Following a brilliant month in New Zealand, we hopped on a flight across the Tasman Sea to Gold Coast, Australia.
Our plans called for five weeks on the continent, driving from Brisbane all the way to Melbourne (with a side trip to Uluru along the way), finishing with a hop over to the west coast to visit friends and family in Perth.
After landing in Gold Coast we rented a car and made the short drive to Brisbane (we would have flown to Brisbane but we found a cheap direct flight to Gold Coast so we went with that). Our AirBnb home for a few nights was an apartment on Kangaroo Point, with a nice view of the Brisbane River.
The fall weather in Brisbane was much warmer than we’d gotten used to in New Zealand, so the kids were excited to be able to do some outdoor swimming again. We caught the free Citycat Ferry down the river to the South Bank Parklands, where there is an amazing (also free!) public beach/pool right on the riverfront.
After enjoying the water for a while we walked further along the riverbank and came across this cool art installation.
A bit further on was the Queensland Museum and Science Centre. Here we looked around some of the free exhibits for a while, including the extensive collection of stuffed native wildlife.
The Science Center potion of the museum required purchasing a ticket, which we did because the kids really love hands-on science museums. The Science Center occupies a relatively small space but has some excellent exhibits and frequent demonstrations.
The kids enjoyed the “Maker Space” activity, which was building a structure out of paper straws and other materials to see if it could survive a simulated earthquake.
Our youngest experimented with casting shadows of different colors of light to see how the colors mixed.
The following day was ANZAC day. Some attractions were closed for the holiday so we decided to spend most of the day at Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha.
The gardens included a kids trail where we were challenged to solve clues and spot different animals. As we walked along we were amused to see a real water dragon standing under this statue of a larger water dragon.
The gardens are divided into several zones, each with different species of plants.
After enjoying the gardens we drove up to the top of nearby Mt. Coot-tha, which provided an excellent view of the city below.
Brisbane really impressed us! The city has a great deal of pedestrian and cycling paths, cool outdoor spaces, and free family-friendly things to do.
Daisy Hill Koala Center
Being in Australia, we were eager to learn more about Koalas so we stopped by the Daisy Hill Koala Center which is located on a tract of protected forest about a 30 minute drive outside of the city.
As soon as we walked in the front door we saw three koalas perched on trees, munching eucalyptus.
We explored the indoor exhibits for a bit then came back outside to listen to a talk given by one of the Wildlife Officers. As we listened, we learned more about the life cycle of the koalas, threats that they are facing in the wild, and the work that is being done to rehabilitate sick and injured individuals. This was a great educational experience, an unlike another popular Koala attraction near Brisbane, it was completely free!
After a couple of days in Brisbane we moved south to Surfer’s Paradise. Our AirBnb was a condo with a great view of the ocean.
Naturally the kids couldn’t wait to get out on the beach.
We spent most of the next three days at Dreamworld and the neighboring WhiteWater World water park. This was a birthday treat for our two oldest kids.
The park had some exciting rides and the kids wanted to try nearly all of them.
Our youngest preferred to be a passenger in the bumper cars…
… and in the antique cars.
The park also had an area where we could see native wildlife and learn about Aboriginal beliefs and customs.
The tiger show was a thrill for our cat-obsessed daughter. We were pleased to learn that the park supports tiger conservation projects across Asia.
She didn’t get to pet the live tiger but did get to pose with this one in the huge Lego Store at the park.
Whitewater World proved to be a blast as well.
The kids went between splashing in the wave pool and riding the slides over and over again. Since it was the end of the season and the local schools were in session we never had to wait long for a ride.
In our next update, we continue our travels down the east coast and encounter a giant banana!