Top 16 up-close koala experiences for families

What sleeps for up to 20 hours a day and doesn’t drink water? A koala, of course!

Australia’s favourite tree-dwelling, eucalypt-munching marsupial is quite the enigma. Native to South Australia and the east coast, the koala is currently at vulnerable status. Discover more about koala conservation efforts and cosy up for a cuddle or photo with these awesome koala experiences in wildlife sanctuaries around Australia.

These top 16 koala experiences are outings the whole family can enjoy. Credit: Adam Fernandes

We’ve picked 16 koala experiences that go beyond checking out the furry friends from a distance.

Queensland

Queensland has many a wild koala shacking up in gum trees on its east coast. It one of the only states in Australia in which you can hold a koala, so we’ve made sure to feature a broad array of its special encounters.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast

With a Family Koala Pack at $29 per photo, you can share a special family photo holding a koala. Choose one of two daily Koala ‘Behind the Scenes’ sessions which include learning about the creatures, holding one and having your photo taken for $49 per person.

The Joyce family jump in at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Famous for its pioneering conservation efforts with Australian wildlife, it is worth stopping in at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for a unique koala experience. The Wildlife Hospital Tour runs for 1 hour, covering the rehab centre, koala recovery and general medical care of the animals. It costs $500, including the tour and normal park entry for four people.

Look at those irresistible brown eyes! Credit: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Paradise Country, Gold Coast

Dine in at the Farmhouse Restaurant with some unusually furry brekky guests thanks to Paradise Country Koala Breakfast. Meet the koalas as they chew on their own eucalyptus leaf morning snack, hear from the wildlife team and snap a souvenir photo. This koala experience runs on weekends only and is priced at $70 per adult and $50 per child.

Two very cute and cuddly koalas at Paradise Country. Credit: Janeece Keller

Paradise Country also offers a Koala Encounter, including a behind-the-scenes chat with koala keepers and the chance to feed and cuddle koalas.

Janeece (our editor) and Evie get up close to the Paradise Country koalas. Credit: Adam Fernandes

Dreamworld, Gold Coast

It isn’t all thrills and spills at this Gold Coast theme park, the biggest in Australia. Some of its star residents prefer snoozing and taking things slow. Visitors standing at 135 centimetres or taller in height can hold a koala for a professional photo. Passes from $24.95.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane

A whopping 130 koalas call this dedicated koala sanctuary home, just 12 kilometres out from Brisbane city. Tag along to a free Touch a Koala session at either 11am or 1pm. Great for kids, this encounter involves standing up close to a koala to snap a quick pic, feeling its fur and hearing from a keeper. If you’d prefer a professional photo and an even closer encounter, you can pay an additional $25 per person for the Hold a Koala experience.

These koalas are good at showing off their best angles for the camera. Credit: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Hamilton Island Wildlife, Whitsunday Islands

We’re sure that the koalas on this offshore island paradise make blissful beach babes indeed. Enjoy a Koala Encounter with a photo, or a Koala Breakfast from 1 to 10am daily. Visitors 12 years and older can cuddle a koala and take home a souvenir picture.

Billabong Sanctuary, Townsville

Choose your own adventure with the daily Koala Experience at Billabong Sanctuary. Have all your burning koala questions answered by keepers. Why do they sleep all day? What are their biggest threats in the wild? Then take your own selfie in Koala Crescent, cuddle a koala, or get your picture taken standing beside a koala. At 9.15am, you can also watch keepers feed the koalas and kangaroos in their enclosures.

Rainforestation Nature Park, Kuranda

Step out of the eucalypt forest and into lush, verdant rainforest of the far north. Handfeed kangaroos and wallabies. Get a koala photo taken, perhaps with the special Family pack. Rainforestation Nature Park also hosts awesome Pamagirri Aboriginal Experiences, so leave plenty of time to make the most of the park.

Kuranda is also home to Kuranda Koala Gardens, where you can cuddle a koala and get a digital photo taken.

New South Wales

WILD LIFE Sydney, Darling Harbour

Enjoy a hot buffet breakfast on the Koala Rooftop at this harbourside location. For $60 per adult and $50 per child, the experience includes a koala photo and all-day entry to the park. Keep a lookout on WILD LIFE Sydney’s website as they often host special one-off events. In the past, visitors have enjoyed Yoga classes beside the koalas, and All You Can Eat Dumplings on the rooftop.

Featherdale Wildlife Park, Western Sydney

Pop over to the koala sanctuary, join a Personal Koala Encounter and meet, pat and learn about the fluffy grey marsupials. No bookings are required, but you can purchase your professional souvenir photos afterwards.

Victoria/ACT

Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne

Meander along the Koala Forest boardwalk and keep your eyes peeled for resident koalas. Listen in to the daily keeper talk at 1.45pm and learn some handy hints about how to help protect marsupial habitats. For something extra, purchase a Koala Close Up for $30 per person ($27 for members). Spend 15 minutes inside the koala exhibit with a Wildlife Encounter Ranger and a small group. Under 16-year-olds require accompaniment from a paying adult.

This sleepy little fella curls up in his favourite snooze spot. Credit: Healesville Sanctuary

Koala Reserve, Phillip Island

You might know Phillip Island for its little penguins. It also has a large koala population, plus special breeding programs and conservation efforts. Witness this in action at the Koala Reserve, where you can purchase a Koala Eco-Explorer Tour for behind-the-scenes secrets from the rangers. Word on the street is that the reserve has also taken in injured and homeless koalas affected by the recent Gippsland fires.

Daniel shows us around Phillip Island’s Koala Conservation Centre

Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Canberra

At time of writing, Tidbinbilla has been closed until further notice. The Canberra reserve, however, is well worth a visit so watch this space. Follow the 700-metre Koala Path through wet eucalypt forest. You should spot some potoroos, wallabies, echidnas and if you’re lucky, a koala or two. The path takes about 20 minutes on average and is wheelchair-accessible.

South Australia

Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide Hills

Enjoy a close-up koala experience free with park entry. Feel their fur and take a photo standing beside. You can also hold a koala and get a professional photo. Then there’s the extra special Feed a Koala private tour for $99.50 per person, park entry included.

At least sixteen koalas which have suffered from fire damage on their Kangaroo Island home have been transferred here.

Urimbirra Open-Range Wildlife Park, Victor Harbour

Urimbirra open-range wildlife park has kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles, dingos, cassowary’s, farm animals and much more. The animals are super friendly and the beautiful Victor Harbor makes a great day trip with the family from Adelaide. The park entrance cost is also very cheap; only $14 for adults (see full price list here) which includes Koala patting and even snake handling.

Tasmania

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Brighton

A full guided tour of the sanctuary is included in your entry fee. You can meet the wombats, Tassie devils and koalas at one of three daily sessions at 11.30am, 2pm and 3.30pm. If the koalas are in the mood on the day, you might be able to pop in and have an up-close photo. There is also a koala pelt you can stroke to see what fur feels like. On some longer tours at additional cost, you may be able to pat koalas, but the residents can be sensitive and sometimes need their space!

Looking pretty cute! Credit: Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Western Australia

Cohunu Koala Park, Perth

This dedicated koala park is located on 14 hectares of bushland, just 40 minutes outside Perth. It is the only place in Western Australia where you can cuddle up to a koala. A hold and photograph session is $30 and available between 10am and 4pm daily. Unfortunately, you must be over 140 centimetres tall, although you can have a pat at any age.

Caversham Wildlife Park, Perth

For no charge, you can stand beside a koala up close and grab a happy snap. This photo op is available at different times daily. The koala will either be posing at shoulder height in a tree, or in a keeper’s arms. Don’t forget to pack your camera for this laid-back koala experience.

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