Sea World Resort review: Travelling with kids
The famous Sea World Resort on the Gold Coast is your gateway to theme park heaven, but is it good accommodation when holidaying with kids?
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Sea World Resort has a kids-first approach that makes it a fantastic stay for families. The waterpark and access to the Sea World theme park can't be ignored. Even though we enjoyed holidaying with kids at Sea World Resort, this Gold Coast accommodation option does show its age.
If you're looking for a romantic getaway to indulge in lavish rooms, opulent surroundings and classy dining, then you can stop reading now. Sea World Resort is not for you. If you're a family looking for a stress-free, unbreakable home-away-from-home on the Gold Coast to escape to when holidaying with kids, then consider your search over.
Opened back in 1988, Sea World Resort, then called Sea World Nara Resort, very much feels its age. Rooms are clean and comfortable, but can't escape the weariness in its bones. Bathrooms are quaint and stuffy, and pipes rattle. While the floors between rooms are paper thin, with every footstep and bump (and on one occasion a fart) thundering through to those listening below.
But choosing Sea World Resort isn't about picking upon its weaknesses as much as it is revelling in the mayhem. Taking photos when Spongebob Squarepants visits, dancing in the waterpark light shows, food fights at the buffet, bombing each other in the pool, escaping to the games room, making new friends in the crowded spa. This is supposed to be kid heaven: and it is. This what holidaying with kids is all about.
Sea World Resort
Details of my stay:
- Where: Seaworld Dr, Main Beach QLD 4217
- When: 1 December 2019, five nights.
- Room type: Resort Queen Room.
- Guests: Two adults, three kids.
- Cost: Starts from AU$199 per night).
- Hotel star rating: ★★★★½
My review, in short:
My Rating: ★★★½☆
- Cost: Good for four, but extra trundle is too much. Some good package deals available.
- Location: Excellent. Right next door to Sea World and easy drive to Surfer's Paradise and other them parks.
- Holidays with kids: Designed and targeting families, it's perfect for those travelling with kids.
- Check-in process: Bit slow with only one small desk. They charge per/hour for early/late requests.
- The room: Roomy and centrally located, but old with poor sound insulation.
- Food: Great kids buffet, good lunch menu, two-for-one happy hour is a boon and awesome Teppanyaki restaurant.
- Facilities: The focus is almost all on the waterpark, but it's brilliant. Access to Sea World is also fantastic. Otherwise it ticks the boxes without being special.
What are the Sea World Resort room like?
My family and I (three kids aged eight, six and four) stayed in a ground-floor unit metres away from the pool fence surrounding the waterpark. Other than the aforementioned issues of sound and age, the location of the room was great. Being able to walk straight out onto the grass, shifting quickly between the pool (and its attached bar) and the toilet in our room, was welcomed. Plus, I felt safe just letting the kids wander out into the garden to chase butterflies and climb walls.
The rooms themselves are basic, but even with two queen beds, there was still plenty of space for an additional cot. Plus, with a balcony beyond the glass doors that open up towards the pool (thankfully much more sound-proof than the ceiling), there was a handy retreat for my wife and I to escape to as the kids fell asleep. It's blessed with a little table and chairs, too.
There were a few other annoyances. The shower is archaic and so low I couldn't even get under it. Plus, the small fridge and smaller bench space above it are not designed for families – sandwich creation is a pain! At least there is an urn for morning coffee!
I'm told there are rooms available with genuine kitchenettes, which on paper is a benefit when holidaying with kids. But the sacrifice is you're further away from the pool. Conundrums!
Make no mistake; there is nothing fancy about the rooms. Even the daily room service felt rushed, often failing to take out the bin or refill the condiments. But they're perfectly functional and what they lack in prestige you gain back in stress as there's not much your kids can do to destroy it.
Is the Sea World Resort food any good?
As hinted at earlier, the bread and butter eating hole at Sea World Resort is the buffet. Breakfast and dinner are both above average and cater to the craziness of kids. The dessert bar, in particular, was a confectionary paradise. I'll put my hand up now and admit I totally out-ate the kids on that one! And on the all-you-can-eat prawns!
Ideally, you can bargain breakfasts at the very least into your room package when holidaying with kids. It's a little pricey otherwise; especially if you have older kids. Under threes eat free, but after that, you pay $1 for each year each child has lived. It's actually a fair way to do it, but if you have three or four kids over ten, on top of the adult price, it mounts up quickly.
We chose to balance out the buffet by getting some basics from the local Woolworths so the majority of meals we could make ourselves and consume by the pool or in the room.
An eatery down at the pool also provides lunch/arvo meals – your classic fast-food style snacks at a reasonable enough price – as well as cheese and wine platters. We did indulge in the latter, while sticking our kids in the nightly daycare (which they loved!), and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The outlook over the ocean at sunset is very special… even romantic, dare I say it on a family holiday.
Special mention must also go to the teppanyaki Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant now housed in the resort. It's the "classy" eating option but is still very much family-aware and the staff were happy to accept kids being kids without making us feel uncomfortable. But more importantly, the food was absolutely delicious and the chef's performance as he diced, flipped, threw and torched our meals was thoroughly entertaining.
Watching my four-year-old's eyes light up as the chef juggled knives and let flames leap into the air a metre in front of his face is one of my fondest memories from the trip. In fact, I can't recall him ever being so still and attentive during a meal. I highly recommend budgeting for at least one dinner there.
Booze is in plentiful supply, too, of course. The happy hour two-for-one beers is a godsend at the end of a hot day at the theme park or exploring the Gold Coast! Be honest, at the end of any day holidaying with kids, a drink is not a want it's a need.
What facilities does the Sea World Resort offer?
We could talk about the little, old and overpriced video games room, or the gym and business facilities. The free Wi-Fi and the plentiful parking are welcomed, if expected, too. But when it comes to facilities, Sea World Resort is all about its waterpark. And for anyone holidaying with kids, it's a good one!
From slippery dips to tipping buckets and water jets, Sea World Resort has really done a good job. Centrally located and surrounded by rooms on all sides but for the one facing the ocean, it's well protected from the weather. Sun lounges are in short supply, but there's a little kiddy pool, a nice beach section for new swimmers, a waterfall and plenty of space for bigger kids to muck around.
It's closely patrolled at all times and opens for lengthy hours, too. Add in a nearby spa for those looking to relax in the bubbles, and the waterpark will provide as much entertainment for you and your kids as anything else on the Gold Coast. And you've already paid for it!
Is Sea World Resort well located when holidaying with kids?
Residing at the far end of a spit jutting out into the ocean, Sea World Resort is separated from the hustle and bustle of Surfer's Paradise. Yet it's still close enough that you can be there in minutes with a car. To be honest, other than drives to nearby fast-food eateries and supermarkets, we never felt compelled to leave the Resort and venture into the tall towers of Gold Coast's unofficial capital.
Partly this was because there is a backdoor from Sea World Resort into the Sea World theme park. We suspect that many of you will have unlimited access to the theme park with your stay as it's bundled into the most eye-catching packages, and you will make good use of it.
We went into Sea World on three of our five days for varying lengths of time. This access allowed us to catch certain shows, get into the rides before the masses arrived, snorkel with sharks and even enjoy a fantastic dolphin encounter. All this while easily retreating back to the room to avoid the heat of the day or to satisfy hungry stomachs.
For those of you who get the Ultimate Pass Resort package, which grants entry to all the Roadshow theme parks, the drives are quite manageable. It takes around 20 minutes (depending on traffic) to get from Sea World Resort to Wet'n'Wild, Movie World and Paradise County. And less than 30 minutes to get to Dreamworld (which isn't included in the pass). Perfect when holidaying with kids.
Is Sea World Resort good for families?
When we first looked to head to the Gold Coast, we did so with theme parks in mind. The Ultimate Package we purchased included unlimited entry to the theme parks as well as a number of other perks of varying degrees of usefulness. We definitely looked into the idea of just getting the unlimited theme park pass and staying in an Airbnb instead, where we could have more space and a full kitchen. Especially given our third child (bringing us up to five people) incurred a hefty additional cost at Sea World Resort.
However, I'm glad we didn't. The access to Sea World and the fantastic waterpark made for a much more enjoyable trip when holidaying with kids. The over-the-top nature of the buffet and being able to call on things like child care (and draft beer) easily also helped create holiday highlights.
I'd hate to have turned up as a couple, where the noise and the age of the rooms would have left a sour taste in the mouth. Especially as some of the "bonuses" in our package were letdowns (mocktails as a welcome drink?!) or were not bonuses at all (our "discount" for the buffet dinner was the same as the walk-in price).
But as a family with three destructive brats, the "let kids be kids" mentality of the Sea World Resort, and the community of likeminded families enduring the same hell, left us with a feeling of positivity. For families holidaying with kids, I can certainly recommend this Gold Coast accommodation option.
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