UPDATED MARCH 2019
Growing up in Queensland, we were lucky enough to always have theme parks close by and plenty of opportunity to visit them. Living around an hour away meant it was an easy day trip back and forth. This tradition is something we have continued on with our own kids, who absolutely adore all of the Gold Coast theme parks! And this started with our babymoon, in an attempt to discover which was the best Gold Coast theme park for toddlers. Our recommendation… Seaworld! Read on to find out why.
SEAWORLD GOLD COAST THEME PARK
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 at least 20 times by now. Our kids have been to each of them a handful of time already too, pretty much since they could walk.
Now going way back, the first theme park my family ever took me to growing up was Sea World Gold Coast. It 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. Hello big hair and shoulder pads!
Okay… maybe it wasn’t that extreme! I was around 4 and was both excited and horrified at the chance to feed a dolphin. I may have even cried. These things happen!
For our first theme park visit as parents, our eldest was only 2 and I was only a few weeks off my due date with her baby sister… heavily pregnant! We decided Seaworld by far had the most to offer when thrill rides weren’t really an option. Although it was not the only theme park we visited that weekend.
Seaworld theme park 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. Seaworld in Australia is not affiliated with the USA Seaworld franchise and they are known for their conservation efforts.
Check out our recent visit to Seaworld Gold Coast and stay at Seaworld Resort & Water park:
Why Seaworld For Toddlers
When working out the best theme park for toddlers gold coast, there’s a lot of different factors to consider. Every one of the Gold Coast theme parks has something pretty special to offer and they all cater to young kids to some degree. You pretty much can’t go wrong by picking any of them really, but if you want to focus your visit around visiting the Gold Coast with toddler in tow, we want to make it easy for you.
Here’s why we think Seaworld is your best choice when visiting Gold Coast theme parks with young children:
We kicked off our Seaworld adventure with a visit to the penguin enclosure. This was one of the newer attractions at Seaworld Gold Coast at the time of our visit. Since this time there have been some pretty fantastic animal enclosure upgrades and attractions added to the park. We still love visiting the penguins though and both kids are so fascinated by the fact you can get so close to them.
Our toddler was over the moon to see real life penguins. Especially considering what a show off this big guy was. We spent a long time watching them as she was completely captivated. The enclosure allows you to view the penguins both above and below the water, which is great to watch how fast they are at swimming 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 our toddlers delight. They have since had polar bear cubs in the park and have a special enclosure for the cubs, although when they are young it can be hard to get there at a time when they aren’t napping. Their breeding program means you may get lucky enough to visit at a time when there are new cubs, but it is still super cool to see the grown up polar bears playing.
There is an above water viewing area and a below water area too, just like with the penguins, so you can see the bears no matter what they are doing.
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 together. Again this was so fascinating for our daughter and a great learning experience too.
Finding Nemo happened to be a favourite movie in this household at the time, so it was like a real life Finding Nemo for our little fan… although we didn’t spot Nemo. We did see a Dory lookalike though.
Something that may be unexpected is the number of interactive animal experiences Seaworld offers. This is definitely one of the things that makes Sea World for toddlers such a great option because they love to touch things. If you’ve survived the toddler years, you know what I’m talking about!
There are rock pool areas set up with starfish, coral and sea cucumbers that visitors to the theme park can touch. This is a pretty cool experience and everytime we visit Seaworld, both of our kids love this opportunity. It’s actually probably one of the Seaworld toddler experiences, if they are brave enough.
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! She still has to touch it every single time though, even though her reaction usually involves a look of horror afterwards! Her little sister has never been scared of much so she is eager to get involved.
There is also Ray Reef which is a large pool filled with different types of stingrays which you can touch… YES, YOU CAN TOUCH A STINGRAY! There are feeding sessions each day and they go crazy for the food. This is super cool. As an adult I never expected to be petting a stingray, so of course it is pretty exciting for kids! Although if they aren’t coming to the top of the water, those little arms may struggle to reach them.
And of course, one of the most famous 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. All the enclosures are built to allow you to get a close up view of the different animals, and the dolphins do seem to love the attention.
You can find the Seaworld Gold Coast show times here.
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. It also has some water themed rides too, although no longer the big water park section like Wet N Wild or WhiteWater World.
Rides were off the agenda for me, being so heavily pregnant on our first toddler visit, and of course our little miss, being a tad too short after all, however Simon was keen to at least try the newest Sea World rides at the time – Storm Coaster. It is a few years old now and there are a few new Seaworld Gold Coast rides added to the line up.
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. Maybe not a great one for winter because you get saturated, but it is a great one for a hot summer day!
Our eldest thought this was hilarious! Be warned… you get saturated if you are on the boats, which means the line up is pretty tiny in the cold months!
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. And on our visits since, her sister is a big fan too although since she is still only 3 herself now, one of us goes in with them while the other hangs out with the pram!
We have since visited with both kids, again a toddler aged visit with our youngest and there have been quite a few new attractions put in over the past few years that cater specifically to children.
There is also the Monorail plus a couple of other rides were weren’t able to go on due to the toddler and pregnant status we had going on. Funny though, our kids think the Monorail is the BEST RIDE EVER! Clearly we aren’t raising daredevils in this family!
Twice a day is the famous SeaWorld Affinity dolphin show, with plenty of stunts to amaze. This is one of the best Seaworld attractions Gold Coast. The synchronized jumps by the dolphins are pretty impressive to see plus you get to learn lots about them too.
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 story line with seals and sea lions as part of the cast. Kids will love it!
UPDATE 2019: There is now a newer seal show in the place of the Fish Detective show which teaches kids about the importance of not littering and it is good for a laugh. Younger kids may get restless before the show starts so make sure you’ve got drinks and snacks ready to keep them occupied while everyone takes their seats. There is a stroller parking bay just outside the doors for convenience.
There are also character based shows aimed at the younger kids with a SpongeBob Squarepants 3D movie, a Dora and Friends stage show and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show. There are plenty of opportunities for character meet and greets at certain times. Lily loves Dora! For bigger kids, they will love seeing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show and ride.
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 often miss the show as it is at the end of the day when our little people are exhausted from a big day of theme park fun. It’s worth a watch though. The one time we did stay for the show, the kids were impressed! They even sat in the rain to watch it.
Nickelodeon Land Kids Zone
The kids area reopened in 2015 as Nickelodeon Land with new rides and shows, all with youngsters in mind. We have since visited a couple of times and our kids especially love the Boots Banana Boogie Ride, which is a fairly tame ride with flying bananas that can go up and down as they go around.
And of course like any popular family theme park, there is a carousel to ride on. Our girls still enjoy a ride on the carousel each visit and it fits a lot of people on each go so the wait is usually quite short.
There are a couple of other rides that have a little more ‘bite’ to them that our kids haven’t been quite brave enough to go on yet, as we have a rather timid 5 year old now and a semi adventurous 3 year old. But they are building up their daringness!
This area is perfect for visiting a theme park with a toddler because they always cater for the smallest of kids too.
It is because of this great area and the non ride based attractions that 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 with Nickelodeon Land, you will have trouble dragging them away.
The best Seaworld rides for toddlers
- Dora’s Fiesta Carousel Ride
- Boots’ Banana Boogie Ride
The Reef at Castaway Bay
One thing I do remember as a kid is that Seaworld Gold Coast definitely had a lot more water based rides and attractions, such as a mini water park when I was a kid. Even in my teens I remember being able to go on the water slides at Seaworld. This section is no longer at the park itself, however if you are staying at the Sea World Resort & Water Park next door, it does have water slides and a water playground area for guests.
However, recently they opened a great new water attraction area perfect for toddlers and kids to enjoy. The Reef is a water play area with water jets, cannons and lots of places to splash around, so make sure you do pack the swimmers and towels for your visit.
Our kids loved this section so much that we struggled to get them to leave and it was only because it was lunch time that we could finally drag them away. Timed that on purpose knowing they would eventually be hungry enough to dry off and change – that’s our expert tip for you if you are visiting Seaworld with toddlers and kids!!
Related Reading – Best things to do on the Gold Coast with kids
Plus it makes the park an even better option now for the spring and summer months when Queensland is hot and you will want to cool down. Even we got pretty wet keeping an eye on the kids. You need to keep an eye out for other people’s kids who aim water jets at you when you walk past… eeekkk!!
You may even want to stay at SeaWorld Gold Coast Resort, which is what we sometimes do for special weekends away. It’s a great resort for family travel and convenient location too, with a Monorail station connecting you to the theme park. Most room packages also give you free unlimited entry into Seaworld park, Movieworld and Wet ‘N’ Wild for the duration of your stay too!
Food at Seaworld Gold Coast
There are plenty of places to eat at Seaworld to suit your kids. There are several different takeaway food places near the entry, including some healthy choices and some dessert options too. Within the park there is a covered food court area with burgers, Domino’s pizza and a few other options, plus lots of seating.
There is also the Dockside Tavern which is a two storey restaurant with lots of seating, that overlooks Nickelodeon Land. It can get pretty busy but the food is pretty good.
Like any theme park, the food can be pricey so if you want to save your dollars, you might want to pack some food or at least some snacks from home, but if you don’t mind spending, then there are plenty of options to suit the whole family.
Why is Seaworld Gold Coast Great for Toddlers?
Seaworld Gold Coast is good for visitors of all age, with attractions, rides, shows and experiences targeting all guests. What makes Seaworld especially great for toddlers and small children is the fact that they are less focused on the big thrill rides and more focused on experiences such as animal encounters and education.
They also have dedicated zones for the kids to have fun in with Nickelodeon land and The Reef. There are lots of fun shows for the kids to see and meet their favourite characters too.
We’ve also found Seaworld tends to be less busy than some of the other theme parks can be, which can be refreshing when you’re having a day out. Although don’t worry… it still has it’s crowds during the peak seasons, especially during school holidays!
The other thing that makes Seaworld a great Gold Coast theme parks for toddlers is the fact that it has accommodation right next door that is completely kid friendly and fun for the whole family. This is such a convenience if your kids are getting tired and need a rest, as you can head back to your room for a middle of the day nap or break from the chaos.
Having this option can be a big factor in surviving a theme park with a toddler! Because it can be exhausting.. but fun!
Tips for Visiting SeaWorld With Young Kids
- Keep your visit interactive as young kids are easily bored
- 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 Tickets
SeaWorld Gold Coast theme park is open year round, with Seaworld Gold Coast 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 view the Seaworld Gold Coast prices on their website.
Seaworld Opening Times
Seaworld Gold Coast opening times change slightly during the different seasons, however the park is typically open from 10am to 5pm year round. It may stay open slightly longer in the summer season or for special events during the year.
If you don’t want to make the transit, you can stay at Seaworld at the incredible Seaworld Resort and Water Park.
Seaworld is around 1 hour from Brisbane by car. There are also public transport options available on the Gold Coast if you do not have your own car. The Seaworld Gold Coast address is Seaworld Drive, Main Beach and you will find it easily as you follow the road, past the Marina Mirage and the famous Palazzo Versace hotel.
If you need more theme park inspiration for around the world, check out our ultimate theme park bucket list.
Booking resources for your Gold Coast theme park trip:
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