My family and I were given a good Christmas present last year, a year pass to Dreamworld – arguably Australia’s biggest and best theme park – and its neighbour WhiteWater World, which are located on Queensland’s Gold Coast. I’d been waiting to get there, as I’m a big kid and now as a dad I finally had an excuse. This would also be the first time my four-year-old, Olin, had ever been to a major theme park.
Without mum (who was busy studying), I drove north from Byron Bay to Dreamworld, which takes about one hour and 15 minutes. Upon arrival, Olin decided we should go to WhiteWater World first. Even though it was a hot January day, the park wasn’t too busy, although a few things soon became apparent.
I couldn’t go on the bigger, scarier rides I was excited about, as Olin just wasn’t ready yet. So if you’re with your kid(s), best take your partner for some freedom. The Cave of Waves was a bit of fun, as was Wiggle Bay with its gentle water slides and large pool. Although perhaps the best fun for Olin was Pipeline Plunge, which is like a large water playground, with slides and lots of things to climb, push, turn and explore.
When lunchtime came around I discovered the place sells mostly fast food and it’s not cheap, so you’d best bring your own. After eating we decided to explore Dreamworld, which I was a tad excited about. Of course I missed out on the big, scary rides here again, but exploring the park through Olin’s eyes was a great experience.
The Dreamworld Express, which is a train that travels around most of the park, is a good starting point and Olin didn’t want to get off. From here we went onto the Rocky Hollow Log Ride where it rained steadily as we drifted under short tunnels, towards the final big shoot. Now soaked, we ran through the park to a café and enjoyed brownies and hot drinks before going on the Thunder River Rapids, which was at the edge of Olin’s comfort zone.
Here Olin smiled on the bumps, closed his eyes in the long dark tunnels and quietly screamed for joy when it ended. His little eyes were darting, scanning, taking it all in. We also managed to visit Wiggles World, where we rode on the Wiggles Big Red Car ride. It was a little bright, jerky and a tad quirky. One thing I really didn’t like about this was that we were forced to exit through a shop full of Wiggles’ merchandise.
Madagascar Madness, which is a kid-friendly place with shows, smaller rides and activities, was a great place to explore with Olin. From here we ventured onto Tiger Island, where unfortunately the main attractions had gone to sleep as it was now getting into late afternoon. So get here early if you can.
In all, there’s plenty at both Dreamworld and WhiteWater World for four-year-olds, big kids and even adults to explore. And while I looked on with slight envy as the bigger kids tackled the scarier rides, like the Giant Drop (pictured at top, behind BuzzSaw) which free falls from 19 stories up, I enjoyed being a dad here. Probably the best compromise for the two of us was the Rocky Hollow Log Ride and Thunder River Rapids, which are a hoot for just about everyone.
Fast facts and tips
Pack some lunch, as the food is expensive and not great. Bring swimming gear, towels and get there early to avoid the queues and make the most of your time. Dreamworld is open from 10am to 5pm, 7 days a week, while WhiteWater World is open from 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday and 10am to 5pm on the weekend.
Dreamworld entry for 1 adult for the day starts at $74.99 and entry into WhiteWater World starts at $39.99. Or you could bundle the two together for $84.99 and if you’re in the area and can come again, there’s deals which work out better. Children aged 3 – 13 are slightly cheaper and children under 3 are free. You can also pay a little extra to avoid queuing up.
For more info, visit the Dreamworld website.