Australian House & Garden
A resort stay is the perfect foil to a Gold Coast theme-park weekend, writes Vanessa Walker.

 A Lagoon Room at the Sheraton. Photograph by David Hahn.

A Lagoon Room at the Sheraton. Photograph by David Hahn.

There is something deeply gratifying about driving through the high-rise built landscape of Surfers Paradise, the dense concrete jungle that denies the car-bound glimpses of the beach, then pulling into the blessedly low-rise Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa.

It’s particularly sweet since the property’s recent $26m refurbishment, which wrenched it out of the 1980s and reworked it into a ’50s tropical paradise, where the relaxed breezy decor plays second fiddle to water views and gardens.

Stepping into the lobby all eyes are drawn to the lagoons that fringe the 3.4ha property, then the swimming pools and beyond, to the Coral Sea. Our choice of accommodation is important because other than this sanctuary, we’re here for a total-immersion amusement-park weekend; specifically to ‘do’ Dreamworld and Wet ‘n’ Wild Water Park.

For our children, five and eight, the fun begins the next morning at Terraces Restaurant where they get to choose whatever they want from the expansive breakfast buffet. Tummies full, we drive out on the Pacific Motorway, past other enticing-to-kids worlds, to Dreamworld.

At first we join queues for scary rides only to realise the children don’t reach the minimum height requirements (Zombie Evilution, I’m talking about you). Our luck changes when we find a cluster of family rides. We have a ball on the Escape from Madagascar roller-coaster and the kids love Mad Jungle Jam, an open-air room full of balls, cannons, fountains and towers. As the heat goes out of the afternoon, we hop on the miniature train to Australian Wildlife Experience. It’s a lovely spot and when we’ve had our fill of kangaroos and crocs, we discover the awesome Rocky Hollow Log Ride.

As anticipated, it is particularly lovely to return to the Sheraton where we head back to Terraces for dinner.

The next day we set out for Wet ‘n’ Wild and launch into it on the Super 8 Aqua Racer, a slide you race down on on a foam mat. It’s the mildest ride but I’m petrified. We then haul ourselves up the Constrictor where we pile into a raft and shoot down the slide together.

Buoyed by our successes we climb the stairs of Mammoth Falls, the mother of all rafting rides. We are scared stiff at the top; stepping across the water and into the raft that’s about to be swept ‘downstream’ is a relief. We whirl and twist and sweep up the sides then shoot out the bottom barely a minute later.

By day’s end we’re fully initiated into the world of theme parks. The weekend’s a huge success, thanks to the combination of child-focused fun and grown-up accommodation.

The details

The Sheraton Mirage Resort & Spa is the only five-star beachfront resort on the Gold Coast. Rooms start at $270/night; sheraton Entry to Dreamworld starts at $110/adult and $80/child; Wet ‘n’ Wild starts at $60/person; Other attractions include: Sea World, Movie World, there’s even Tropical Fruit World. For a comprehensive list;