Luna Park Milsons Point is probably the theme park with the most breathtaking view of all. Located right next to the world-famous Harbour Bridge and within sight of the Sydney Opera House, the classic Tivoli amusement park offers some of the best entertainment in Australia.
Interestingly, the history of the theme park begins in Adelaide. From 1930 to 1934, there was the Luna Park Glenelg. Due to political decisions in South Australia that made the operation of the park no longer profitable, the Philipps Brothers looked for a new location in Sydney. At the same time, the use of the former Dorman Long site for people’s amusements was put out to tender. The Phillips Brothers won the tender and moved the rides to the new site at Milsons Point shortly afterwards. One year later, Luna Park was opened.
In the 1950s, David Atkins and Ted Hopkins, among others, took over the park from the Philipps Brothers. In 1969, when Hopkins retired, the lease was taken over by the World Trade Centre Pty Ltd. As a first measure, the consortium closed many of the old rides and replaced them with new American thrill rides. A new operations schedule, a new slogan and even a mascot were introduced to make the park more popular – even though the lease expired in 1975. Although Luna Park was allowed to continue operating, its continued existence was not assured. After two incidents in 1979, the New South Wales government put the park out to tender again.
Australian Amusements Associates won the tender in September 1980 and took over management of the site in early June 1981. Luna Park continued to operate as Harbourside Amusement Park between 1982 and 1988. After two independent engineers determined that several rides in the park needed to be shut down for renovations and repairs, the park was closed on 10 April. In November, the lease was transferred to Luna Park Investments Pty Ltd – and the chaos took its course. After several applications to replace most or all of Luna Park with appartment blocks and hotels, and with no apparent interest in the amusement park, the New South Wales government gave the company an ultimatum to open Luna Park by 1 June 1990. Shortly after, rides were moved, repainted and renamed to give the appearance of preparing the site for operation. The directors kept making excuses to get a postponement, but shortly after the ultimatum, the lease was terminated and the Luna Park Reserve Trust was formed. Shortly afterwards, the National Heritage Trust added several buildings on the site to its list of protected structures.
From 1991 to 1995, the park received a major refurbishment, which led to the installation of the Big Dipper roller coaster by Arrow Dynamics. Due to noise complaints from the new ride, the park had to reduce the operating hours of the ride, which led to a decline in visitor numbers and eventually to the closure of the park in 1996. In June 1997, the New South Wales Government presented four development proposals to the public. In February 1998, the NSW Department of Public Works and Services called for proposals for the redevelopment of Luna Park. Metro Edgley Group won the tender. Their proposal called for most of the rides to remain, but requested that the Big Dipper be replaced with a multi-purpose concert hall and asked that the Crystal Palace be redeveloped as an events centre. During the long decision-making and approval process, Luna Park was allowed to operate in late 2000, early 2001 during the Olympic Games and the summer season.
The redevelopment and restoration of Luna Park was carried out over 14 months. Since 2004, the amusement park has been continuously operating again.
If you enter the amusement park through the iconic entrance portal with its smiling face, you will immediately find one of the amusement park’s smash attractions to your right: a Rotor. The ride, patented by W. Ernst Hoffmeister, makes its passengers stick to the wooden wall just by the centrifugal force of the rotating cylinder and the friction between the passenger and the wall. A delightful fun ride, but one that can easily lead to dizziness.
The Volare wave swinger and the Tango Train musik express are less wild. The beautiful and quite new musik express offers two ride programmes: Mild and Wild. The wilder ride is especially recommended, as it takes place both forwards and backwards.
Directly opposite, you can enjoy the view on the Ferris Wheel or take a ride on the Hair Raiser. The small free-fall tower from Larson & ARM Rides is a real challenge due to its design, because thanks to the panels mounted above the passenger, you never know when you will reach the top of the tower and when you will fall straight down. The very short braking distance also makes for a very intense drop experience.
Above the Dodgem City bumper car was once the station of the Big Dipper roller coaster and in the future the entrance to the New Big Dipper roller coaster – a single rail coaster by Intamin. At the time of my visit, nothing was known about this and so I only enjoyed a ride on the HUSS Troika Tumble Bug, which has since left the park.
On the other side of Main Street is the entrance to the Wild Mouse wooden roller coaster. Unfortunately, the wooden Wild Mouse belongs to a dying species and since the removal of the Wild Mouse from Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England, you can only experience this type of roller coaster here or in Indonesia. Yet wooden Wild Mice are one thing above all: bloody good roller coasters!
The ride on the Wild Mouse begins after a right turn with the ascent of the lift hill. Once at the top, we race through a series of tight hairpin bends before whizzing down a level in a wide curve. After two long straights, we then approach the first big shot and are immediately lifted off the seat. After coming back into contact with the seat in the valley, we immediately go over another hill accompanied by finest airtime. After a climb, we now cross the entrance area of the roller coaster, slightly pressed into the side wall of the car. After a crisp S-curve, we plunge to the ground once more. Here, too, we experience airtime par excellence. After a final hill and two fast straights, we approach the exit area of the ride.
The Wild Mouse is a blast of a roller coaster and I hope it stays at Luna Park for a long time. It is certainly one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world, making it one of the top sights in Sydney for any roller coaster fan.
Another sight for every theme park fan is the large Fun House Coney Island, which offers a variety of attractions. In addition to classic cake-walk elements, you will also find a devil’s wheel, a mirror maze, a variety of very steep slides and an extremely remarkable collection of old pinball machines.
Directly behind the Fun House is a larger outdoor area, which, however, is less charming and offers a few rides. The Break Dance Spider and the Moon Ranger were located here. The latter was one of the reasons why I really wanted to visit Luna Park Sydney, because a HUSS Ranger is a fun machine that has unfortunately become very rare. Now the area has been redesigned and will soon have two new roller coasters: Little Nipper and Boomerang. There will also be a collection of new family rides from Zamperla, as well as the large Sledgehammer flat ride.
I really enjoyed Luna Park Sydney. Unfortunately, I only had about 2 ½ hours in the park, but I loved every minute of it. The charm of the old amusement park, the breathtaking location and the extremely good selection of attractions characterise Luna Park like hardly any other park in Australia..
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