Chances are you will get more than you expect at Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Every visitor expects to see koalas and there will be plenty of opportunities for that with over 130 resident koalas just waiting to be observed or cuddled. It is the world’s largest koala sanctuary and is rated by AOL as one of the ten top zoos in the world. As well as the koalas there are kangaroos, wallabies, emus, platypus, birds of prey, lorikeets, snakes, crocodiles, Tasmanian Devils and even sheep and sheepdogs.
There are animal encounters and keeper presentations. You can feed the kangaroos (pick up a bag of food from the general store across from the koala cuddling area – just $2 a bag), hand-feed the Lorikeets, cuddle (well, more ‘hold’ than ‘cuddle’) a baby crocodile or a snake, have a bird of prey sit on your (gloved) arm following the flight show, get up close with the resident male platypus, Barak and Aroona, at their daily feeding session and check out the sheep dog show (three times daily with the last two including sheep shearing). You can also hold baby chickens and guinea pigs in the barnyard enclosure.
But, of course, everyone wants to cuddle a koala. Koala cuddling has been banned in New South Wales since 1997 but cuddling is permitted in Queensland as long as certain guidelines are followed. These koalas enjoy being cuddled because they have been introduced to human interaction at an early age. The koalas are up for cuddles any time from 9:00am to 4:30pm but they are on a roster. By law koalas can only be cuddled for less than 30 minutes per day and they have to have every third day off so they get plenty of ‘koala’ down time to eat and sleep.
A photo of you with a koala is a great souvenir and there are professional photographers on hand (from $18 a photo). Once you have purchased a photo you are then allowed to get some happy snaps with your own camera or phone. The proceeds go towards research, building new enclosures and eucalyptus plantations.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is open every day from 9:00am to 5:00pm, apart from Christmas Day (9:00am to 4:00pm) and Anzac Day (1:30pm to 5:00pm). The sanctuary is just 15 minutes from the city at Fig Tree Pocket (708 Jesmond Road). The sanctuary is wheelchair accessible and they have wheelchairs that can be borrowed at no charge.
You are more than welcome to take a picnic. There are plenty of areas to enjoy a picnic lunch with one of the most popular spots being beside the river near the wild Lorikeet feeding area. Due to licensing laws you can’t take your own alcohol but the two cafés sell beer and wine. The Sleepy Koala Café is located inside the sanctuary and serves hot and cold meals and drinks (9:00am to 3:00pm) and the Riverside Café is just outside the main entrance along the Brisbane River (9:00am to 4:00pm). Free WiFi is available at both cafés.