minutes. Note: this is a paid experience. We thought it was a bit expensive for what was offered.
This is the perfect family-friendly waterfall walk through a eucalypt forest and lush rainforest.
The walk is short but when you stop to examine the intricate strangler figs and look inside hollow tree trunks, it can take a while to reach the waterfalls at the bottom. There are no bathrooms nearby!
Stop by the “Gallery Walk“ where over 60 art, craft, gift and nick-knack shops line the street.
We enjoyed getting lost inside Flights of Fancy, the most beautiful fairy shop we’ve ever seen, and sampling the many incredible flavours of fudge at Fudge Heaven.
Getting to the Gold Coast
We booked a cheap flight online (try Webjet or Skyscanner) and had a very easy, fast trip to Gold Coast airport. 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. There is a tram service that links many of the popular destinations – get info on where the tram stops and pricing here.
You can also do the traditional driving route from your home city – ours is Sydney. Read about the best places to stop on the Sydney to Brisbane drive here. 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 if you come from somewhere as far as Sydney.
Family Accommodation on the Gold Coast
Surfers Paradise Marriot Resort & Spa
We loved the Surfers Paradise Marriot Resort & Spa. Situated between the beach and a lagoon, it’s surrounded by water on all sides. The two excellent pools, one saltwater with a waterfall and fish and the other chlorinated with a whirlpool feature and cave, make it hard to leave the resort
The iconic Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on Australia’s Gold Coast is a heritage-listed zoological garden, built in 1947. Set on 27 hectares of Currumbin rainforest, you’ll need to dedicate a full day to exploring.
My family visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary several times when we were kids, so revisiting as an adult held a lot of nostalgia for me. It had been a long time since I’d visited, so I really enjoyed learning more about the sanctuary as an adult. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a not-for-profit organisation and reinvests all proceeds back into wildlife and conservation programs.
Whether it’s your first time, or you’re re-visiting like I was, here are 13 must-do experiences at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Feed the Rainbow Lorikeets
Australia’s most colourful bird species are a spectacular sight to behold, particularly when they arrive in a flock for their 8am and 4pm feedings. The lorikeets are wild birds who founded the sanctuary 70 years ago, and generations later they are still visiting every day at the same time to get a feed from their adoring public.
Prepare to be pooped on and have birds land on your head. So incredible we did it twice! We found the 8am feeding less busy in terms of people so we had more time with the birds.
No entry to the sanctuary is required for the bird feeding. A gold coin donation is required for participation in the feeding.
Enter the Lost Valley
A new exotic precinct features five hectares of rainforest with lemurs, cotton-top tamarins, red pandas and the adorable capybaras to meet. Free-flying birds soar around the enclosure, which is so cleverly created that it feels like you’re in a rainforest not an enclosed area.
Open 10.00am to 3.00pm daily
Lemur lunch break (not on display) 12.30pm – 1.30pm
Go behind the scenes
We found this to be a really interesting experience. For an added $15 pp (at time of publication) you can enjoy a behind-the-scenes experience in the Training, Rehabilitation and Wildlife department with an animal trainer. We met some of the stars of the Free Flight Bird Show, toured the wildlife rehabilitation centres and learned more about how Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates.
Watch the Free Flight Bird Show
We highly enjoyed this entertaining show, featuring some of Australia’s most beautiful birds in flight. The pelican, parrots, birds of prey and wedge-tailed eagle all make an appearance. Watch your head, the birds swoop very low!
Visit the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital
Drop by the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital to see animals who have been rescued and treated that day. With over 10,000 animals a year admitted, you’re bound to see a patient or two when you visit.
The Currumbin Wildlife Hospital treats, rehabilitates and releases sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife.
Meet the wildlife
Get an up-close experience with a koala, tamarin, echidna, dingo, wombat or bird training. Did you know that Queensland is one of only two states in Australia where visitors can hold a koala?
Ride the Segway Safari
For something a bit different, take a guided Segway tour with a wildlife officer. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground and learn about animals such as the Tasmanian Devils. Participants need to be 45kg or heavier.
Take the TreeTop Challenge
This is a must if your family are tall enough to participate! Cheese was just a tiny bit short of the 160cm reach required to take part, but we will definitely be having a go next time. The TreeTop Challenge is located inside Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and includes 80 huge challenges, including 11 ziplines. As well as being able to reach 160cm comfortably, participants need to be aged 6+.
Jump aboard the train
The miniature train was built in 1964, and is the best way to cover the large distances for little legs – as well as being a really enjoyable ride.
Go wild in the playground
The Wild island playground is exceptional.
An outdoor-themed playground, there’s plenty for kids to climb and explore. You’ll be hard pressed to get them to leave!
Feed the kangaroos
I’ve never seen such docile kangaroos as these. We had a great time feeding, patting and yes, even cuddling the kangaroos (feed must be purchased separately. Do not feed them your food).
Pick up a kids’ sticker map
These are a great way to engage kids. The map is a trail around the park and at each location they get a sticker. Educational and fun!
Meet Blinky Bill
There are lots of Blinky Bill statues around the park for fun selfies, and we also enjoyed the Blinky Bill home tree and slide.
Catch the live Blinky Bill’s Studio Adventure musical show and meet Blinky afterwards for a photo opp.
When it comes to choosing a Gold Coast hotel, there are a lot to choose from. We really enjoyed our stay at the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise and highly recommend it as a top family resort on the Gold Coast.
Location-wise, the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise is positioned directly in between the Surfers Paradise entertain strip and the premium shopping and restaurants at Broadbeach. It’s about a 15 minute walk to each, or you can catch the tram with the stop directly outside the front of the resort.
The Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise is a large, older grand dame of a hotel, consisting of two towers, connected by an undercover walkway. The main tower features the renowned Four Winds 360° Revolving Restaurant.
We chose the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise largely because it has an two massive swimming pools plus heated spa. It also has a full-size tennis court, 24-hour gym and sundecks.
While there aren’t a great variety of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, the Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise has you covered with a choice of 5 restaurants and 2 bars within the hotel.
There are more than 370 rooms in the hotel, all with a private balcony and the majority offering an ocean view. Choose from a standard room, self-contained studio, suite and one-bedroom apartment.
The flexible room options offer a greater choice for families than most hotels. Choose from suites or rooms with two double beds or king bed. For a longer stay, it’s great to have the self-contained apartment as an option. The self-contained studios and apartments featuring full kitchen facilities.
Our room featured a king bed plus rollaway bed. Other room features included a work desk, huge LCD TV, massive bathroom with spa and separate shower, mini bar and plenty of little bathroom amenities like the shower caps that I am always hunting for.
We loved the balcony in our ocean view room which gave us a gorgeous outlook every morning of the beach, as well as the incredible view from our bathroom of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
In terms of restaurant choices within the hotel, guests can choose between Queensland’s only rooftop revolving restaurant, Four Winds 360°, Balthazar Wine & Dining, SIFU, Relish Grill & Bar, First Avenue Tavern and 24-hour room service. Free WiFi is available for IHG® Rewards Club members.
We ordered room service the night we arrived as we were too tired to go downstairs. The in-room dining is from Relish Grill & Bar. While there isn’t a kids’ menu in the room to look at, there is a menu featuring standard kids’ meals available if you call room service and ask what the options are. We chose the spaghetti that came with a choice of dessert (we selected the healthy fruit salad and yoghurt) and drink (we chose milk).
Balthazar Wine & Dining’s is an upmarket restaurant featuring up to 15 degustation menus – French, modern Australian or contemporary Chinese. SIFU is the place to go to try authentic Cantonese and Schezuan food. If you’re after a fun dining experience, try a high tea in the sky at Four Winds 360°Rooftop Revolving Restaurant. The high tea costs $35 pp and includes a selection of pastries, sweets and gourmet sandwiches with one hot beverage per person. Upgrade to include a glass of sparkling wine for $39.
Car parking is available underneath the hotel for $15 a night (hotel guests only receive this rate).
A delicious buffet breakfast is available daily. The poolside view is a lovely way to start the day, along with the amazing selection of hot and cold food, eggs cooked to order, barista-made coffee and DIY fresh juice station.
Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise 2807 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise
Australia is home to some incredible coastal drives that showcase its majestic natural beauty. While Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is the most well-know drive to take, it turns out that Queensland has a stunning drive of it’s own, the Great Beach Drive.
The drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach is an exhilarating experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Accessible only by 4WD, the “beach highway” is actually a 58km sandy beach, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the bush on the other. The drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach is 70km in total.
What also makes this drive unique is that it takes visitors through two adjoining UNESCO Biosphere reserves: The Great Sandy and Noosa Biosphere Reserves. Along the way you’ll see breathtaking beaches, learn about the local Aboriginal people and their customs, and, if the animals are willing, see an abundance of wildlife.
40 Mile Beach
Exquisite, pristine white sand that you can drive your car on! Humpback whales can frequently be seen swimming right along the beach during their annual migration.
Climb up through the canyon for stunning views over Teewah Beach. Red Canyon is formed with stunning red and yellow sand and if you climb to the top, you’ll find yourself in a spot once used by the local Indigenous people as a secret meeting place for women of the traditional owners of the land, the Gubbi Gubbi people.
Lighthouse at Double Island Point
The Double Island Point Lighthouse, built in 1884, has stunning 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean and Great Sandy National Park. We spotted pods of dolphins playing down below, but you might also see turtles, sharks, manta rays and Humpback Whales from June to October. Note: access by car to the lighthouse is limited to the tour operators that we used. If you visit on your own you will have to walk up.
We stopped at this lovely little picnic spot in the Great Sandy National Park for lunch. Lace Monitors (goannas) are frequently seen here.
Colour Sands of Rainbow Beach
The beautiful cliffs at Rainbow Beach have sand in more than 40 different shades of colour. Our guide gave us a demonstration in how the Aboriginal people who lived in the area used the sand to create art.
A huge saltwater lagoon is a nice spot for a swim or spotting wildlife. We saw plenty of crabs burrowing their way into the sand when they saw us coming.
We drove down the Leisha Track that links the Pacific Ocean to Honeymoon Bay and Rainbow Beach. The 800m track was named after a ship that ran aground on Teewah Beach in 1954. The rainforest and sand dunes make for a unique drive.
Carlo Sand Blow
A 15 hectare sand mass formed by a lightening strike around 50,000 yeas ago, the Carlo Sand Blow sits directly behind the Rainbow Beach and is a top spot for watching sunrise and sunset. We visited at sunset and saw people with a glass of champers and picnic basket enjoying the serenity.
Rainbow Beach Town
This idyllic little coastal town with a cool beach vibe is the southern gateway to Fraser Island. We stayed at Plantation Resort, a relaxed apartment-style hotel with one-to-three-bedroom units, kitchen, living area and some with balconies and terraces. Chris Hemsworth stayed there not long before we did, so it must be a good spot!
Enjoy a drink at the Rainbow Beach Hotel with the locals, and dinner at Arcobaleno on the Beach, a little Italian restaurant that’s not to be missed. Owned by a local family, Arco’s, as it’s known, make their own pasta and use plenty of local produce to create delicious meals.
NOTE: We drove the Great Beach Drive with the Great Beach Drive 4WD Tour company. We left from Noosa, drove up the beach to the lighthouse at Double Island Point and then through the rainforest to Rainbow Beach.
We stayed the night at Rainbow Beach and then returned the next day back down the same road on the beach. You can also do the entire trip in one day, either by tour or by yourself, or camp on the beach in designated camping areas, and stay longer.
I experienced the Great Beach Drive as a guest of the Sunshine Coast. All opinions are my own.
Brisbane is a fantastic city to visit! It ticks all of the boxes for a great family vaycay – excellent weather, plenty of activities that range from cultural to artistic and high tech, plus loads of free things to do, too. Put Brissy on your bucket list, because there are plenty of things to do in Brisbane with kids!
Things To Do In Brisbane
City Botanic Gardens
Take a self-guided tour through the gardens to discover a bamboo grove, a cannon, brolgas statue and an all-abilities playground. Walk up to The Gardens Club for a great view of the gardens from a relaxing deck chair and enjoy a scenic lunch or brekkie.
This is kind of screen time parents will approve of! The Cube at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is a two-storey high series of interactive displays using 14 high-definition projectors, more than 40 multi-touch screens and sound technology to create one of the world’s largest digital interactive learning and display spaces.
The Cube provides an inspiring, explorative and hands-on experience, and is available for visitors to use daily (for free!) from 10am-4pm at QUT’s Science and Engineering Centre, Gardens Point campus (right next to the City Botanic Gardens). thecube.qut.edu.au
Museum of Brisbane and Clock Tower
Located in City Hall, the Museum is a place to visit and learn a bit about what makes the city so special. It’s a small, modern space with interactive sections and plenty of interesting exhibitions to look at.
Tours of the clock tower are free, with tickets allocated on a first come, first served basis. Head to the Museum of Brisbane reception counter on level 3 the morning of the day you wish to visit to secure tickets.
The quick tour takes visitors up the Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower in a beautiful, old, hand-operated lift. On the way back down, the lift stops to let visitors see the inside workings of the clock.
South Bank Parklands
As well as being the cultural centre of Brisbane, the South Bank is filled with family-focussed entertainment. In my opinion, a visit to Southbank should be top of the list for things to do in Brisbane with kids.
This art installation is popular for photos and also climbing! Find it at the Cultural Forecourt outside the Queensland performing Arts Centre.
South Bank has two excellent playgrounds: Riverside Green Playground (pictured) and Picnic Island Green. Riverside Green is close to Streets Beach, whereas Picnic Island is further south and is a great spot to set up for a picnic.
Learn about the natural history and cultural heritage of Queensland at the Queensland Museum.
It’s free to enjoy this museum, as well as ENERGEX Playasaurus Place, an outdoor area for kids to learn about dinosaurs and energy, and Whale Mall, an art installation located outside the Queensland Museum gift shop featuring enormous suspended whales and their songs.
Grab a bite to eat at the museum’s cafe for a reasonably priced, delicious meal. qm.qld.gov.au
Sciencentre is housed in the Queensland Museum but has a seperate entrance and entry fee. It’s a place to engage kids in all things science through hands-on educational (and fun!) interactive displays and experiments. sciencentre.qm.qld.gov.au
Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (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. QAGOMA is one of my favourite art galleries period, and should be top of the list for things to do in Brisbane with kids.
It’s free to head inside the State Library of Queensland and read a book or two. They have an excellent selection of kids’ picture books. Kids under eight will enjoy “The Corner”, a program for littlies to explore and engage in a creative hands-on digital exhibition, online games and reading activities. slq.qld.gov.au Image courtesy of the State Library of QLD
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. xwing.com.au
Wheel of Brisbane
Get a birds-eye view of the city on the Wheel of Brisbane. We really enjoyed flying over the river in our air conditioned pod! thewheelofbrisbane.com.au
Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach is a summer oasis on the Brisbane river shore. It’s perfect for families, with lifesavers on duty, shallow lagoons, sprinklers and crystal clear water. It’s free to enjoy this beach and its facilities.
Brisbane’s first dessert and cocktail bar offers build your own fro-yo, ice cream and a range of other sugar-coma inducing desserts. cowch.com.au
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. gasworksplaza.com.au
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.
The redeveloped powerhouse is a centre for art and culture. Check out the (often free) events for families, or just drop by on a Sunday to experience live music and markets (the pop-up Suitcase Rummage markets are on once a month).
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. brisbanepowerhouse.org
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. newfarmpark.com.au
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. eatstreetmarkets.com
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. visitbrisbane.com.au/brisbane-greeters
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. jamesst.com.au
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.
Moreton Island, the world’s third largest sand island, is only a hop, skip and a ferry ride away from Brisbane, Queensland, making it one of the easiest island getaways we’ve found yet.
We visited Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island for a three-day mini break. With only a 75 minute ferry ride from Brissie to get there, it’s a quick trip to this little slice of paradise and a very doable weekender or even day trip option.
The ferry departs from Holt Street Wharf in Pinken. Luggage is checked and it’s a very comfortable ride to Tangalooma. On Moreton Island, the ferry lands at a jetty right outside Tangalooma Island Resort. Paradise awaits!
Tangalooma Island Resort accommodation and facilities
Tangalooma Island Resort includes several types of accomodation, ranging from basic rooms to luxury villas. We stayed in one bedroom family suite with kitchenette facilities. It’s an older-style room that is very basic, but is also extremely spacious and is fitted out with everything we needed for our short stay.
Our suite featured air-conditioning, a seperate bedroom, large bathroom, hairdryers, TV/DVD, dining table and kitchenette that included a 3/4 size fridge, convection microwave, electric frypan, toaster and kettle, plus barbecues outside the rooms. You could very easily prepare your own meals as a way to cut down costs of eating out while on the island.
The room we are given was located only 50 metres from the beachfront, which made for easy beach mornings.
Facilities at the resort include a convenience store where you can buy groceries and snacks (I would suggest bringing as much as you can with you on the ferry however as they’re a bit pricer than on the mainland), five casual and upmarket cafes and restaurants, a bar, two swimming pools and, of course, the stunning beach!
There are an incredible variety of tours that can be booked to enjoy the island’s stunning natural beauty – but you can also just spend a few days enjoying the beach and pools and relaxing.
The island is made up of 98% sand and 2% sandstone and rhyolite at Cape Moreton, where you’ll find also find the first lighthouse in Queensland. Moreton Island is also home to the tallest coastal sand dune in the world, Mount Tempest, which is 285 metres high. You can climb the sand dune and enjoy a 360 degree view of the island, but the hike to get there is a bit longer than our legs could manage!
Sandhills feature all over the island, free from vegetation, some up to 60 metres in height. This “desert” of undulating sand dunes makes for unique landscape as well as adventurous fun.
A stroll down the beach from Tangalooma Island Resort lies the Tangalooma Shipwrecks: 15 ships that were sunk by the Queensland government and are now a popular snorkelling spot.
The island is located in Moreton Bay, where dugongs, stingrays, dolphins and turtles make their home. In 1993 the Moreton Bay Marine Park was established to protect the Moreton Bay habitats and residents therein. It’s the only place in the world where significant populations of dugongs and turtles can be found at such a close proximity to a large urban centre.
What to see and do at Tangalooma Island Resort
Wild Dolphin Feeding Experience
This is what the resort is best known for and is a highlight for guests. Two close-knit families of bottlenose dolphins have been visiting the shores of Tangalooma for over 25 years, and return every evening to be hand-fed by the island’s guests.
The current program was put into place when resorts guests were found to be feeding the dolphins bits of bait and fishing offcuts, and the owners, the Osbourne family, decided to implement a regimented feeding program to protect the health of the dolphins.
Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Feeding is only permitted for guests staying in Tangalooma Island Resort accommodation or visiting on selected day cruises. The experience is included in selected accommodation and day cruise packages from Brisbane.
The resort has a government permit to run the dolphin feeding program and has very strict rules and regulations. The dolphins arrive just after sunset of their own accord, and are fed between 10 and 20% of their daily food requirement. This ensures that they maintain their natural instincts and don’t become dependant on humans for food.
Dolphins have sensitive skin and some do not like being touched by humans, so touching the dolphins is not permitted. Hands must be washed in advance to disinfect guests’ hands before handling the fish so as not to pass on any bacteria to the dolphins.
If you do the dolphin feeding, I highly suggest putting your camera away and just enjoying the experience. Flash photography from the beach is not permitted anyway, and the beach is too dark to capture photos without a flash. You can however take photos with a flash from the jetty. Close-up camera flashes can be harmful to dolphins’ eyes as well as causing them stress.
You will however still come away with a photo if you wish to buy it later, as the Tangalooma Photoshop team attend the feedings each night and wade out into the water behind the dolphins to take flash photos of guests and dolphins from an angle that won’t cause them stress or damage their eyes.
A note on clothing to wear during the feeding: you will absolutely get wet. Prepare to get soaked up to your chest just to be safe, as some nights that’s how far out into the water guests will have to go to meet the dolphins. Waders are available for hire at $15 if you want to keep dry during the dolphin feeding (waders are a waterproof boot extending from the foot to the chest, similar to overalls.)
We were lucky enough to meet the “grandma boss” of the dolphin family, Tinkerbell herself.
Things to do for free at Tangalooma
It’s important to note that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on activities to enjoy a stay at Tangalooma. You can very easily spend your time here enjoying the beach, swimming and snorkelling in the ocean (if you bring your own gear), hanging out at the playground, hiking through the wilderness, jumping in the pools or just generally relaxing.
We had a fantastic time walking up the beach to the shipwrecks and just investigating nature along the way. A big storm had washed up plenty of starfish on the beach, so we had an up close view of these animals.
The sunsets are spectacular at Tangalooma, so be sure to set aside a good hour to watch it go down. Kids run up and down the beach and into the waves while adults pull up a beach sandbag (free to borrow from the bar) and take a drink to watch the sun go down in style.
Tangalooma also offers:
A daily demonstration to learn more about these popular residents on the island.
Pelican Feeding & Sea Bird Talk
Held every morning at the jetty, the feeding started as a way to stop the pelicans from stealing bait from fisherman and getting tangled in their nets. Now, it’s an informative way to learn about these sea birds.
Sporting equipment hire
Tangalooma Island Resort has a selection of casual sporting areas including tennis, squash, boule, basketball, badminton and croquet just to name a few. Equipment hire is free but some require a refundable cash deposit. You can also bring your own gear and use the facilities.
Tours and Activities at Tangalooma
The resort offers a wide range of land and water-based tours and activities that enable guests seeking a more active or adventurous holiday to enjoy the stunning scenery and nature that Moreton Island has to offer.
Water-based activities include: kayaking, snorkelling, stand up paddle boarding, whale watching tours, the Marine Discovery Cruise and Sightseeing and Fish Feeding Tour of the Wrecks.
We highly enjoyed the Marine Discovery Cruise with some bonus fish feeding. Sadly no dugongs were sighted, but we did see several green sea turtles as well as the shipwrecks up close, and fed large schools of fish.
Land-based activities include: tours of the island including the lighthouse, beach segway tours, quad bike tours, helicopter flights and, the tour that we did, the Desert Safari Tour with Sand Tabogganing.
We had a fantastic drive over very rocky terrain into “The Desert”, where we climbed up a 30 metre high sand dune and lay on small boards on our stomaches to slide back down again. Absolutely exhilarating! Cheese even went solo on her last flight, so kids can definitely have a go at this.
How To Get There
You can catch the 75 minute ferry to and from Brisbane, take a 4WD car on the daily ferry, or arrive in style by helicopter. There are three settlements on Moreton Island, all on the western side; at Kooringal in the south, Cowan in the middle and northern Bulwer.
The Novotel hotels are renowned for their well-priced, comfortably appointed rooms situated in convenient locations. They’re a staple of our holidays as they hit the right price point for us and are a good mix of family-friendly, trendy and ultra convenient.
Our stay at the Novotel Brisbane was exactly as we had anticipated it to be. The hotel is rated as 4.5 star accommodation, featuring 296 contemporary guest rooms and suites. With a location that is only a four-minute walk from Central station, 1.8km from Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Museum and a short stroll down to Brisbane’s Eagle Street Pier and Queen Street Mall, it’s a great location to spend a few days seeing all the sights in Brisbane.
The Novotel Brisbane is a modern hotel with bright, cheery rooms. Ours included two double beds, a sofa, iPod dock, flat-screen TV, WiFi (additional fee unless you’re an Accor member) and tea and coffeemaking facilities.
Other features in the hotel include a large outdoor pool, gymnasium and sauna, plus a kids’ corner in reception and three dining options: “The Pantry”, where the breakfast buffet and evening dining are served, “GourmetBar”, which is a relaxed place to eat or have a coffee throughout the day (and a drink at night!), plus the external cafe, “Two Donkeys”, which is perfect for a grab ‘n’ go coffee or brunch.
GourmetBar was our fave dining option and we highly enjoyed our meal of pizza, mac and cheese and burger with fries.
One of the things we love about visiting the Novotel hotels is their excellent kids’ welcome packs. They’re a great way to encourage families to stay as they really tell guests that they, and their children aren’t just welcome, they are going to be well looked after. The welcome pack at the Novotel Brisbane included an activity book, foam picture pack, popcorn, colouring in, markers and more. It was a huge hit with Cheese and kept her entertained for ages.
We also received complimentary water in our room and milk cartons in the fridge.
If you bring a car and need to park it at the hotel, undercover self parking is available for $35 (Mon-Fri) or $25 (Sat & Sun).
Noosa’s only 5-star luxury hotel is the relaxing, elegant and sophisticated Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort. Located in the heart of Hastings Street with its hip cafes and boutiques, and close to the beautiful Noosa beachfront, the hotel has a relaxed beach vibe to its 176 spacious studios, suites and villas.
Inline with the classic Sofitel brand, guests at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort are greeted with a cheery ‘Bonjour’ when they check in – a little touch of France on the Sunshine Coast.
The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort is renowned for its spacious rooms. Mine, at 55 square feet, is so big that I get lost in it when trying to get from the entrance to the bedroom and through the walk in closet back to the entrance again. It is the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in.
My room is perfection, from the comfortable bed with elegant covers and crisp sheets, to the excellent kitchenette facilities (including a kettle, microwave and toaster), work desk and dedicated living room space. There’s room for not just my suitcase but a family of four’s.
The entire hotel exudes relaxed luxury, from the bright and elegant lobby with comfy couches for lounging on, to the delightful outdoor pool area, with tropical landscaping, plenty of beach chairs for lounging, and a swim up bar in the middle of the pool. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing beach vacation.
For families visiting the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, the hotel offers a kids’ menu, resort activities particularly during school holidays and use of their beach boogie boards, buckets and spades.
As the hotel is just a 2-minute walk from the Noosa Main Beach, the location is perfect for sun-seekers who want to stay a few days and just relax.
The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort also features a casual restaurant, lobby bar and wine cellar. We dine in the restaurant the following morning and highly enjoy the made-to-order omelettes and freshly cut fruit.
My stay at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort was brief but highly enjoyable. I would recommend this hotel to anyone staying in the Noosa area who is after a touch of luxury on their next beach holiday.
Australia Zoo, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, is famous for two things: the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, and his saltwater crocs. What is less well-known is the zoo’s strong conservation focus and role in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, as well as the many other furry and scaly animal residents who call Australia Zoo their home.
The zoo is a family affair, and it always has been. Australia Zoo’s story began in 1970 when Steve’s parents, Bob and Lyn, bought four acres of land in Beerwah, where the zoo stands today, with the intention of building a wildlife park. The park opened and eventually passed down to Steve to manage with his wife Terri in 1992, when Bob and Lyn retired. It was rebranded as Australia Zoo the same year.
Australia Zoo has expanded over the years and is now spread over 105 acres, home to over 1,200 animals. In 2002 Australia Zoo’s non-profit organisation Wildlife Warriors Worldwide was established by Steve and Terri Irwin; a non-profit organisation designed to support the protection of injured, threatened or endangered wildlife.
In 2004 the zoo’s next major conservation project opened: the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital.
The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital is a 24/7 community service that treats all Australian native wildlife. The facilities include a veterinary hospital with an intensive care room and laboratory, outdoor holding facilities, and an orphan enclosure for hand-raised koalas to develop climbing skills and minimise contact with human carers before being released back into the bush.
From a humble beginning, set up in a converted avocado packing shed, the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital is now Australia’s largest wildlife hospital has treated over 70,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife since opening; an average of 5,500 animals each year.
When planning your day at the zoo, take note that it’s a really big place and you’ll need a full day to see everything – and even then you’ll probably miss a few things. There are so many animals, experiences and shows to enjoy that it’s hard to know where to begin.
We highly enjoyed our experience at Australia Zoo: the zoo itself is in fantastic condition, the animals well-cared for, and there’s plenty for kids to enjoy. From statues climb on, fossil pits to dig in and a free jumping castle, you’ll be hard-pressed to get kids to look at the actual animals!
If you’re making a special day of the zoo, put these must-do experiences on your itinerary:
The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital
A small donation (that goes to funding the hospital) gives you entry to the hospital. We enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of the great work carried out by the vets and carers. While we were visiting we met a few orphan possums and joeys being cared for by locals, as well as a koala who has been brought in for surgery and rehabilitation.
Climb up the three-storey treehouse and get up close to ring-tailed lemurs, who freely roam this area, as well as giant Aldabran Tortoises and colourful macaws.
Grab a seat in the shade and enjoy an incredible free-flight bird show and saltwater crocodiles stalking the keepers.
African Safari Shuttle
Hop aboard and experience the wide open plains of the African Savannah without leaving the zoo. Giraffe, rhino and zebra roam the enclosures – keep an eye out for the cheetah!
Our favourite part of the day was meeting these beautiful animals up close. Book well in advance to meet animals such a koala, wombat, macaw, snake, lizard or echidna – the experience is well worth it!
There are also plenty of animals who roam the zoo during the day that you don’t need to pay extra to meet, such as this wombat taking a walk, kangaroos and lizards.
1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah QLD
Hours: Open daily, 9am-5pm, every day except Christmas Day. australiazoo.com.au
We were hosted during our visit to Australia Zoo as part of the Australia Society of Travel Writers Annual General Meeting. We paid for the echidna experience ourselves. All opinions are my own.
Additional photos courtesy of Australia Zoo / Ben Beaden
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.