The Gold Coast is not just theme parks and beaches

Blog contribution by Jennifer Adams, presenter of the popular TV travel series Places We Go.

The Gold Coast makes for a majestic sight.

“We’re just off to the Goldie to do the theme parks”.

It’s obviously my age and having a seven-year-old daughter (let’s face it, what kid doesn’t love the thrill of a good old-fashioned roller-coaster?), but this statement has become increasingly popular among my friends lately when they refer to a family holiday on the Gold Coast

Oh, and of course everyone expects clear blue skies and that irresistible long stretch of white sandy beach where the waves illuminate as they curl in the afternoon sun and families happily play beach cricket.

I am sure most Australians would have their own holiday memories of the Gold Coast. I remember a visit to Sea World to swim with the dolphins when I was about the same age as my daughter; and then taking her to Wet’n'Wild a year ago and watching her squeal with excitement as she ploughed down the enormous slides.

The Gold Coast, or the ‘Goldie’ as many affectionately call it, has been famous for being a fun tourist destination since the boom of the ‘80s. Go back a hundred years and, with its rolling surf beaches and inland waterways, it held a reputation for being a secluded holiday destination for upper-class Brisbane residents.

Today, of course, it’s anything but secluded! It’s a major tourist hotspot, a go-to place for a bit of fun in the sun, with theme parks, skyscrapers, and a shiny nightlife for all the family. But let’s be clear, I believe it’s a lot more than that. With its sub-tropical climate and lush rainforest hinterland, it has a few gems that are well worth the visit. And the kids will love them!

Burleigh Heads is a prime area to uncover.

Burleigh Head National Park

If you love being surrounded by nature, away from the crowds, and somewhere the locals treasure, put Burleigh Head National Park on your list.

A natural headland in the heart of the Gold Coast, it’s an oasis away from the glitz of the 'coast'. Sitting right on Tallebudgera Creek, which enters the ocean directly south of the park, we visited the 27ha national park and left behind the drone of the traffic along the Gold Coast highway, transported into an entirely different world.

This is a popular place for hikers and runners; you can choose between the Rainforest Circuit and the Ocean View Circuit. Both are easy walks for young and old, with the summit about 88m above sea level.

The park is rich with history, so make sure you read the information signs, as it makes for a fascinating walk. These surrounds were formed 20 to 30 million years ago from the lava flow from the Tweed volcanoes and you can see basalt columns as you walk through the park. You’ll pass a midden site revealing the rich Aboriginal history of the area.

We made the easy 20-minute walk up to Tum Gun Lookout, and with views that stretched all the way from Burleigh Heads to Coolangatta, we were treated to a show from several humpback whales splashing about in the ocean right in front of us as they were making their way towards Hervey Bay.

Get up close to an assortment of animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

We decided to head to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary for a fun family day out, but had no idea it would be so extensive in every way.

Sprawled over 27ha, it’s an action-packed, nature-loving wonderland that’s home to more than 1000 animals. And while the sanctuary is about building respect for our wildlife, they’ve cleverly thrown in a mix of adventure, and the result is a brilliant day out for everyone.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary started in 1947 with the feeding of the free-flying wild rainbow lorikeets, who kept coming back for more and are still fed the same special formula today.

Over time, the sanctuary grew and was added to the Queensland heritage register, and it now houses one of the largest collections of Australian native species in the world.

Our day at Currumbin was the perfect balance between being up close to wildlife and enjoying the thrill of the adventure activities surrounding the animals.

On board special 'segways', or electric scooters, we zipped through the park on a ‘segway safari’, learning about all the different species and what’s important to them. This ranged from the plight of the Tasmanian devil to learning about the life of the saltwater crocodile where my partner Clint nervously found himself front and centre at the croc feeding show. Yep, he was the guy feeding them!

And as for our seven-year-old daughter Charli? Well, between holding a baby croc and cuddling a cute koala, she announced “this was the best day ever”.

More animals antics at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

And a tip from me – make sure you check out the zipline and ropes course. It makes for a wonderful activity for the entire family, and you get an amazing view of the sub-tropical rainforest. For a few hours, I was taken straight back to my childhood, messing about in the bush and pretty much forgetting who was the mother and who was the daughter!

BIG4 Tweed Billabong Holiday Park

While I said the Gold Coast is not all about theme parks, with a star attraction like the Green Cauldron waterslide, you can see with the below photo why I am putting BIG4 Tweed Billabong Holiday Park as an attraction in itself!

BIG4 Tweed Billabong's new water playground is a source of endless entertainment.

You can feel how this holiday park’s owners have a passion for all things fun (and comfort), and it is well worth the stay.

From the waterslide to a trampoline in the middle of the billabong, kayaks, and heated swimming pools, all I saw was my daughter excitedly dashing from one activity to the next, as we sat back on the deck enjoying a red wine.

A billabong sits in the middle of the holiday park.

It doesn’t matter where you rest your head at night; the choices are endless. Accommodation ranges from tents and caravans to cabins and really well-appointed luxury cabins with spas.

The thing I love about BIG4 Holiday Parks (and this one was one of the best examples), is how guests share the same love of adventure, sunshine, and good times. On the Saturday night, we all congregated in the flash camp kitchen (that included all the mod-cons like ovens, microwaves and kettles, even an outdoor TV above the BBQs) for a hilarious 'silly hat' themed night, where we not only met fellow holidaymakers but swapped wonderful stories about our memories that were made on the sunny Gold Coast.

So next time you’re thinking of heading to the ‘Goldie’, just remember it’s not all about theme parks and beaches!

Jen x

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