My heart‘s pounding with excitement as the van I‘m travelling in drives past a striking purple roller coaster tracks at Warner Bros. Movie World, one of the many popular theme parks here in the Gold Coast, Australia.
I soon discover that the fuchsia-coloured tracks dubbed as “the tallest, longest and fastest Hypercoaster of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere“ is called the DC Rivals Hypercoaster and happens to be the newest addition to the park. But it‘s not the Hypercoaster that has me at the edge of my seat.It‘s the fact that Warner Bros. is home to some of my favourite DC superheroes!
However, I‘m not here to meet them nor fight any villains. Not yet, at least. I‘m heading towards Paradise Country where I‘ll be experiencing an authentic Aussie farm that reflects the traditional Australian bush culture. Located right next to the Movie World, the farm is built like a quintessential Australian homestead and nestled within the Australian natural bushland landscape.
Paradise Country is also home to a range of Australian wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, dingoes, emus and even snakes. They also rear a wide array of cuddly farmyard friends including chickens, sheep and goats. This theme park offers an ideal getaway for visitors with a taste for outback adventure as well as those seeking to return to nature. Opened in 2005, it‘s one of the five theme parks in the Gold Coast that Village Roadshow, Australia‘s largest theme park operator, is running.
I‘m here on a media familiarisation trip organised by AirAsia X in collaboration with Tourism and Events Queensland, and Gold Coast Tourism, in conjunction with AirAsia X‘s 10th anniversary. It‘s only fitting that the celebration takes place right here at the Gold Coast as this happens to be the first route Air Asia X flew when it commenced operations a decade ago.
Noticing the shifting landscapes, from white sandy beaches and busy intersections near my hotel in Broadbeach, to towering trees with mounds of dry leaves blanketing the ground, I‘m already anticipating a new kind of adventure in a completely different environment.
Soon the van pulls up in front of the reception house where our beaming hosts are waiting. The heat of the sun hits me as soon as I step out of the van. It‘s a sweltering 29°Celsius. The sun‘s up and there’s clear blue skies, promising us a great day ahead.
Our hosts introduce themselves as Erin Morton, the Village Roadshow Theme Parks business development manager, and Kirsty Brown, the park‘s supervisor. “Welcome to Paradise Country, guys!“ begins Morton, her smile warm.
Paradise Country doesn‘t disappoint and the farm-like appeal of the place is obvious with a number of farming machinery dotting the periphery. “Oh, those are just old farming equipment we thought would give this place a rustic look. We didn‘t want to discard them!“ quips Brown, noting my interest in the scene before me.
Passing by an animal enclosure, I couldn‘t help being charmed by the sight of a wobbly little lamb standing tentatively next to its mother. It seems the baby was born just mere weeks ago. Smiling at my delighted expression, Brown shares: “We have many animals here including horses, ponies, kangaroos, and about 30 koalas!“
Continuing on with our tour, I duly discover that there are several accommodation options here and visitors can choose from farm-style camp, caravan or motorhomes, or even a luxurious retreat in an eco-tent. There‘s also a common area fitted with bathrooms, toilets and washing machines for campers to utilise.
“We have seven tents and 16 luxury motor homes,“ shares Brown as we near the tan-coloured eco-tents. Unzipping one of the tents, she beckons us to explore the interior which looks ideal for a family of four with its queen-sized bed and a bunk bed. The naturally-lit tent has a veranda too where one can sit back, relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. There‘s also a couple‘s tent —perfect for a romantic and peaceful getaway.
An excited spring in her steps, Brown proceeds to take us to the motorhomes parked nearby. The movie RV starring the late Robin Williams came to mind the moment I enter the spacious air-conditioned motorhome. It‘s big enough to accommodate a family of four or five. The 9.5 metres Swagman Luxury Motorhome also comes fitted with a well-equipped kitchen complete with a microwave, fridge and dishwasher. I couldn‘t help commenting on the leather upholstery covering the driver and passenger seats. Chuckling, Brown says: “These motorhomes are meant to be stayed in only.Not driven!”
Up close with the animals
Our next stop is a hall where a sheep-shearing demonstration is about to take place. Excited tourists and locals alike are milling around waiting for the show to commence. We take our seats near a majestic white Dorset Horn with curled up horns and a dark brown Damara sheep. It‘s not long before the lively host makes an appearance and offers us some interesting insights into the different breeds that make Australia home. And the best part? When members of the audience get the chance to go up on stage and try their hand at sheep-shearing.
An Australian sojourn can never be complete without a visit to the iconic koalas. And I get the chance to spend some koala-ty (excuse the pun) time with Matilda and her 7-month-old baby at the koala enclosure nearby. The tailless marsupials enthral me with their antics.
“I‘ll let you be the first to hold one and take photos, okay?“ whispers Brown, when she catches sight of that longing look on my face. It‘s hard not to get excited and I‘m more than ready to take photos with this leaf-eating specialist. With my fingers intertwined as support, a koala is carefully placed in my eager arms. It‘s just like hugging a rather heavy teddy bear, I think to myself as I bury my face in its eucalyptus-smelling fur.
So that‘s one goal ticked off my bucket list! Reluctantly taking our leave from the enclosure, we proceed to an animal nursery. “We have a little surprise for you!“ exclaims Morton with a secretive smile. Opening the door to the nursery with a flourish, we‘re greeted by the sight of noisy baby goats and lambs jumping and squeaking in their pens. They‘re obviously excited by our presence.
One of the animal carers hands me a bottle of milk so I can feed the baby goats. Thrilled at the opportunity, I hold the bottle upright and gingerly as a wriggling ‘kid‘ is brought out. Despite the full bottle, it manages to down the milk in mere seconds.
Bottle-feeding baby animals is one of the fun activities offered here at the farm. Visitors can get down and dirty, and learn what it takes to run a farm. Tasks such as milking the cows and collecting eggs sound fascinating to a city girl like me. I‘ve always loved farm animals and animals in general so this is certainly a nice change of scenery.
There‘s also nothing like fresh farm air to work up an appetite. It‘s a quarter past one and we head to the Farmhouse Restaurant for lunch. The lunch buffet options aren‘t too bad. I choose to have the juicy grilled fish and find myself spoilt for choice by the extensive range of farm-fresh salads and pastas. There‘s a gorgeous view of the farm from the dining area and the warm ambiance here is a balm for the now-tired soul.
As we settle down to tuck into our delicious lunch, Morton re-emphasises how the farm-stay experience is really the ideal option for families looking for something different from their normal theme park holiday, or for couples seeking a quiet retreat away from the bustle of the city. ”It‘s a wonderful place to make some lasting memories,“ she concludes, smiling.
And I agree. It‘s been worth the trip experiencing life in the outback albeit too brief. I promise myself to return one day to enjoy the full farm experience. For now, it‘s time to leave the peace and quiet behind.
The superheroes are waiting!
Paradise Country Farmstay, Entertainment Rd, Oxenford, Australia. Details at paradisecountry.com.au