Surfers Paradise. Credit: Thinkstock
Surfers Paradise. Credit: Thinkstock

Got toddlers in tow? Why not a weekend on the Gold Coast with a family day at Dreamworld and Whitewater World? Angie Takanami has the details.

The refreshing sound of a wine cork being pulled signalled the clock hitting four pm on Friday afternoon in the office. Glasses clinkered as the team started to get rowdy in much deserved end-of-week banter. I loaded up a glass of a crisp South Australian white and brought it to my lips while rummaging through my suitcase slotted under my desk, swearing under my breath when I coudn’t find my two-year-old son’s spare dummy.

I should’ve been reveling in yet another coastal trip kicking off in one hour – this time to the Gold Coast - but instead I was pulling my hair out trying to find dummies, bottles, and my other four-year-old son’s shoes. As a sacrifice for remembering all the kids’ gear (do we really need Duplo and Japanese punching robots for a three-day trip?) I’d forgotten something important of my own, the champagne.

Giggles and footsteps came rushing up the back stairs of the office as my fretting time came to a close; my little monsters had arrived and hubby was ready to get the 45minute drive from Byron Bay over with - the idea of kicking back on the balcony of the Hilton Residences Surfers Paradise with a beer was too enticing. Besides, we needed to prepare ourselves for the trip's main course: a day out at Dreamworld and Whitewater World.


This time of year is great for visiting one of Australia’s largest theme parks, the seasonally blue skies and mild temperatures make for a comfortable day out enjoying the park and its attractions. With toddlers at our heels our day was less about roller coasters and more about family rides, Madagascar live and Kung Fu Panda’s Land of Awesomeness. See below for my family's favourite rides, attractions and my tips on how to make the best of both worlds when you're rolling with ankle biters.

Best rides for families

River Rapids. Credit: Dreamworld

River Rapids – a gentle form of white water rafting, toddlers can ride this circular raft accompanied by an adult (if under 120cm tall) so it’s a great one for the whole family. Prepare to get wet and meet a few bumpy river rapids!

Skadoosh Bumper Cars – set among the Kung Fu Panda ‘Land of Awesomeness’ marketplace, the kids can learn to drive the dragon bumper cars if you dare to be their passenger. (Height restriction: Drivers need to be min 120cm, passengers 100cm).

Rocky Hollow Log Ride – get your thrills on whizzing down a water ramp in a hollowed-out log at 50 km/h. Children must be over one-year-old to ride, and children under four-years-old need to be accompanied by an adult.

Escape from Madagascar – Madagascar’s famed penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private have enlisted the help of the chimps in their mission to Escape from Madagascar. This awesome roller coaster allows riders between 110cm and 195cm only.

Dreamworld Railway: move around the park one of the Dreamworld Railway’s restored steam trains. The kids will love it and you can throw the pram on board too.

Escape from Madagascar. Credit: Dreamworld

Best rides for toddlers

Avis Vintage Cars

Avis Vintage Cars – put the kids behind the wheel of their own vintage car, where even the youngest of drivers can chug along the specially designed track. (Height restriction: drivers under 120cm need to be accompanied by an adult.)

Big Red Car Ride – parents might struggle with their little ones if there’s a queue, as the Wiggle’s themed Big Red Car Ride takes quite a while to rotate its traffic. Time your visit well, however, and young Wiggles fans will enjoy the sing-a-long family car ride inside Wigglehouse with guest stars Wags the Dog, Henry the Octopus, Dorothy the Dinosaur and the Wiggles on big screens.

Orge-Go-Round – the kids will get a buzz riding on Donkey, an onion carriage or royal horse while Shrek spins them round the Orge-Go-Round. No height restrictions make this one a great family all-rounder.

Big Red Car Ride. Credit: Dreamworld

Live Entertainment

Do your kids like to ‘move it move it’? Yes? Well align your day with one of the live Madagascar performances at King Julien’s Theater in the Wild. The 20 minute Prepare to Party live show features all your favourite Madagascar characters, King Julien, Alex the Lion, Gloria and those cheeky penguins. Get to the theatre a little early to nab a great seat.


Tiger Island. Credit: Dreamworld

Dreamworld is home to a number of wildlife exhibits allowing families to get up and personal with more than 800 native animals, Bengal and Sumatran tigers, and crocodiles. For an additional fee, groups of up to four people can take part in the Tiger Cub Walk Experience with the park’s Bengal tiger cubs, Baru and Savi.

Whitewater World

Pipeline Plunge. Credit: Whitewater World

As the weather starts to warm up, so too do the pools at Whitewater World, adjacent to Dreamworld. With so many pools and water slides on offer, you’ll need a full day to enjoy it all – we found a few hours just wasn’t enough.

Top picks for families with toddlers

Wiggle Bay – if you have young ones who can’t yet swim but still want to get amongst it all, Wiggle Bay is your best bet with lifeguard supervision and shallow waters meaning peace of mind for mum and dad. Our boys were a little hesitant to shoot down their first ever water slide alone – adults aren’t allowed to ride the slides in Wiggle Bay – but after some coaxing they took the plunge and then plunged 100 times more!

Cave of Waves – surf’s up in this makeshift surf beach with swell heights reaching 1.5 metres. Families can float in clear tubes or try their bodysurfing skills in the waves while professional lifeguards watch on.

Pipeline Plunge – our four-year-old son couldn’t get enough of this gigantic water playground. There are slides, water guns, and a big water bucket that fills to the brim then spills out unexpectedly over the frolicking youngens below.

Got older kids? Check out all the attractions and rides on the Dreamworld and Whitewater World websites.

Where to stay

Hilton Surfers Paradise Residences

Hot tips

- The Unlimited World Pass is great value giving you unlimited access to both parks until July 2014. Full details, terms and conditions and other world pass ticket information can be found at on the Dreamworld website.

- Pack snacks and a healthy lunch for your young ones if you want to eat on the go, as most of the fast food options at Dreamworld are expensive and unhealthy. If you have a little time to spare, try the Billabong Buffet Restaurant with a better range of meals as well as alcoholic drinks for the adults.

Gold Coast destination guide

About Angie Takanami

Angie Takanami is an editor and producer, her husband Kuni an internationally acclaimed photographer. Together they are Surfers' Eyes, a creative partnership fueled by their shared passions for travel, surfing and balancing life's little luxuries with simplistic living. When they are not surfing the waves of Byron Bay with their two wild sons, Angie and Kuni are sipping back cold bevvies in airports or planes with their notebooks, cameras, and surfboards in tow, all while sharing their experiences to the world from Surfers' Eyes.

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