The Great Koala-Cuddling Expedition (At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary)

There’s a faded old photo of me, aged four, cuddling a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane.

It was my first excursion without my parents, who had agreed to let Dad’s baby sister take me out for my birthday.

I don’t remember actually cuddling the koala but I do remember awaiting my aunt’s arrival at our house with great excitement, along with a HUGE sense of smug superiority because my sister wasn’t coming with us.

I hadn’t thought about Lone Pine or that photo for years. Not until my new IRL friend Tracey mentioned the place, saying it was a far cheaper Australian animal experience than Australia Zoo (which I briefly considered going to on our great kangaroo-spotting expedition).

And so the great koala-cuddling expedition was born, even though I am not usually an avid “attraction” visitor. But there’s a reason why these kinds of places are popular, right?

On a dreary wet day, my sister (the one who didn’t come with me last time), Miss M and I set off for Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Despite the dismal weather, we had a blast and Miss M got to meet some famous and not-so-famous Australian animals. We even got a sneaky kiss from a dingo!

We saw lots of super-cute koalas …


… but I baulked at paying another $20 to get a photo of us cuddling a koala. (I know, I know, I’m being super-stingey this trip, but it is a budget trip home. And we’d already paid an $80 entry fee for the three of us.)

We did see other people cuddle koalas, which was almost as good as cuddling one ourselves. The cuteness is almost too much to bear!

koala cuddling 246

We also met …

… a cassowary ….

cassowary 245

… a lovely dingo (who stuck his head into my sister’s bag and then licked my hand. And everyone knows canine licks are really kisses!!) …


dingo 247


… lots of wet kangaroos …..


kangaroos 243


… LOTS and LOTS of cute koalas ….


koalas 248


… and an owl …



Lone Pine is obviously used to dealing with budget travelers like us. (And school groups, of course.) There’s a huge picnic area behind the canteen, where my sister, Miss M and I ate our budget picnic lunch. Surrounding the picnic tables are even more koala enclosures and while we enjoyed our home-made sandwiches, we watched the koala keepers replenish the koala’s gum leaves. The excitement was too munch for one young buck, who celebrated the arrival of fresh food by doing laps of his pen. And if you think sleepy cuddly koalas are cute, you should see how adorable energetic earth-bound koalas are!

All in all, it was a great day out, despite the rain. Public buses run right to the front door of Lone Pine Sanctuary, making it accessible for everyone despite is far-flung location in suburban Brisbane.

I highly recommend Lone Pine, even if you (like me) consider yourself a traveler rather than a tourist. Travelers need to see cute fluffy animals too, right? Plus, I’m practically a local and I have been there twice.

11 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Carmel says:

    Cute fluffiness!!! I would die. $20 is a lot to hug a koala and I suppose since you will visit more often than I ever will, it makes sense that this time around, no koala hugging…but if it was me, I definitely would shelled out that money. But again, I will probably visit once in my lifetime. SO CUTE!

    • Barbara says:

      They are gorgeous, Carmel. And the way they sleep is even more adorable. They fall asleep in the middle of things, with arms and legs at all kinds of weird angles. As well as the more traditional wedged-into-the-fork-of-a-tree sleeping style.

  2. James says:

    I remember going to the Sydney Zoo, getting into the koala pen but not being able to touch the animals due to some provincial law. (I am publically admitting to copping a feel when the zoo keeper’s head was turned, though.) I probably would’ve paid the $20, considering you won’t be cuddling any animal REMOTELY that cute in Vietnam with its menagerie of stray cats, scruffy dogs and annoying chickens!
    James recently posted..What Star Trek Has Taught Me About Travel

  3. budget jan says:

    I have one of those holding the koala shots taken at lone pine when I was a child. The sepia is totally authentic!
    budget jan recently posted..Tuesday in Townsville at the Queens Gardens

  4. Chris says:

    I never made it to Lone Pine but alot of my buddies said it was amazing and your pics certainly convey that – guess it’s another thing on my to do list for my return! 🙂
    Chris recently posted..How I Overlanded Through South East Asia (Inc Costs)

  5. Isabelle says:

    20 years ago, I had a picture taken with a koala in Sydney. I’ve always remembered how happy I had been to do that. So 20 years later, when I learned that I was going back to Australia, wanting to repeat the experience I went to Lone Pine and it was sooooooo magical! Not only was I willing to pay to hold a koala but I paid for the VIP experience. We were allowed in all the enclosures and could even pet them! It was absolutely fantastic! I loooooooooove Lone Pine, it looks like they really care about the animals and all the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. Every day I look at the picture of me holding a koala (I have it at work!) and it brings a smile on my face.

    • Barbara says:

      They really do love their animals at Lone Pine, don’t they. I think the place is fantastic! (We got to pet a koala, even without paying for the VIP experience.)

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