Cuddle Australia’s cutest creatures during your next trip or deployment Down Under
Before I traveled to Australia, the extent of my knowledge about the land Down Under consisted of koalas and kangaroos.
So, I figured, what better way to start a vacation than to meet the beloved creatures at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane?
Founder Claude Reid opened Lone Pine in 1927 as a refuge for ill, injured and orphaned koalas in a time when the animals were being hunted for their fur, according to the sanctuary’s website.
It was the world’s first koala sanctuary and remains the largest at 44 acres, which include a eucalyptus plantation to feed its 130 koalas.
Lone Pine still works on research and rehabilitation, but has grown to include dozens of other Australian wildlife. Aside from koalas, visitors can see Aussie animals in exhibits for platypus, dingo, Tasmanian devils, cassowaries, tropical birds, wombats and more.
The sanctuary is one of just a handful of places you can hold a koala in Australia, and thus the world. Australia is the only country to allow such up-close opportunities with the fuzzy marsupials, and cuddling a koala is only legal in three Australian states — Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, according to the country’s official tourism website Australia.com.
Petting a koala is included in the AU$42 — about $28 — entrance fee, but you must purchase a photo of yourself and the koala for an additional $16.75 if you want to hold one.
Koala petting is available from 11-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-2 p.m. Photo and holding opportunities vary daily, and there are no guarantees. Lone Pine says it’s the koala’s choice whether it wants to be handled.
Pro tip: Line up early for the designated interaction times, as the time allotted is very short. On a recent trip, I saw several disappointed people turned away after waiting in a long line because there are laws that designate how long each day koalas may be handled.
A free-range reserve also allows visitors to feed and pet kangaroos and ostriches throughout the day. The freedom with which visitors can access these animals is unlike any petting zoo I’ve seen — you could spend all day lying side-by-side in the grass with a kangaroo at Lone Pine if desired.
If you can’t make it in person, you can view a livestream of the koalas on Lone Pine’s website, koala.net. The sleepy animals don’t do much, but if you’re patient enough, you might see one wake up and snack on a eucalyptus branch. A livestream of the platypus exhibit is also available.
Lone Pine also offers two gift shops to purchase all things Australia — I brought home a stuffed kangaroo complete with a joey in its pouch — and a small cafe offering a limited menu including sandwiches and coffee. There are also picnic areas, so your best bet might be to pack your own snack for a day at the sanctuary.
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DIRECTIONS: Address: 708 Jesmond Road, Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland 4069. From Brisbane, take bus number 430 from platform 2C at Queen Street Station or bus number 445 from bus stop 41 on Adelaide Street. River cruises to the sanctuary are also offered from Brisbane’s South Bank daily from Miramar Cruises. For more information, visit Miramar.com.
TIMES: Open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
COSTS: Admission is AU$42 ($28) for adults, AU$25 ($17) for children, seniors over 65 and students with ID. Book online at koala.net for a 10% discount. Koala-holding is another AU$25 ($16.75).
FOOD: Lone Pine Riverside Cafe offers a selection of sandwiches, muffins and desserts for about AU$6.50 — about $4.30. Quiche, lasagna, vegetable curry pie and baked ricotta dishes are available for AU$11 ($7.40) and include a side salad. Coffee, tea, water and juice run about AU$4 ($2.70), while beer and hard cider are AU$7 ($4.70) and wine is AU$9 AUD ($6).
INFORMATION: Online: koala.net