Movie World on the Gold Coast.
Movie World on the Gold Coast. Alex Easton

Enjoying the ride of our lives at the Gold Coast's top parks

Sea World

"THEY'RE so beautiful!"

I happen to agree, but it's not the sort of thing you - or I at least - would generally expect a five-year-old girl to declare at Sea World's pond full of sting (and many other types of) rays.

My preconceptions about the minds of young girls usually don't stretch to expecting my daughter, Melody, to spend a good hour or more dashing around said pond like an over-caffeinated hummingbird, trying to pat every ray in the place.

It's so obvious now. She's going to be a marine biologist.

And, so long as her big sister was already popping preconceptions like balloons at a needle factory, my two-year-old, Maddison, decided to throw out a few surprises of her own.

This child freaks at the sight of a daddy-longlegs spider and has nightmares about geckos on the other side of her bedroom window.

However, faced with a snarling animatronic tyrannosaur, which has already successfully frightened her elder sibling, she waves and says cheerily: "Hello dinosaur".

She'll grow up to be a world-renowned palaeontologist, clearly.

None of that was what I had expected from a day at Sea World with my two youngest children, but, then, much of what happened beyond the theme park's '80s facade managed to entirely elude my expectations of the day.

Until this trip, it had been about 25 years since I'd set foot in one of the Gold Coast's theme park "worlds" - more than that since I'd last been to Sea World.

There remained a reasonable amount that was familiar about the park, but plenty that had changed as well.

My old favourite roller-coaster, the Wild Wave, is long gone. I was also disappointed to see the old flume ride is being demolished to make way for something that hints at Southern Ocean mega-storms.

That said, the park's Sea Viper roller coaster looks an awful lot like the old Corkscrew, with a fresh lick of paint and a new carriage.

The monorail is still there and you can still go for helicopter rides (and I still can't afford them), and, of course, there are still dolphins everywhere.

Polar Bears are one of the main animal attractions at Sea World.
Polar Bears are one of the main animal attractions at Sea World. Alex Easton

Movie World

It's two weeks later and we're rolling off the highway to the familiar sight of the Movie World entrance and its brightly coloured roller coaster.

This time my partner and our 16-year-old daughter are along for the ride as well.

The park couldn't be more different to Sea World. This is my first time through the gates of Movie World and the first thing I'm struck by are the shops - at first glance they appear to outnumber the rides. That impression doesn't last long.

Sea World's attractions are based largely in displays, with a couple of thrill rides tucked up the back of the park.

Movie World, on the other hand, is determined to squeeze your adrenaline glands dry.

The first thing you see is the Green Lantern roller coaster, which requires its participants spend most of their trip sideways or upside down.

Nearby is the Superman roller coaster, which looks even scarier with its enormous 90-degree descents.

The Batwing, which sits in the same pack of rides, looks comparatively tame by merely raising you to the height of a modest skyscraper before dropping you.

I had worried the little kids would be too small for most rides, and they were for the really big ones, but the kids' section is huge and they can both go on most of the rides there.

Maddison went nuts for the train rides and the Road Runner-themed Merry-Go-Round, while Melody got her first go on a dodgem car and a roller coaster.

The small roller coaster lacks the loops of the crowd grabbers out front, but still does a respectable job of scaring the pants off us both.

We all got to go in and watch the Ice Age spin-off in the "4D" theatre. It appropriately gets its name by providing sensation along with the movie. A dinosaur stomps and your seat bounces and jounces, it breathes out and you feel a blast of air, it sneezes and, well, ew.

You are not supposed to bring food into the park, so lunch was Rick's Americain bistro.

The building has recently had a million-dollar upgrade and the menu's had an overhaul.

This is a something-for-everyone sort of place offering a nice international blend of meals.

Stuffed to the gills, we toddle off to the Wild West end of the park and our final stop for the day - the Wild West Falls Adventure Ride, which involves sitting in a giant floating log that bounces slowly along a luge tube with adrenaline-pumped drops before ultimately plummeting down a huge slide and spraying you with water.

Melody loves it, the teenager loves it, and I feel a bit like I've cheated time and found myself back in Sea World's flume ride.


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