Roll your eyes if you must, but I’ve always dreamed of holding a koala. Not sure why that has been so important to me … perhaps the stuff of childhood fantasy. But I got my wish in October 2013 during our stay in Brisbane, Australia. My wife and I had heard about Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (www.koala.net), located approximately 13 kilometers (8 miles) southwest of Brisbane City Center. She was skeptical, not being a fan of zoos and animals behind fences. But the tourism office assured us it was incredible, filled with wildlife endemic only to Australia and not your typical zoo. She signed on for the tour, albeit more for me.

Michael and Therese cuddle with Lucy the koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

I get my cuddle with Lucy the koala (and my wife Therese).

HITT Tip:  Take the bus!  As of this writing, the there were two buses that connect to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary from downtown Brisbane. The 430 leaves from the Queen Street city center bus station hourly, 8:45 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  weekends and holidays. The 445 departs from stop 40 on Adelaide Street near King George Square hourly from 9:10 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. weekdays; 7:55 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., Saturday.  Bus fare at the time of this writing was AUD $4.70 for adults and AUD $2.40 for children.  The ride takes approximately 45 minutes and drops you right at the gate. Do not take the river cruise! Its timing limits your visit to just a couple of hours and you have to miss many shows too. You can see the river another time! With transportation time, plan on an entire day since you’ll need 4-5 hours at the park – more if you decide to have a meal, do more shows, or rest a bit while taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi available in many locations (yes, really, at least at the time of this writing).

Set alongside the picturesque Brisbane River, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary bills itself as the world’s largest koala preserve with approximately 130 koalas in residence and has been operating since 1927. For AUD $16, anyone can get his or her photo taken, with a koala. Once you pay, the crew is very accommodating about allowing photos to be taken with personal cameras and more than one person in the photo. For the concerned, there are strict rules governing koala handling, and no koala is handled for longer than 30 minutes daily. Our family cuddle came with a koala just over a year old, named Lucy.  It lasted less than a minute, but left me with a memory that will last the rest of my life. And, yes, koalas are completely irresistible. We felt very happy that the money we spent is going to building new enclosures, funding research projects and growing eucalyptus plantations – the koala’s food source.

Baby koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

Not just a koala sanctuary

Though the koalas steal the show – the sanctuary is named for them after all – there is much more to see and experience here. There are wombats, possums, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, skinks, lace monitors, baby crocs, snakes, frogs, bats, kookaburras, cassowaries, parrots, cockatoos, and platypus. And – here’s the difference – most are not just behind some huge fence pacing a concrete cage. In many cases – well, other than crocs and such – you can practically walk right up to the creatures, which are always being watched over by caretakers. We loved the bird-of-prey show (held once a day), as well as the sheep sheering show (complete with a fabulous performance by a sheep dog keeping his flock in line).

Bird of prey show at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary as a hawk is fed a mouse for reward.

It’s not all cuddling koalas and feeding kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The bird of prey show is spectacular! Photo by Therese Iknoian.

Also a highlight is spending time within the 5-acre preserve housing over 130 kangaroos and wallabies – species found here include Eastern grey kangaroo, red kangaroo, swamp wallaby, and red neck wallaby — as well as a few very tolerant emus. Bags of kangaroo food can be purchased for AUD $2 in the general store near the compound for those who wish to hand-feed the roos.

Feeding the kangaroos at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Therese feeding a kangaroo.

We noticed quite a few joeys (baby roos) peaking outside of mom’s pouches. The Skeptical One, “she” turned into an enthusiastic fan, snapping hundreds of photos of the joeys peeping out of the pouches. Cuuuuuute!!!

Kangaroo with baby roo peeking out of its pouch at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

Photo by Therese Iknoian

HITT Tip: Buy your tickets to enter Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary at the tourist offices in downtown Brisbane before you go. It will save you AUD $3 per adult ticket. Normally open every day of the year except Anzac Day (9 a.m.-5 p.m.), do check prior to your visit for any changes.

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Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Heads up! This information on the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was accurate when we published it on HI Travel Tales, but, as we know, traveling is all about changes (and inflation, sadly). Please be sure to confirm prices, transportation schedules, hours of operation, safety and health considerations, request for perfect weather during your entire visit, and any other important details before your adventure.
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Michael Hodgson

Traveler at HI Travel Tales
Born to British parents in Canada, Michael Hodgson had been schlepped back and forth across the pond since he was a toddler. In college, he took the big leap and spent a few months in Kenya – and never looked back. His biology major somehow led him into a writing career, focusing on the outdoors, hiking and gear testing. Building on his lifetime of travel with travel writing was a natural, although he still loves to seek out the wilder side of a mountain – or a city -- for a good story. Michael also is a partner in a consulting business (www.NewNormalConsulting.com) built on a passion to help specialty businesses and brands succeed both domestically and internationally.
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