How many did you visit?
After 55 years, Manly Sea Life Sanctuary closed its doors for the final time over the weekend, with hundreds turning out to bid farewell to a chunk of Sydney history.
But it’s not the only piece of our childhoods that’s shut down in recent years; from Wonderland Sydney to Mt Druitt Waterworks, we had plenty of amusement parks to pick from in the ’80s.
Old Sydney Town
Did you even go to school if you didn’t have at least one excursion to Old Sydney Town? Based on a map from the 1800s, the recreation of colonial Sydney opened in 1975 and saw actors taking on the roles of convicts and redcoats for re-enactments. Those bloody public floggings are still burned into our brains. Old Sydney Town eventually closed down in 2003.
Sega World lived for just three short years, gracing us with the Ghost Hunter train, the Rail Chase indoor roller coaster and Aqua Nova, a 3D motion simulator back in 1997. But it was a victim of its own success; as technology improved, we left our Sega Mega Drives – and Sega World – behind.
African Lion Safari
How our parents ever thought that it was a good idea to take us to a theme park with the tagline “It’s scary, but nobody cares!” is beyond us. Vistors regularly had lions and tigers paw at, climb on and try to take a bite out of their cars and the park was eventually shut down in 1991. The animals, for a time, stayed behind but after a series of breakouts by resident lionesses, a bear and a number of water buffaloes, they were eventually relocated.
How lucky were we to have Australia’s Wonderland right on our doorstep? Opening in 1985, the amusement park boasted rides like the Bush Beast, Space Probe and Bounty’s Revenge, with Hannah Barbera Land holding a special place in Sydneysiders hearts. Unfortunately, massive profits losses led to the closure of Wonderland in 2004, with the site demolished the following year.
Magic Kingdom Amusement Park
Australia’s Wonderland’s predecessor, Magic Kingdom Amusement Park opened in the 1970s and promised a massive day out for just $6. Waterslides, astro spin, dry slides, trampolines, stage shows, mini golf and magic… the 27-acre park, between Bankstown and Liverpool, was a huge draw for western Sydney families. When it came to the battle of the theme parks, though, Magic Kingdom lost out to Wonderland’s thrilling roller coaster rides and shut towards the end of the 1990s.
El Caballo Blanco
The Spanish-inspired amusement park, which opened in 1972, was as famous for its dancing Andalusian horses as it was for its waterslides, train rides and mini zoo. Owner Ray Williams’ beautiful performing stallions were such an attraction, he went on to establish a sister park at Disneyland in the US. The Sydney site eventually closed in 2003 after Williams’ death.
Mt Druitt Waterworks
Mt Druitt Waterworks had everything a theme park in the 1980s should have: waterslides, a beach pool and an urban myth about razor blades on the slippery dips. It was rumoured that the razors were what closed the park but the gossip was unfounded; Mt Druitt Waterworks, like pretty much every other Sydney amusement park, was simply losing money hand-over-fist. We’ll always have those ’80s summers, though.
- Lost Sydney: Seven Theme Parks That Made Our Childhoods, Triple M, 31 January 2018, https://www.triplem.com.au/story/lost-sydney-seven-theme-parks-that-made-our-childhoods-78929