Australia and Theme Parks
Australia doesn’t really do theme parks. At least not to the level that the United States and Asia do. The American preoccupation with bigger and better roller-coasters is one of the few American fascinations that hasn’t made its way across to Australia and become embedded in the Aussie mindset.
But that’s not to say Australia is a land without theme parks. The tourist mecca that is the Gold Coast boasts three theme parks and a pair of pretty awesome water parks – Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World, Wet ‘n Wild, and WhiteWater World.
During my recent Queensland tour I took the opportunity to revisit Dreamworld: the park I remember visiting with my family when I was a much younger, less well traveled kid. Below you’ll find plenty of photos from my day at Dreamworld. Rea don.
I departed Surfer’s Paradise at around 7am. I’d spent the night at the home of my friend Mark and his wife Sheree and wanted to get to Dreamworld early enough to capitalize on their early opening so I didn’t spend my day queuing for thrill rides.
Mark and Sheree’s adorable son Will had woken me at 5am and I struggled to keep my eyes open on the twenty minute trip out to the theme park.
When we did arrive, I was struck by how quiet it was. An overcast Monday seemed to have been the perfect choice for my visit to Dreamworld. I walked straight up to the ticket booth, forked out an extra $10 for the early entry, and strolled into an eerily quiet theme park.
My first port of call was Dreamworld’s newest thrill-ride, the Buzzsaw.
It was pretty damn awesome getting to stroll straight up, walk through a gate, and settle down in the very front of the ride. I was joined by a single other rider and we were off.
The ride itself is short and intense and very cool. The shape of the track is basically a grossly misshapen circle or oval and you go both forwards and backwards with plenty of twists and upside down time. I enjoyed it so much that it was both my first and last ride of the day.
From there it was time to hit as many of the other thrill rides as I could before the park officially opened at 10am.
I quickly hit the Claw, the new Shockwave, the infamous Tower of Terror II, and the park’s oldest rollercoaster – the Cyclone.
As a kid I rode the Cyclone took my roller coaster virginity and, unlike my real virginity, I had my mother on hand to ensure I didn’t cry too much afterwards.
Not that I cried after I lost my virginity. Shit. Forget I said anything.
NB: Actually upon further research it would seem that the now closed Thunderbolt was my first roller coaster. It closed in 2003 and was replaced by the Cyclone, which had been purchased from Sydney’s Luna Park.
The Claw is so good that I rode it four times during the day – including back to back rides in the afternoon. A Gyro Swing boasting speeds of up to 75km per hour and a 240 degree rotation – the ride lasts longer than some of the coasters and is plenty scary when you’re staring straight down at the ground and preparing for another dive.
The Tower of Terror II was my next port of call. Ranked as the third tallest and fourth fastest rollercoaster ride in the world, the Tower fires you out of a tunnel backwards and up the massive Dreamworld Tower. A few seconds of hang time and then you’re plummeting face first down what equates to a 30+ story building and pulling 4.5 Gs in the process. It’s a rush.
Despite being probably the best coaster in Australia, it ranks a paltry 191 in the world on the Mitch Hawkins poll. Sorry state of affairs.
I faced my first real wait while attempting to board the Cyclone – Dreamworld’s oldest rollercoaster. You see, the ride won’t run with less than 24 people and damned if we could find 24 people at the same time. About twenty minutes passed before we got underway.
The Cyclone will forever be my first, but like all firsts, you look back and realize maybe it wasn’t that good. It’s got a steep drop, a loop, and a corkscrew in there – but it’s pretty pedestrian as far as roller coaster’s go.
It was 10am and I’d already managed to ride four of the park’sBig Six thrill rides. Only the Giant Drop and the Mick Doohan Moto-coaster had evaded me as the park began to fill up.
With a rumbling stomach to contend with though, I decided to slow things down a little and pay a visit to the quaint ‘downtown’ area of the park. A breakfast of Boost juice and some delicious fudge put me in much higher spirits as the tourists began to flood in and the queues for rides began to develop.
I began my more leisurely (and thorough) exploration of the park with a stroll through the newly redeveloped Gold Rush area of the park. Home to the Buzzsaw and sporting a very cool colonial feel, there are numerous cute attractions to check out including old time photos and a few of the more family friendly rides.
As a kid growing up the Rocky Hollow Log Ride and the Thunder River Rapids Ride were the closest I came to knowing theme park terror. I quickly joined the queue for the latter.
Like all river rapid rides, the Thunder River takes you spinning and dipping through a relatively tame rapids course that features a few dark caves and a few dusty old dinosaurs. I could have swor these moved and lit up as a kid, but no such movement on the day’s ride. Instead I contented myself with laughing at the excited Chinese tourists I was sharing a boat with. They even begged me to pose for a photo with them at ride’s end.
A little wet and already in the vicinity, I decided to just hit all of the water rides in one go and tackle the Rocky Hollow ride. This used to scare my poor father half to death and I’m glad I don’t share his fear of heights.
It was around this time that I realized that visiting a theme park alone isn’t quite as much fun as visiting one with company. I said maybe five words all day and missed having somebody about to chat with to pass the time in a line.
No use crying over spilled milk though. Instead I let myself get drenched with a single mother and her wide eyed child.
The ride is a fairly serene drift along before being taken up into a large ‘shed’ and dropped down the steep incline where the water splashes you. Delight ensues. You’ve all ridden a log flume before.
As I left Gold Rush I bid a fond farewell to what had once been my favorite Dreamworld ride, a wild-mouse style coaster known as the Eureka Mountain Mine Ride. A helpful Dreamworld employee who shall remain nameless advised me it closed due to asbestos. I am sad.
Lunch with Tigers
Aside from having Australia’s biggest selection of rides and (arguably) its best rides, Dream World is also home to the very cool Tiger Island. Home to six Bengal tigers and six Sumatran tigers, Tiger Island features twice daily shows with the beautiful big cats – but at least one or two of them are prowling around the large open air exhibit most of the day.
With a show approaching, I settled down at a nearby cafe and ordered a (typically over-priced) theme park sandwich and settled in to see some of my most beloved animals up close.
The show, lasting about half an hour, featured three Bengal tigers performing various behavioral tricks such as standing on their hind legs, climbing trees, and jumping ridiculously high in pursuit of cuts of meat.
It’s truly amazing (and just a little terrifying) to realize just how easily a tiger could hunt you down.
Maybe I was overtired and emotional as a result, but I even got a little misty eyed when the show finished and we were told of just how tenuous the tiger species’ grip on the planet is. I happily shelled out $10 in change to help the cause.
As the afternoon grew dimmer and it grew nearer to the time I’d need to meet up with my friend Temissa at Movie World for Fright Night, I snuck a few more rides in and took some time to explore the Australian Wildlife Experience. I don’t get quite as excited about kangaroos and emu as others, so I didn’t snap many photos.
I revisted a few old favorites, rode the quite enjoyable Mick Doohan Moto-coaster, and then it was time to head off.
All told a day in Dreamworld is a lot of fun – although I’d imagine it would have been much more fun had I had some company along for the ride.
You don’t come to Australia to ride roller coasters or even to see tigers, but that doesn’t mean a visit to the Gold Coast shouldn’t include a day exploring Dreamworld. There’s a distinctively Aussie flavor to the whole affair and there is plenty to keep the kids occupied – including a large Wiggles World dedicated exclusively to the little ones.
The Wildlife Experience gives plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with native fauna – including feeding kangaroos and holding the iconic koala. This is only possible in QLD.
I had a blast and look forward to heading back again with somebody to act as photographer and queue buddy. And if the weather is sunnier, I’m itching to explore neighboring WhiteWater World and try out a few slides.
Dreamworld is on the Gold Coast and is easily accessible by bus from Surfer’s Paradise. Tickets for the park are $49.99 for children and $79.99 for adults – with an extra $10 for early entry and access to the thrill rides before the place gets crowded.
Dreamworld also offers a partner deal with its sister park, WhiteWater World.