The Gold Coast shows that spending money is child's play

Spongebob characters put on a tinnie exhibition at Sea World
Mark Rothfield
Greetings from Surfers Paradise! As Jimmy Buffett would sing, the weather is here, I wish you were beautiful …

Problem is, the place is pregnant with children because those learned bureaucrats in Queensland and NSW decided to combine the Spring school holidays. Everywhere you look there are queues and grumpy dads.

We grabbed the last apartment in some godforsaken three-pronged skyscraper, resplendent with a view of a 'lagoon' pool surrounded by weeping palms, not the sweeping sea views I’d requested.

I’ve forked out $330 for a family pass to Dreamworld/Whitewater World and $250 for a day at Sea World, just to have the pleasure of waiting 60 minutes for a 60-second ride. I can report, though, that the Tower of Terror is aptly named.

Today it’s Whitewater World, where kids get to ride tubes into pools and catch artificial waves. If we’re really patient there’s the promise of a rapids ride in a fibreglass log.

I can’t help wondering if the real thing – body surfing one of nature’s own waves, skimming behind a skiboat on a tube, lying on genuine sand beside a proper lagoon – isn’t considerably better.

Friends are 'doing' the Whitsunday bareboat holiday at the same time, and I keep getting text messages from Whitehaven and Blue Pearl Bay: 'Best holiday ever! Weather has been awesome'.

Their kids are loving it. But not, I suspect, as much as mine.

My son is beside himself as we count down the minutes till Whitewater (make that Wait Water) World opens, for he’s an adrenalin junkie at 10. My 14-year-old daughter’s eyes sparkle like the chlorinated waters of the 'lagoon' pool while drinking in the foyer shops, night markets and bright lights.

A beer and barramundi at the Southport Yacht Club had a similar effect on me, I suppose. And begrudgingly I’d have to admit that Sea World was actually pretty good.

I appreciate the fact that a bloke dressed in a Spongebob Squarepants suit can still drive a tinnie. I have newfound respect for the aeronautical skills of dolphins. I have learnt, while watching a scuba diver vacuum the shark pool, that my day job isn’t as bad as I thought.

Above all, I have marvelled at the stand-up jetski riders who could go fully submerged then flick into three consecutive backflips. Sublime and ridiculous rolled into one.

There is, I have realised, something for everyone here. There’s a crazy, build-it-and-they-will-come spirit that’s not as apparent anywhere else, accompanied by a tangible energy.

The world – and the Worlds for that matter – are not depressed, we are. If boating is in the doldrums, perhaps it’s because we’re not trying hard enough to win over the toughest customers – kids.