Gold Coast turns on a family theme
IT'S true that the simple things in life are often the best. Waking up to a sunrise with nothing but the ocean between you and the horizon; marvelling at a sleeping koala; tucking into a hearty breakfast at 2pm.
The Gold Coast isn't often associated with family relaxation, but it can be. If you are over the theme parks - or have been there done that a zillion times - there are other options. I decided to revisit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and had forgotten this is a true oasis in the glitter strip.
Once you step inside you're surrounded by nature - thanks to Alex Griffiths, who began feeding the region's wild lorikeets back in 1947, and inadvertently created a 27ha wildlife haven that is now operated by the National Trust.
While the lorikeets still land on your head at feeding time, there are hundreds of other native animals on display. And some native visitors - like the brush turkeys, lizards and cockatoos - which pop in unannounced as you wander around.
Shows are on throughout the day so you can learn about crocodile behaviour, watch Aboriginal dancers and see Blinky Bill's Wildlife to the Rescue show and the free flight bird show.
It's a leisurely walk around the attractions but I always loved the train ride as a kid and decided to join the queue at the train station for the short trip under the Gold Coast Highway to feed the kangaroos.
Best $4 you'll spend. That's for the kangaroo food and you'll have these cute little critters eating out of the palm of your hand. I also learnt that the Japanese word for kangaroo is kangaru because watching our every move was a Japanese toddler who was smitten by the roos. He'd gone through his bag of food but refused to leave, throwing a little bit of a tantrum because he wanted to stay with the kangaru.
The newest way to get around is on a segway - yep, you can book a Segway Safari tour and have your own personal guide take you around. And if you're ready for a bit of adventure, there are zip lines for those keen to try the Tree Top Challenge.
The best thing? It wasn't flooded with masses of schoolies like Cavill Mall was.
Staying just a few blocks away from "Schoolies Central" meant it was quiet. We stayed at Dorchester On The Beach, which specialises in family holidays (meaning no partying schoolies in the room next door) and has rooms ranging from three-star to 4.5-star.
Having a prime beachfront location meant it was a relaxing walk along the sand into Surfers (or 15 minutes to Broadbeach and the newly renovated Pacific Fair for a shopping extravaganza).
We ducked into Ripley's Believe It Or Not to escape the crowds of Cavill Ave and were instantly transported back to a time when the world was vast and new and exciting - before global economies and the internet. When a shrunken human head was a marvel. Who am I kidding? It still is. And there are several on display at Ripley's.
I know people say it's kitsch, but when you take the time to read the stories and look closely (very closely in the case of the portraits painted on a fly), it is all amazing. The tallest man, the smallest paintings, the strangest torture implements, a replica picture of The Last Supper made out of pieces of burnt toast (we've since tried to recreate it at home and it's not as easy as it looks) and more.
On the way out, test your Mission Impossible skills as you navigate your way through the maze of lasers. The kids will love it - again and again and again. So don't be in a hurry to leave.
Not content to blow our minds with oddities from the past, we also decided to step into the future at Infinity which is just around the corner in the Chevron Renaissance Centre.
Now the shoe covers and gloves aren't a fashion statement, but they are necessary when you find yourself in a pitch black room and all you can see is the white shimmer from your hands and feet.
You'll feel like you're floating in a galaxy of stars, walking on a bridge over a thousand metre drop and starring in a music video with psychedelic special effects. It's a great way to spend time as a family because you'll probably need the kids' help to find your way out.
WHAT WILL IT COST?
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary: Adults $49.95, children (4-14) $35.95, concession $39.95, family (two adults and two children) $137.
Ripley's Believe It or Not: Adults $24.90, students $24.90, children 5-12 $14.90, children 4 and under free.
Infinity: Adults: $26.90, children (4-13) $17.90, family (two adults and two children) $72.90, students $21.90, seniors $19.90, children (three years and under) free
Pancakes on the Beach: Pancakes from $7.95.
The writer was a guest of the hotel and attractions.