Brisbane, Queensland is home to two of the greatest animal experiences in Australia. The Australia Zoo is the “home of the Crocodile Hunter”, the late Steve Irwin, and is still owned and operated by the Irwin family. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the the world’s first, and largest, koala sanctuary, home to over 100 koalas and a variety of other Australia animals.
So the big question during your trip to Brisbane is, which should you visit: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary or Australia Zoo?
Below, I’ve detailed how much time you’ll need to spend at each location, how to cuddle a koala, what to expect for animal encounters, ticket prices, and more to help you make your decision on visiting the Australia Zoo or Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
How to get to the Australia Zoo vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary from Brisbane
When deciding between visiting the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary or the Australia Zoo, consider your ability to reach either location.
- The Australia Zoo is located in Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast, a little over an hour’s drive from Brisbane CBD. To travel Brisbane to Australia Zoo without a car, consider booking a transfer from Brisbane (or transfer from Noosa) due to the Zoo’s remote location.
- In comparison, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a 20 minutes drive southeast of Brisbane in a suburb called Fig Tree Pocket. If taking public transit, the 420 Fig Tree Pocket Bus will take you there in 40 minutes from Brisbane CBD. Since Lone Pine is located on the river, you can also take a ferry cruise there from Brisbane!
If you have access to a car, the distance to either the Australia Zoo or Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary may not be a big hurdle. If you’re going to rely on transfers or public transit however, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is easier to reach from Brisbane.
How much time to spend at the Australia Zoo vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
- The Australia Zoo takes one full day to explore, at least 5-6 hours. The Zoo consists of several different sections that will transport you to regions around the world: Australian Animals, Wetland Birds, Africa, and Southeast Asia. There’s also a reptile house, two interactive kangaroo enclosures, and two bird aviaries including one with birds of prey.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in comparison takes about 3-4 hours to explore, due to its smaller size. A large Australian Animals section is filled with koala exhibits, bird exhibits, and a large dingoes enclosure. The sanctuary also has a large farm animals section and a kangaroo enclosure where you can feed the kangaroos.
Both the Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary have animal conservation shows throughout the day too!
Koala Cuddling Experiences & Costs
Great news for koala lovers – You can cuddle koalas at both the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Australia Zoo!
- The Australia Zoo offers the Cuddly Koala encounter for an additional $49 per person to hold a koala and learn more about them from an Australia Zoo zookeeper. This is where I cuddled a koala, and I loved the experience.
- The Australia Zoo also has an interactive Koala Walk-Through exhibit. A dozen or so koalas hang out in trees under the watchful eye of zoo keepers, and guests can pet the koalas free of charge.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary also has a Koala Encounter Tour for $150 per person, which is a 60-minute tour of behind-the-scenes koala exhibits and the chance to cuddle a koala too.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary offers koala photo opportunities for its visitors, $15 for a picture with a koala, and $25 for a picture holding a koala. Since there’s no booking ahead of time, be prepared to wait in line for these!
Overall, if your dream is to hold a koala, both the Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary will make your dreams come true.
Variety of Animals at the Australia Zoo vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
If you’re visiting Brisbane wanting to see all Australian native animals, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary features just that! The sanctuary is the perfect place to learn about Australian wildlife, with a bonus enclosure of farm animals.
The Australia Zoo is home to many native Australian animal species as well, but they have a greater variety of other typical ‘zoo’ animals. You’ll see critically endangered Sumatran tigers, playful meetkats, an adorable red panda, and the Guinness World Record-holding world’s tallest giraffe named Forest.
Feeding and Petting Kangaroos
Both the Australia Zoo and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary have large open fields where visitors can interact with kangaroos! These friendly residents won’t come looking for a snuggle, but they’ll sniff your hands for food and don’t mind if you give them a pat on the back. Both places sell kangaroo food at the park so you can get up and close with Australia’s national animal.
The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary’s free range exhibit is home to red kangaroos, the smaller grey kangaroos, and wallabies too.
The Australia Zoo has two free-range kangaroo exhibits, one with red kangaroos and the other with grey kangaroos, and two types of wallabies.
Animal Shows at the Australia Zoo vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Both the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Australia Zoo offer animal shows where guests can learn more about endangered species, conservation, and animal behaviors.
- The Australia Zoo’s most famous show is the Wildlife Warriors show, which takes place in their large Crocoseum stadium. Guests are treated to a bird show, then get to see a crocodile feeding frenzy, sometimes hosted by one of the Irwin family members. Fans of the Crocodile Hunter show will recognize the names of the crocodiles that enter the stadium – the same ones were fed by Steve Irwin back in the day!
- The Australia Zoo has other conservation shows including with tortoises, parrots, and birds of prey. When you arrive at the Australia Zoo, you’ll get a pamphlet listing the day’s animal experiences.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has a few popular shows, including a free-flying raptor show and a sheepdog show. They also have several keeper talks about different Australian animals where you can get up close and ask questions about your favorite Aussie critters.
- The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary offers various photo experiences including with koalas (more on that below), snakes and dingoes.
When comparing the animal shows at the Australia Zoo vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, I think the Australia Zoo gets the point because it as more to offer. You can’t beat seeing Steve Irwin’s family in the Crocoseum!
Australia Zoo Tickets vs Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Tickets
If the cost of entry to either the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary or Australia Zoo play a role in your decision-making of which to visit, here’s a breakdown.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary tickets can be purchased on their website.
- Adult tickets to Lone Pine cost $49 AUD (~$35 USD), child tickets cost $35 AUD (~$25 USD). Families with two adults, two kids can buy a bundle ticket for $135 AUD, and one adult with two children can visit for $95 AUD.
- Adult tickets to the Australia Zoo cost $55 AUD from Klook (~$40 USD), child tickets cost $35 AUD (~$25 USD), and a family of four can visit for $172 AUD. For an extra $2 AUD, you can visit the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital on-site, which is where sick or injured Australian native animals are treated before being released back into the wild.
Have you decided where you’re going?
I hope my Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary vs Australia Zoo post has helped you decide which location to visit during your next trip to Brisbane!