holding a koala
Australia,  International,  Solo Travel,  Travel

How to Hug a Koala (and Pet a Kangaroo)

While in Australia, one of my top priorities was to hug a koala. Not only did it feel like a thing you must do while Down Under, it also looked like so much fun!

I did a little research and found out that Brisbane – where my sister was living – was home to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. So one overcast day, while my sister was working, I decided to check it out.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is actually located a bit outside the city (about 7.5 miles/12 km). One of the neatest ways to get there is by river cruise, which was not something I was going to miss out on. So my journey to the koalas started at the docks in downtown Brisbane.

Mirimar koala river cruise

The Mirimar Cruise Line makes the journey to the Sanctuary daily. Leaving at 10 am from Cultural Centre Pontoon in Southbank, it takes a leisurely 75 minute guided tour ride down the Brisbane River past many of the historical sites.

Downtown Brisbane

Now, I love the water. I find it so relaxing. So this cruise ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. Just having the chance to sit there, with the wind on your face, marveling at the scenic beauty around you.

Brisbane River

As well as gawking at the houses. Seriously. There are some amazing houses on the banks of the Brisbane River.

House on Brisbane River

Couldn’t you see me living there?

Anyways – once we arrived at the Sanctuary, we had a few hours to roam around before the return trip (also by boat).

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The Sanctuary is HUGE. Opened in 1927 as a refuge for koalas being hurt and orphaned by the fur trade, today Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to all sorts of native Australian animals.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Sign

I didn’t want to rush to the main event. So I spent some time wandering through the different exhibits. Where else was I going to get to see a Tasmanian Devil and a huge crocodile in such close proximity?

Tasmanian Devil

Australian crocodileThere were so many different animals to see, and I was grateful for map that showed me what animals were where, as well as the information placards that gave me insight and background. For instance – did you know that the eucalyptus that the koalas eat acts as a drug? So they are basically asleep for up to 22 hours of the day.

Once I had my fill of the outlying exhibits, I headed over to the koalas. The Sanctuary is home to over 130 koalas. They rotate a number of them into the eager arms of the guests (an event that is included in the price of your ticket*). There were several koalas out while I was there. After waiting in one of the short lines, I was beckoned forward by one of the Wildlife Officers. First I had to stand in a specific spot. Second, the officer showed me exactly how to hold my arms. Finally, she gently placed the koala in my waiting embrace.

The Meet & Greet (as they call it) was short. But it was enough to be charmed by this fascinating animal. As well as get a picture.

holding a koala

After the koalas, I was a little worried that the rest of my time at the sanctuary was going to be a let down. But, luckily, some of the best parts were yet to come.

Like with the koalas, the sanctuary promotes a certain level of interaction between some of the animals and the guests. One of the best places to interact is at the Kangaroo Reserve.

The first thing to do is to buy a small bag of kangaroo food from general store. With that in hand, it’s time to enter through the gate into the fenced area. This vast field is full of free-ranging kangaroos and wallabies. You can literally walk amongst them, offering them bites of the food in your little sack. They will eat it straight out of your hand!

Feeding a kangaroo

You do need to be on guard. There was a loud crack while I was there (I think it was a tree branch snapping off in the wind). All of the kangaroos immediately bolted to the other end of the reserve. It was thrilling (and, let’s be honest, slightly terrifying) to have a herd of them bouncing past you at full speed.

Once everyone calmed down, it was so much fun to just hang out. I felt like I was in the middle of the Australian outback with only the kangaroos to keep me company. And a cute company they did keep.

Petting a kangaroo

There is no time limit to being in the reserve, so I stayed there until it was time to head back to the boat. After one more quick walkthrough of the Sanctuary – and more than a few photo ops – I boarded the same boat that would take me straight back to downtown Brisbane.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

If you liked it, pin it!

How to Hug a Koala

What is the animal you would be most excited to see at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary?

*While the holding of the koala is included in the price of your admission, they do have professional photographers standing by to take your picture. The price of the picture (about $25) goes to help support the work of the Sanctuary. If you don’t want to purchase the professional photo, you do have the option of taking your own once the photographer is finished. 

The Details:

Mirimar Koala and River Cruise (includes round trip passage AND admission to the sanctuary): Adults AU$78, Concession AU$64, Children (3-13) AU$48, Family (2 adults and up to 3 children) AU$215

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: Adult AU$36, Child (3-13) AU$22, Concession AU$24, Family (2 adults and up to 3 children): AU$85. There are also year long passes.

Another great pin for the travel map!

Brisbone Australia Map


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