Like a typical tourist, I really wanted to meet a koala on my first visit to Australia.
So when I heard about the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, I knew I had to plan it into our short two-week itinerary. In fact, that and Fraser Island were the two main reasons we didn’t fly straight to the Great Barrier Reef from Sydney and ended up doing a road trip along the coast from Brisbane instead.
With only an afternoon to spend in the Queensland capital, we picked up our rental car from the airport and made the 30-minute journey straight to the park.
Like the rest of our trip, the rain followed us from NSW and began to pour down as we made our way there. Sprinting through the puddles from the car park to the entrance, we quickly bought two entry tickets (costing $36 each) and a rain poncho (not something I’d packed for my dream trip to Oz!) and headed inside.
While its name might suggest a sanctuary just for koalas, the park is actually home to a variety of Aussie animals, including dingos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and more. We wandered into the dark house located on the far right corner of the park first and spotted the funny-looking platypus swimming in its tank, as well as some snakes on the opposite side of the room.
But let’s be honest, they’re not the the main reasons why we’re all here.
Right in the centre of the sanctuary is where you’ll find the koalas, lazing on top of branches and happily munching on the eucalyptus leaves which are grown in a special plantation right here in the park. Around 130 are rescued here, with 25-30 of them being introduced to the public every day for photoshoots and hugs.
You can hold a koala for free, but if you want to have your picture taken too, you’ll need to buy a token from the shop which costs $18. I bought one of course, and joined the cuddle queue by the photo area.
There were quite a few people ahead of us, and I watched as the member of staff instructed each person on where to stand, and where to put their hands. She then gently brought the koala onto their chest, and physically moved the animal’s arms up to their shoulders to create the perfect koala-holding pose, which the photographer captured forever.
Sadly, a few people seemed more interested in posing for their photo than the actual koalas, but in their defence, you don’t get that much time with one. I still wanted to find out more about them though, and learnt quite a few facts during my visit – did you know that koalas get nearly all the water they need from their diet of eucalyptus leaves? That on average, they sleep for around 18 hours a day? And that the way to tell between a male and female is that boys have a brown spot on their chest, whereas girls don’t?
Not before long, it was my turn to hold a koala and tick that box in becoming a stereotypical Aussie tourist. I cupped my hands together in front of my stomach, and the fuzzy bear was placed onto my chest, the weight of his body falling heavily into my arms.
His name was Sprocket, a four-year-old male who was one of the calmest and most easy-going members in the park, I was told.
I asked if the koalas mind being handled.
“Not at all”, the woman said. “Some of them don’t like it, and we totally respect that, but as you can see Sprocket is happy to.”
She also tells me that interactions with the animals are limited and that each koala isn’t handled for more than 30 mins a day, and not for more than a few days a week.
Someone once told me koalas were a bit smelly up close, but luckily I didn’t get that from Sprocket. Surprisingly though, his fur actually felt much more coarse than it looked, although this was only from me wiggling my thumbs while supporting him. Regardless, I loved him, and I think the feeling was mutual – probably.
If the koalas weren’t adorable enough, there’s one area of the park which wowed even more.
The Kangaroo Pen
Located at the top end of the park through two metal gates is a huge open field, where mobs of kangaroos could be found relaxing on the grass (that’s the term for a group of them, apparently).
Being able to walk freely among so many roos was a really wonderful experience, which was made even more special as I also got to see a baby joey climbing in and out of his mother’s pouch!
To this day, I’ve never known an animal to be quite as chill AF as the kangaroos there. If you’re a total loser like me, you can take advantage of this and pose right next to them.
For an even more up-close experience, you can also pick up a bag of kangaroo food for $2, and then hand-feed the animals yourself. You’ll have to bring it to them though, as they’re all just lying down and chilling out.
Except this one…
We spent quite a while hanging out with the roos here, so much so that we missed the sheepdog show taking place by the barn. There’s also more reptiles, wild lorikeets, lace monitors, bats and more, all of which we sadly didn’t have time to properly explore.
For bloggers who write on the move, the park also has a ‘blogger’s peak’ where you can sit and work, as well as free wifi all throughout the site.
Needless to say, I absolutely loved my time at the park. And if the celebrity photos which cover the cafe walls aren’t endorsements enough (even the Queen Mother has visited the koalas!), it’s certainly also got my vote as an absolute must-do when you’re next in Brisbane.
- Entrance costs $36 for adults
- A keepsake photo with a koala is an additional $18
- If you have time, you can get a boat down Brisbane River directly from the centre to the park
- Koala holding is not allowed in NSW, only Queensland
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