I’ve been living in Brisbane for the past six months, right across from a bus stop for a bus that goes directly to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I can’t believe that I didn’t go before this–it was completely worth it.
I’d already been to Australia Zoo on a previous trip, so I guess the lure of feeding kangaroos and cuddling a koala didn’t hit me quite as hard as it might tourists fresh off the plane. That said, Lone Pine was a much better experience than Australia Zoo.
We set off around mid-day, but took a car because another couple was going and offered to drive (though both the 445 and 430 buses go to Lone Pine, I’m not sure about others). It was literally about five minutes down the road. When we got there it seemed fairly busy–being a Sunday during summer holidays, I expected it would be–but we only stood in line for tickets for a few minutes. They were very quick.
Cal and I both purchased year-long passes. An adult year-long pass was $62, and a student was $50–but the day passes are $33 and $24, respectively. You can see other prices here. We purchased the year-long because I have friends coming over from the US, and I figured we’d take them there soon after they arrived. If you’re staying in Brisbane for a lengthy amount of time, I’d recommend getting the year-long pass, because if you think you might go again, it’s totally worth it. It comes with lots of benefits other than free entry for a year: 20% off admission price for accompanying guests, food and beverages, and souvenirs; 50c kangaroo food (vs. $2!), and $1.50 bottle of water (vs. $3.50); plus a free reprint with every koala photo purchase, among other things.
Soon as we got our tickets, we went to the Birds of Prey show, which was really fun to see. It lasted probably 20 minutes and featured a kestrel, two types of owls, and two types of eagles. The birds flew over the audience’s heads, swooped around, ate lots of dead mice, and one member of the audience was able to participate in a trick with one of them. It was all narrated with lots of neat facts about the birds, and lasted just long enough to maintain the attention of the children in the crowd. After, the big birds were taken to the side for photos (you can get a professional photo done with one of them, too).
There are other shows we didn’t see, though I would have liked to–maybe next time!
After, we headed over to the general store to purchase kangaroo food and then entered the kangaroo enclosure. There were also emus there. I didn’t get quite close enough to touch one, because he was staring at me a bit creepily, but the option is there. As for the kangaroos, most of them were huddled in the kangaroo rest zone. I think it might have been the hot part of the day and they were more keen on shade than food, but we ended up being able to feed a couple, including a little kangaroo who looked to be fresh out of his mother’s pocket. There were also some wallabies mixed in, and they were cute too. We saw a tiny, hairless joey peeking out of his mother wallaby’s pocket, but he went back in before I could get a picture.
We went back to the general store to get a snack–ended up getting a large basket of chips, which we shared between the two of us ($6 with the discount), and a couple bottles of water ($3 total with the discount). Again, it seemed a bit busy, but the line went pretty quickly, and we still manged to get seats inside with the air conditioning. They have a large, shaded area filled with tables as well, which would have been perfectly lovely if we hadn’t.
Finished, we went back up to the counter to purchase a koala photo, which I think you can also do at the front when you get your tickets. It was $16 (the cost supports new areas for the koalas), and we also received a free reprint because of the year-long pass. The cashier gave us two laminated cards–one for the picture, one for the reprint. We took them over to the photo area, just a few steps away, and waited for just a few minutes before getting to cuddle a koala.
The handler had me stand with my feet on a couple of giant koala foot prints painted on the ground. Then she told me to hold my hands in a sort of cradle position, where the koala’s bottom rested, and she positioned the koala’s paws on my shoulder and arm. The koala was SO cute and fluffy, and it was lovely being able to hold him for a few minutes. Cal was able to stand behind me (there was a family next to us getting their picture done–I think you can have as many people in the photo as can fit, though only one can hold the koala). After, we were able to take some pictures with our own camera (the photographer offered to take it for us). Then the koala went back to its handler, and we went back to the general store and bought a couple of ice creams to eat while we waited for the photos, which took less than ten minutes to be printed.
The rest of our time there, we wandered around looking at the other animals. There were lots of koala habitats, including “Koala Kindy” and “Koala Retirement Home” and “Mum and Baby Koalas.” We also saw dingoes, Tasmanian devils, a platypus (though it was being shy), kookaburras and other birds, and crocodiles. The koalas were actually quite active–much more active than I remember seeing at AZ (we must have been there at the right time). They were climbing and jumping and running–have you ever seen a koala run? Funniest thing ever.
Overall, far preferable to Australia Zoo. First, it’s much, much closer and more convenient for people staying in Brisbane. Second, it’s cheaper. I think our year-long passes were cheaper than a day-pass at AZ. Third, less crowded–and we went on a Sunday during the summer holidays, whereas we were at Australia Zoo on a random weekday not during holidays. Fourth, the focus on Australian animals. AZ acts as a normal zoo, with loads of animals from everywhere. So yes, they have a greater selection, and maybe if you have kids there might be more to hold their attention at AZ. But I liked seeing nothing but Australian critters. That’s what I went to AZ for, but that’s what I found at Lone Pine. Recommended to anyone visiting Brisbane.