Growing up in Queensland, we were lucky enough to always have theme parks close by and plenty of opportunities to visit them. Living around an hour away meant it was an easy day trip back and forth.
I can’t even recall how many times i have visited each of the big theme parks on the Gold Coast, as it would have been more than 10 times for each of them by now.
Probably closer to 20!
However the first theme park my family ever took me to growing up was Seaworld.
Seaworld on the Gold Coast has been around longer than I have and our first visit was when I was only little more than a toddler myself, before we lived in Queensland. We have some awesome retro photos of us feeding a dolphin in a clash of 80s fashion horrors.
So when deciding to take our toddler to her first theme park, Seaworld seemed like the natural choice!
SEAWORLD GOLD COAST THEME PARK
With Lily being 2.5 and me being 8.5 months pregnant, Seaworld by far had the most to offer when thrill rides weren’t really an option.
Seaworld is well known worldwide for their focus on marine wildlife and conservation efforts. They have always had some fantastic animal themed attractions at the Gold Coast theme park too.
We kicked off our Seaworld adventure with a visit to the penguin enclosure. This is one of the newer attractions at Seaworld Gold Coast, but still a few years old.
Lily was over the moon to see real life penguins. Especially considering what a show off this big guy was.
The enclosure allows you to view the penguins both above and below the water, which is great to watch when they decide to dive into the water.
Next up, we headed over to check out the polar bears – one was having a lazy day, while the other was at play in the water, much to Lily’s delight.
There are also some huge underwater aquariums to give you an idea of how different sea life lives, with fish and coral, sharks and even a massive turtle all swimming about.
Finding Nemo happens to be a favourite movie in this household so it was like a real life Finding Nemo for our little fan… although we didn’t spot Nemo. We did so Dory.
Something that may be unexpected is the number of interactive animal experiences Seaworld offers.
There are rock pool areas set up with star fish, coral and sea cucumbers that visitors to the theme park can touch.
We were impressed that our sometimes timid little miss was eager to touch the starfish and sea cucumber – Although not too happy with the way the cucumber felt. SQUISHY!
There is also Ray Reef which is a large pool filled with different types of stingrays which you can pat… YES, YOU CAN PAT A STINGRAY! There is also feeding sessions each day and they go crazy for the food.
Of course one of the wildlife attractions Seaworld is so well known for are their dolphins. There are a few different dolphin swimming areas around the Seaworld theme park, as well as some over near Seal Harbour where you will also see seals at play.
Seaworld does not have as many thrill rides as the other major theme parks, MovieWorld and Dreamworld on the Gold Coast have, however it has a few to keep the thrill seekers happy.
Rides were off the agenda for me, being so heavily pregnant and of course Lily, being a tad too short after all, however Simon was keen to at least try the newest ride – Storm Coaster.
He said it was fairly unimpressive due to it being over so quickly, but it’s essentially a rollercoaster that goes through water.
A more kid friendly ride is the Castaway Bay Battle Boats. Each boat has water guns attached and you can spray others riding the boats, or better still, people standing around the edges of the ride. There are water shooters set up along the perimeter too so you can join in the water fight without being on the ride. Lily thought this was hilarious!
While not a ride as such, Castaway Bay also has a couple of cool attractions including a massive Sky Fortress, which is a playground for all ages pretty much. We spent time climbing around on it during our last visit for Simon’s 30th too. Lily could have stayed on there for hours.
There is also the Monorail and the Sky High Skyway, which is like an enclosed chair lift, plus a couple of other rides were weren’t able to go on due to the toddler and pregnant status we had going on.
During the warmer seasons, Seaworld opens up their water park section with water slides and pools. Our last 2 visits have been just before winter, however when open, you do get unlimited access to the water park area when you stay at Seaworld Resort next door.
Twice a day is the famous SeaWorld Affinity dolphin show, with plenty of stunts to amaze.
They are such incredibly intelligent animals and learn much the way us humans do, through conditioning and rewards systems. As a psychologist, this is very familiar territory and goes to show the similarities between us and animals.
For a funny animal experience, the Fish Detective show features a storyline with seals and sea lions as part of the cast. Kids will love it!
There are also character based shows aimed at the younger kids with a SpongeBob Squarepants 3d movie, a Dora and Friends stage show and opportunities for character meet and greets at certain times. Lily loves Dora!
In the afternoon, the Jet Stunt Extreme show kicks off with lots of daredevil stunts on water in boats and on jet skis. Bigger kids will love this however we skipped the show on this visit knowing our exhausted 2 year old wouldn’t be up for it by the end of the day. It’s worth a watch though.
Unfortunately when we visited on this occasion, the kids zone was undergoing a makeover. This was a bit frustrating because it was one of the areas that Lily would have loved. It was previously Cartoon Beach with some great rides and attractions aimed at the younger kids.
The kids area is due to reopen later in 2015 as Nickelodeon Land with new rides and shows, all with youngsters in mind. This will be perfect for visiting a theme park with a toddler because they always cater for the smallest of kids too. Instead we had to get our kid zone fun at the equivalent area at MovieWorld the next day.
Despite this, SeaWorld is still the best theme park for toddlers in Australia because it offers more than just thrill rides. Kids love the wildlife encounters and character meet and greets, plus once the Nickelodeon Land is open, you will have trouble dragging them away.
You may even want to stay at SeaWorld Resort, which is what we usually do these days. It’s a great resort for family travel and convenient location too, with a Monorail station connecting you to the theme park.
Tips for Visiting SeaWorld With Young Kids
- Keep their visit interactive – young kids get bored easily
- Shows can be good for some down time to rest weary legs
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes – don’t forget the sunscreen and hat
- Consider packing snacks to avoid the expensive theme park food prices
- Visit during the week and avoid school holidays so the theme park is not as busy
- Pre-order tickets to avoid queuing
- Plan your day before you visit so you know when shows are on
SeaWorld Gold Coast theme park is open year round, with opening hours of 10am to 5pm most of the year. Tickets can be purchased at the gate, or pre-purchased online or at participating ticket outlets. There are single and multiple day tickets available, including annual passes. You can find out more on their website.