With sun, sea and plenty to do the Gold Coast is the ideal family holiday destination

The Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast is a fantastic place for a family holiday. Photo credit: Newshub

As we approached the Gold Coast sometime around 8am local time in November, the captain said it was around 22 degrees outside and there was not a cloud in the sky; a stark contrast to the chilly, overcast Auckland we flew out of.  

Stepping off the plane the temperature immediately enveloped us with an embrace like a warm blanket. There you are sun, it is good to see you again, time to relax and enjoy the holiday.  

After a washed-out summer in New Zealand and the wettest winter I can remember my family and I decided we needed a holiday somewhere with good weather and an easy, short flight.  

So my wife, myself and our two young sons made the short hop across the Tasman to the GC and it did not disappoint.  

Situated south of Brisbane the Gold Coast is Australia’s sixth largest city and with its endless beaches and theme parks it is already a Mecca for tourists.

Beaches such as Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach are well known throughout the world but there is more to region than those tourist hotspots.  

We split the holiday between three nights at the Sheraton Grand Mirage resort, a stone's throw from Sea World, to do the theme parks. Then we did three nights in Bilinga, a beach at the southern end of the Gold Coast to get a different experience of the region. I will cover that in part two.  

Three nights doesn't sound long but you can pack a lot in on the Gold Coast as there is no shortage of things to do, possibly the most famous of which are the theme parks.  

However, there is much more to the Gold Coast than the theme parks and Surfer's Paradise, and it was an ideal place for us to have some much-needed family time away.  

A bit of luxury  

From the moment you pull up outside the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort you know it is something special.  

Large glass doors open up into an expansive lobby with huge windows looking out over the pool and beyond to the sea.  

Sheraton Grand Resort.
The pool at the Sheraton Grand Resort. Photo credit: Newshub

Past the check-in desks and concierge is a sweeping staircase that takes you down to the restaurant area and the huge pool.  

There are deck chairs around the pool and plenty of places to lounge. There is also a bar you can access on foot or by swimming up to it. Beyond that there are gates to the beach, which is patrolled and is great for swimming or for the kids to play in the sand. In fact, it is the Gold Coast's only absolute beach front resort.  

Everywhere you look in the resort there is water, aside from the two pools there are water features surrounding nearly every building.  

The Sheraton Grand Mirage boasts 295 rooms and 26 villas, where we stayed, but it is spread out and has a real resort feel. You could easily just stay there and not venture out.  

The villas have two bedrooms with a large sitting area and a kitchen as well as two bathrooms and access to a private pool. It was true luxury on the Gold Coast.  

The resort is north of Surfers and Broadbeach and away from the high-rise part of the Gold Coast, towards the end of a peninsular. On one side there is the ocean and on the other you look back across the water to Broadwater Parklands. There are spectacular sunsets looking back to the parklands and a number of places you can enjoy a drink and a bite to eat as the sun goes down. 

The best thing about the resort for a family holiday is it is genuinely great for families, with special touches like a school holiday activity calendar. My kids loved the pool, which is 650 square metres and has plenty of space to splash around. There is a poolside bar that serves snacks and drinks with underwater stools, so you don't even have to get out.  

Opposite the hotel is the Marina Mirage, a mall with a number of excellent child-friendly restaurants. The Ladybird restaurant looks out across the water and was a great place to watch the sun set. When we ate there the staff gave my kids an activity book that kept them happy and had a range of great drinks and food for them.  

Ladybird restaurant.
Watching the sunset from Ladybird restaurant. Photo credit: Newshub

Close by is another restaurant, La Luna, that was also superb and very child friendly. We had been to Sea World and the Gold Coast Aqua Park that day and my kids were so exhausted they both fell asleep at the restaurant. It was no bother, the staff just got them some pillows and they lay on them asleep while we ate. 

If you don't want to venture out, the Sheraton has excellent restaurants and the poolside bar serves up snacks you don't have to leave the pool to enjoy. 

The theme parks  

As a disclaimer, I work for Newshub which is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery who in turn own Movie World. But take my 9-year-old son's word for it. "Dad this place is cracked," he told me a number of times. Cracked, in his world apparently, combines a number of positive adjectives and means something is really, really good.  

Movie World is a short drive north from the main Gold Coast area and is set over nearly 170 hectares. It is famous for its many roller coasters, and we were fortunate to be given a VIP pass, which meant we didn't have to queue.  

Christmas had also come to Movie World and there was a festive area. There is a main street full of Warner Bros classics such as Scooby-Doo, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and many others. There are plenty of movie-themed places to eat serving movie-themed snacks. 

Christmas has arrived at Movieworld. Photo credit: Newshub

There is another section that has rides for younger kids, a wild west section with a log ride that is worth a go, and when we were there a kind of museum to Batman, with memorabilia from the early Adam West days up to Robert Pattinson's Batman.  

For my 9-year-old son it was roller coaster heaven, we did most of them. It was his first time on any roller coaster, so we started out with the kid friendly Road Runner, a short and fairly passive ride.  

That was it, he was hooked after that and we did the Green Lantern, the Superman Escape and the DC Rivals. My three-year-old obviously wasn't' up to the roller coasters but there are plenty of kid-friendly rides to enjoy. There is a kid's driving school, Tweety cages, a railroad and a number of other rides for smaller children.  

Aside from the rides the Batman exhibition was a must for any superhero fan. On display were items from the movies - from the Batmobiles and Batsuits to the many props, it was battastic.  

Sea World, although it has a few rollercoasters, has a different vibe. For one there is a huge pool in the middle for various sea life displays.  

The wooden Aquaman roller coaster at Seaworld.
The wooden Aquaman roller coaster at Seaworld. Photo credit: Newshub

There is a penguin display, seals, polar bears, turtles and of course dolphins, which you can get up personal with. There is also an amazing jellyfish aquarium. There is something very calming about watching jellyfish glide around in a tank.  

There are a number of educational talks about the sea life that are good and you can watch many of the aquatic animals being fed.  

For the younger kids there are a number of meet and greets with the likes of Paw Patrol, Dora the Explorer and SongeBob Squarepants.  

The dolphin presentation was probably the star of the show, watching them perform was incredible and both my kids were gobsmacked.  

And if that wasn't enough there are some more rollercoasters including a wooden Aquaman one that was a thrill.  

Pretty much everywhere you turn

Getting on the water  

 in the Gold Coast there is water, from the beaches to the many manmade and natural canals that lead out to the ocean. There is probably more water than land and it is great to get out on it.  

The Aqua Duck is an amphibious bus that can travel on land and water and it a great way to get a snapshot of the Gold Coast. It leaves from Surfer's Paradise and travels a short way up the coast before hitting the sea.  

The amphibious Aquaduck takes you on a tour on land and sea.
The amphibious Aquaduck takes you on a tour on land and sea. Photo credit: Newshub

Aside from the beaches the Gold Coast is a vast series of canals, some manmade and some natural, that wind their way inland. The banks of these canals are prime real estate with many of the big houses having direct access to the water for boats.  

The Aqua Duck takes you along some of these canals and the driver gives you a running commentary about what you can see. The best bit, for my kids anyway, was when they got to drive the duck. I wasn't too worried about my nine-year-old having a go but then they gave the wheel to my three-year-old I made a quick mental note as to where the lifejackets were.  

Another great way to get out on the water is to leave the car behind and use the HOPO ferry, which runs between various points on the Gold Coast. There was a stop near the Sheraton we used to get to the Gold Coast Aqua Park and Sea World. Again the skipper gives you a running commentary as you cruise along about what you can see outside.  

The Aqua Park is another great way to enjoy some time on the water. It is a huge inflatable park that floats on the water just off Broadwater Parklands, which is in itself a great area for kids with a big playground and plenty of space.  

The Aqua Park is open every day aside from Christmas Day and is a great hour of fun on the water. There are obstacles, giant slides that hurl you into the air and even a zone for smaller kids. It is very safe, well staffed and my kids loved it.  

The Gold Coast Aqua Park is a fun family time.
The Gold Coast Aqua Park is a fun family time. Photo credit: Gold Coast Aqua Park

It is best to book but you can just turn up and have a go depending on how busy it is.  

It barely rained while we were in the Gold Coast, but a couple of storms did pass over, dump a load of water then move on, which was a great time to visit Zero Latency. This is a virtual reality gaming park where my son and I had to rescue a stranded spaceship from alien robots. I don't think we managed the task judging by the number of times we died, and I am not sure either of us will ever make it into a space academy, but it was an incredible experience.  

Vibrant food scene  

There used to be an old Paul Hogan advert promoting Australia as a tourist destination to Americans and Europeans back in the 1980s.  

This was before Hogan became famous for his Crocodile Dundee movies and it featured him cooking at a barbecue in front of the Sydney Opera House. It had a line where he said "I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for ya," which was a cliche at the time as to how Australian food was viewed.  

The Australian food scene has moved on hugely since then and is now world class not just for food but also for the service and venues.  

I have been to the Gold Coast twice this year and have eaten in around 20 restaurants and I can honestly say I have had excellent food and service in all of them.  

La Luna restaurant is child-friendly with excellent food.
La Luna restaurant is child-friendly with excellent food. Photo credit: Newshub

Aside from Ladybird and La Luna, we had a great breakfast at Tarte Beach House Currumbin on the shores of a river where kids swim and paddleboard.  

In most places you eat there is a range of locally sourced food, from the ocean or from the rich pastures of Queensland or nearby New South Wales. If good food is an essential part of your holiday then you won't be disappointed. 

After three packed days and nights it was time to leave the central Gold Coast and head south to Bilinga for an experience I will cover in part two.  

The highlight probably was the theme parks, which are good fun for the kids and a great day out. But the surprise was everything else there was to do as a family and how well set up the region is for kids.

We packed a lot into three days, but still had time to relax by the pool. The best part for me was not staring out of the window as the rain came down wondering what I was going to do with the kids that day, as we had done for so much of the winter. There were blue skies and plenty to do.  


Mark Longley is a daily editor at Newshub and travelled with his family to the Gold Coast courtesy of Destination Gold Coast.