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Travelling with teens

Deborah Dickson-Smith

It may seem like a no-brainer that the Gold Coast and teens is a match made in holiday heaven, what with all those theme parks and beaches, but wait! There's more.

Outside the gates of the many theme parks on the Goldie, there are even more adventure and adrenaline-fueled activities to keep teens entertained.

Surfing and SUP-ing

Where better to learn how to surf than Surfers Paradise? Surfing school Go Ride a Wave has been teaching people to surf here since 1987.

They teach thousands of people to surf every year in several locations on the Gold Coast.

No chances taken here, with a few practice runs and a briefing on surf safety before you get in the water. The instructors at Go Ride a Wave are all trained lifeguards so you know you're in safe hands if you get into trouble.

Stand up paddle boarding is the fastest growing sport in the world and it is rapidly growing in popularity in Australia.

Currumbin Lagoon, on the lower reaches of the Gold Coast is also a great place to learn the basics with Go Vertical SUP Hire.

You can simply hire a board and go for it, or opt for a lesson to learn a few of the trickier manoeuvres, and trust me; it's not as easy as it looks.

At great heights

Located in the Gold Coast Hinterland at Thunderbird Park is one of Australia's largest high ropes course, TreeTop Challenge, which is indeed challenging enough for most teens.

There are over 100 challenges including 11 huge zip lines ranging between 20m and 125m long, suspended bridges, a Tarzan swing, barrels to crawl through and nets to climb, over a course that ranges in height from 2m to 20m.

It gets progressively harder (and higher) as you make your way from the Green course, through the Red and Black courses.

There's also a TreeTop Challenge at Currumbin Wildlife Park, which has a challenging course of rope ladders, nets and flying foxes, plus animals to see along the way.

Sea World has a Sky Climb in its Castaway Bay with a range of crisscrossing courses suitable for most ages (even grown-ups). It's free with entry, but really popular so be sure to book yourself in before you wander around the park's many attractions.

For the more adventurous (and less scared of heights) Skypoint Climb, on top of the Q1 building, takes you outside, 77 floors up for spectacular (and windy) views. It's not for the faint-hearted - while you are securely fastened to a balustrade on your left of the staircase, there's no handrail on your right, just sky.

To get even higher than that, there are scenic heli-tours available on the Goldie - and they're surprisingly affordable. Tours at Sea World start at $69 for teens and adults. Heli-tours are also available at the Sheraton Mirage Heliport.

Skirmish and trail rides in the Hinterland

There are a few laser skirmish venues on the Gold Coast, and one of the best is at Thunderbird Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland.

Using an invisible (and harmless) infrared beam, don camouflage gear, form teams with mission objectives and play in the lush rainforest.

The play area is set up like a movie set so it's just like being inside a video game, and there is a wide range of weaponry to choose from.

There are also some great trail rides on Tamborine Mountain. Ride along winding trails through cool, green rainforest next to a rushing creek on a horse that's perfectly matched to your size and experience.

The horses here vary in size, breed and type, but they all have a sweet temperament and they're in great condition.

The half-hour trail ride is suitable for beginners; while more experienced riders can venture further on a one-hour or one and a half-hour trail ride.

Animal Encounters

In case you haven't visited recently, the Gold Coast's wildlife parks have transformed into hands-on experiences - some only available to teens and adults. Here are five of the best animal encounters:

Sea World has a range of dolphin encounters designed for different levels of intimacy as well as age groups. You can get in the water with them, quiz the keeper and learn a few tricks.

After watching the seal show at Sea World, go on a Seal Safari and chat to one of the keepers, meet, feed and play with the seals, who'll even paint a picture for you if you're lucky.

The penguin Aquatic Adventure at Sea World is also unique - here you can mingle with the king penguins and help Adelie Penguins build their pebble nests.

For the more adventurous, a Shark Encounter takes you into an acrylic cage to feed dusky whaler and bull whaler sharks.

And of course, thrill rides

Here are the rides that my teens recommend for a full-throttle adrenalin rush.

At Dreamworld you'll find the biggest vertigo-induced adrenalin rush with the Giant Drop, which leaves you dangling at 115m before dropping you at a speed of 161km/h (faster than falling). There are also quite a few hair-raising rides that either accelerate at high speed (Tower of Terror ) hang you upside down (BuzzSaw) or spin your around (Claw).

Start your heart racing at Movieworld by being shot out of a cannon, which is what Superman Escapes feels like, as you accelerate at 100km/h with a G-force factor of 4.2g, before being shot vertically upwards on Batwing Spaceshot and looping the loops on Arkham Asylum.

Deborah Dickson-Smith

Travel Blogger

Mother, travel blogger, scuba girl and passionate eco-warrior, I've been travelling with my kids since they were babies. Now they're all teens, our travel plans have become a lot more adventurous. You can read about our travels at Where To Next and I also blog about diving here.

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