The new-look Sea World: A purpose-built family holiday destination

If it’s a kid-oriented, relatively affordable family destination you are looking for, head for Sea World.

I’ve never been so happy to see SpongeBob Squarepants. That goofy grin, those ludicrous legs, those high-waisted shorts.
Gurning back at me across the Sea World Resort water park, his wide-eyed stare obscured occasionally by a jet of water or fountain spray or gaggle of screaming children.
We’re poolside at the recently refurbished Sea World Resort – a place purpose-built for the entertainment of kids and the distraction of adults.
It’s my little girl’s sixth birthday, and at her request, we have opted to spend it at Sea World, on the Gold Coast, with an overnight stay at the park’s neighbouring resort.
From the moment you step into the lobby, to the moment you settle your bill, you are surrounded by waves of hyperactive children.
And while to some that may sound like a peculiar kind of torture, any parent will tell you there is occasionally a time and a place for your precious holiday time to be spent at an establishment where kids rule.
First: the accommodation. Built in 1988 as an adjunct to the Sea World park, the resort has recently undergone a facelift.
All 401 rooms have all been upgraded – the furnishings refreshed, the colour schemes updated, the comfort level lifted a notch.
Ours was a twin bed room overlooking the pool and water park (for the uninitiated, a ‘water park’ is really a fancy series of sprinklers, water jets, water slides and climbing frames built around a comic character theme – in this instance, the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants. It’s about as much fun as a kid can have with their swimmers on).
The beds were comfortable, the room was perfectly sizeable and a nifty flat-screen TV with an in-house channel provides a comprehensive guide on the resort and its amenities.
The food at the resort has also recently undergone a refresh. Most meals, including breakfasts, are taken at the Shoreline buffet – a large, communal dining room where buffets rule supreme.
A seafood buffet on a Friday or Saturday night will set you back $75 per adult. Kids pay $1 for every year of their age. It’s not cheap: but then the buffet is all you can eat. For those looking for something less copious – and less expensive – there’s a Japanese a la carte restaurant also on site.
The room service menu also looked reasonable: both in terms of selection and price.
Being located adjacent to Sea World means guests at the resort have priority access to the park, and each morning you get let in up to half-an-hour before the gates open to other visitors.
A special resort-residents-only Dolphin Discovery presentation is held every morning at 9am inside the park. It’s a chance to see the park’s dolphins up close before the main entrance is flung wide and the masses converge.
And here is where the real magic of Sea World still lies. Yes, the rollercoasters are thrill-inducing and yes the recently-opened Nickelodeon Land is the perfect new attraction for kids – with the Teenage Mutant Ninja flying bikes, Dora’s Flying Bananas and the Bikini Bottom Cross Town Express all deserving of special mention. But it’s still the magic of being close to dolphins, underwater with sharks and inside a virtual South Pole in the company of a troop of Emperor Penguins that provides the real magic at Sea World.
Your kids will go in being excited about meeting a Ninja Turtle, but come away overawed by the experience of pressing their nose up against the glass in the impressive Shark Bay underwater aquarium.
And when the crowds, rides and heat all become too much: the pool of the resort and its adjacent water park beckon. Guests who stay at Sea World Resort and opt to buy tickets to the park enjoy the added benefit of being able to enter and exit Sea World at will. Meaning you can leave the crowds behind, pull up a sun lounge and watch on happily as your kids run themselves ragged between Spongebob’s bandy legs.
Certainly there are more luxurious places to stay on the Gold Coast. Just as there infinitely quieter ones, with fewer kids. But if it’s a purpose-built kid-oriented, relatively affordable family destination you are looking for, head for Sea World. Spongebob is waiting.
For information on the resort and pricing, visit: www.seaworldresort.com.au.

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