LITTLE MISS (& MASTER) SUNSHINE
Little Miss (& Master) Sunshine - Luxury Travel Magazine
Little Miss (& Master) Sunshine
|By: Amanda Woodard, Issue 44 – Spring 2010|
|(Gold Coast, Australia)|
|A HOLIDAY FOR THE KIDS DOESN’T MEAN THAT THE ADULTS HAVE TO MISS OUT ON ALL THE FUN (AND LUXURY!) AMANDA WOODARD DISCOVERS THAT WHEN THE FAMILY HOLIDAY DESTINATION IS THE GOLD COAST THERE IS PLENTY OF SUNSHINE AND GOOD TIMES TO BE HAD FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY.|
|There comes a time in every parent’s life when they have to face the irresistible force that is their child’s desire to visit a theme park. Fuelled by relentless television advertising and peers’ accounts of hair-raising rides and never-ending fairy floss, the immovable object that is the parental will, buckles and crumbles. Some of my strongest memories as a child are of being taken to DisneyWorld in Florida so I knew how much my two children, Ave and Theo, seven and nine, would enjoy what the Gold Coast has to offer, but my husband and I needed a holiday, too. |
Top of our list was some first-class comfort and pampering at the end of each day and the Palazzo Versace fitted the bill for several reasons. Firstly, it’s removed from the hoi polloi of the Gold Coast’s tightly-packed, high-rise hotels. Situated on the Spit, the long sandbank that separates the Nerang river from the Pacific Ocean, it’s designed to resemble an ornate Italianate palace, choc full of gilded furniture and elaborate classical detailing. Pride of place in the marble and mosaic tiled reception, with its wonderful sofas and chairs covered with trademark Versace prints, hangs a splendid antique chandelier that originally graced a library in Milan - a gift from the Versace family itself.
From the antique world we moved to a world of water and after checking into our suite (the Versace offers two adjoining rooms for families with separate bathrooms and separate TVs), we headed out on a warm winter’s day to Wet ‘n Wild, situated on the Pacific Highway. The centrepiece of WnW is a large lagoon that shelves gently like the best beaches and has a wave machine that recreates a fair swell every so often. Surrounding the pool are rows of sun-loungers but one side is reserved for several cabanas with deck chairs and coffee tables that can be booked ahead for $100, as they offer shelter from the sun and a little more privacy if you plan on hanging out there for a while.
My children, though, were here for the action and were soon scooting down one of several varieties of water slides while I took photos. Other attractions such as the family-sized raft ride, my husband and I joined in and secretly quite enjoyed. And when the appetite for thrills began to wane, there were the open-air hot tubs - about 12 of them - full of humans looking like they were being simmered for some giant’s lunch party.
We chose to skip this communal spa knowing that we had something more exclusive back at the hotel. The Versace adults-only spa is a peaceful retreat with an indoor pool fit for a Roman emperor and I felt duly revived after a sauna and steam while the children were absorbed with a DVD from the hotel’s large library.
Dining at the Versace hotel is well thought out as although they have a selection of restaurants to choose from Il Barocco is most suitable for families as it offers a huge buffet selection without skimping on quality. Just bringing to mind the crispy roast pork still makes my mouth water (chef’s tip: smother the skin with cheap salt and cook on a raised wire base on very high for the first half-hour). With so much to choose from, it means you can even introduce children to new foods - my son tried and enjoyed oysters for the first time.
The following day we headed for Movie World, also on the Pacific Highway, where the newest 4D Shrek show is an excellent and very tactile addition (the impression of spiders scurrying round my ankles was, frankly, terrifying). The long-standing but not-to-be-missed, stunt rally-drivers show is also spectacular with some serious pyrotechnics. Movie icons such as Batman appear throughout the day and along with a supporting cast, re-enact short episodes for a rapt crowd. Photo opportunities follow and my daughter and her father would have happily hung out all day with the delectable Catwoman who was one of those on parade the day we visited.
Saving the best until last, Sea World is also the oldest theme park although you wouldn’t know it as the grounds are spacious and well landscaped with flowers in bloom and a modern monorail that circles the perimeter. It’s also a stone’s throw from the Versace. As the name suggests, the interests here are courtesy of nature rather than Disney, although some of the animals’ cute antics would suggest they have big screen ambitions. There’s no doubt the dolphins are the stars of the show with two amphitheatre performances daily where the trainers interact with these intelligent creatures while conveying a subtle message about conservation. There’s also an amusing sea-lion show and a large pool of astonishing stingrays happy to be stroked and fed. My personal favourite were the polar bears, in a large imaginative enclosure where you can watch them both above ground and swimming underwater, a sight where the word “awesome” can be applied appropriately for once.
The shark pool and aquarium is one of the areas at Sea World where visitors can pay extra for a more personal encounter with the wildlife. A cage that lowers into the aquarium for close proximity with the sharks is clearly for the courageous but my children were more eager to meet the dolphins. Slipping into swimmers and a life-vest, they joined a small group of children in a separate pool and stood on a submersed platform where the trainers introduced them to these extraordinary mammals and showed them different types of dolphin behaviour. Being able to touch and handle the dolphins, if not actually swim with them, was a highlight for my two and the whole experience lasted 45 minutes, with 20 minutes in the water. A photograph and DVD of your encounter is included in the price.
As the sun was descending we chartered a flight in one of the Sea World helicopters, situated inside the park. Tours can be arranged ranging from five to 30 minutes and we chose an aerial tour of Surfers Paradise to get a bird’s eye view of the towering glass monoliths. The children had been enjoying spotting the dolphins and seals below us in Sea World when they were thrilled to notice a pod of whales cruising along the coast. Not everything can be reproduced in a theme park, thank goodness!
|PALAZZO VERSACE HOTEL|
|The Versace hotel is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has recently introduced some new features. The Water Salon takes the concept of the spa and moves it outside where the Gold Coast’s glorious weather can generally be relied upon. Daybeds big enough for two - with gauzy curtains if you require more privacy - can be reserved and are conveniently positioned next to the pool so I could keep an eye on the children while being pampered. I felt like Cleopatra laying on plump white cushions and being served sparkling wine and a platter of exotic fruits that are part of a half-day package that includes either a foot massage and pedicure or manicure. Sunscreen, chilled towels and cooling facial sprays are complimentary. For anyone wishing to spend a full-day at the water salon, a luxury Veuve Clicquot picnic is served and back and shoulder massage and manicure complete the package.|
It’s a lovely relaxing way to spend a day. The outdoor pool area, which is elegant and continues the Roman Empire theme, is heated in winter and has a sandy ‘beach” and fountains where all the children congregated. A fashion shoot kept us all entertained, especially when the fully clad and rather nervous model was sent floating into mid-stream on an inflatable airbed. The children nobly resisted the temptation to capsize her.
|Recommended Rooms:Two or three bedroom condominiums. Families need their space on holidays, and the Palazzo Versace accommodates all with their two or three bedroom condos. All come with six-seat dining tables, full-sized kitchen, sunken lounge, main bedroom with ensuite and spa, and second bedroom with access to the terrace. Guests can choose from a condo with either a plunge pool, or a rooftop terrace with Jacuzzi and barbeque area. If you have a boat, bring it along, as condo guests have exclusive use of a private berth at the marina.|
|Room Rates:Room rates start from A$355 and go up to A$4,355 per night. Two or three bedroom condos start from A$1,400 per night.|
|W Half-day Salon at the Water Salon poolside cabana package for two is A$250. Picnic at the Water Salon poolside cabana package for two is A$500|
|Website: www.palazzoversace.com |
|Entry Price– A$74.99 per adult, A$49.99 per child|
|The Dolphin Aqua Adventureis A$225 per adult. The Child Dolphin Aqua Adventure program is for guests aged five to 13 years of age and a minimum height of 110cm. It is A$140 per child, which includes one souvenir photograph and DVD capturing your unique experience. |
|Helicopter rides: Sea World offers a range of chartered helicopter flights. You can choose from five tours, including the 10-minute Surfers Paradise Scenic Tour (A$99 per adult and A$79 per child) and the 30-minute Tweed Coast Scenic Tour (A$285 per adult and A$225 per child).|
|Whale Watching:Head aboard Sea World’s whale watching vessel and try to catch a glimpse of humpback whales or bottlenose dolphins. With three levels of viewing platforms, a marine tour and 3D animation presentations the whale watch will educate children and entertain adults. Tours are A$99 for adults and A$77 for children. Exclusive use of the vessel is available for A$11,000 for a fully guided 2.5-hour whale watch tour. The vessel also has a licensed bar and a small VIP lounge on board.|
|Entry price –A$54.99 per adult, A$34.99 per child.|
|Cabanas:For those who prefer relaxing in the sun more then speeding down a waterslide, Wet’n’Wild offers private cabanas with sun lounges, deck chairs and coffee tables. They are A$99.95 and can be booked online or on the day.|
|Entry price –A$74.99 per adult, A$49.99 per child.|
Luxury travellers must join the throngs at Movie World; there is no privileged access and there are no premium packages
|AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK SPECTACULAR|
|The Australian Outback Spectacular is a permanent dinner show located in a building between Warner Bros. Movie World and Wet ’n’ Wild Water World. It celebrates the heroes of the Light Horse with music, action and special effects. Actors, horses, cattle and even a helicopter will play out the show accompanied by music by country legend Lee Kernaghan. A three-course dinner is served as guests watch. |
|TOP RAIL PREMIUM EXPERIENCE:Purchasers of Top Rail tickets will get the best seats in the house as well as VIP treatment. There will be a meet and greet on arrival, a pre-show beverage, complimentary souvenir program and photograph as well as a premium dinner and drinks package which includes first-class beverages during the show (beer, wine, champagne and soft drinks). |
Tickets cost A$149.99 for adults and A$99.99 for children.
|Address: Entertainment Road at Oxenford on the Gold Coast. The management recommends Hughes Chauffeured Limousines for transport. Tel: 1300 306 644|
|WHEN TO GO: |
|Anytime! The Gold Coast has an average of 300 days of sunshine. With winter temperatures ranging from between nine to 21 degrees Celsius and summer temperatures as high as 29 degrees, there is something for every season.|