Meeting a koala is high on the bucket list for many tourists. Apparently it’s also fairly high on the list if you are under the age of 5, as I discovered when I visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary recently. Nestled on the banks of the Brisbane River, it’s the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary.
Lone Pine opened in 1927 with just 2 koalas called Jack and Jill. Today you’ll find more than 130 of them all over the park munching on eucalyptus leaves, bellowing or just having a good snooze. Head over to the main koala enclosure for the highly informative koala talk which also sheds light on Lone Pine’s history and conservation efforts. It’s hard to believe these adorable creatures were once slaughtered in the millions for their pelts. Talks are held at 12pm and 2pm every day and end with the opportunity to pat a koala. You can also cuddle one – prices start at $18 and includes a photo.
And whilst these cute grey balls of fur are undoubtedly the main attraction, the sanctuary is also home to a host of other Australian animals and experiences:
Free Flight Bird Show
I’m usually not a fan of bird shows – we end up at the back (with the prams) where you can’t see anything and I silently kick myself for not having bought my zoom lens with me. But I really enjoyed this show at Lone Pine. The arena is small in comparison to other places and only seats about 60 people. There’s only one show per day at 12.30pm but get there early as the seats fill up quickly. The keeper presentations were really informative and watching these magnificent creatures in flight was spectacular.
Sheep Dog Show
Sheep are mustered every day on farms around Australia. Calling it hard work is probably an understatement. But did you know that a good sheep dog can do the work of 5 men on a farm? Like the other shows at Lone Pine, this one was entertaining and informative. We watched Hunter (a Border Collie) and Rusty the Kelpie herd sheep in their very different styles under the harsh midday sun. You can witness this quintessential Australian farm experience 3 times a day (10.30am, 1pm and 3.30pm) and each show is followed by a sheep sheering demonstration.
There are also several other informative keeper talks throughout the day – you can check out the full schedule here. As you wander along, don’t forget to hand-feed the kangaroos, see the underwater antics of the resident platypus or have lunch in the Koala forest. Stop by the The Barn where little people have the chance to get up close and personal with chicks, goats, pigs and freshly shorn sheep.
They also offer unique wildlife experiences ranging from behind-the-scenes tours and playing Keeper for a day through to the Wild Encounters experience which gives you the opportunity to get up close to your favourite animal.
Lone Pine is different to other wildlife parks. It may be smaller and less well known than Australia Zoo, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up with personality. The koalas help too. I had a great time here and it was easy to see why they made it to the Top 10 Zoos list. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is located in Fig Tree Pocket and is open 7 days a week.