It is a little known fact, both to visitors to Australia and even locals, that in many states in Australia it is illegal to hold a koala.
Although it is one of the most famous and iconic animals of Australia as well as a highly popular animal experience, particularly for overseas visitors, finding somewhere that you can cuddle up to a koala might not be as easy as you think.
Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia are the only states where it is legal to cuddle up with a koala, but even so not every zoo or wildlife sanctuary in these states offer the experience. In Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and the Northern Territory it’s a completely forbidden experience.
Here’s a complete list of all the places you can get up close and personal to Australia’s cutest animal.
Queensland is where you will find the widest range of wildlife sanctuary’s and zoos that offer a koala encounters so you can hold and cuddle these furry little creatures.
The koala experience at each park will differ on price and available times, as well as their rules on personal devices, the number of people in the photo and optional bundles, add ons and extras. Make sure you check out the parks website before you visit for the most up to date information.
The parks offering koala encounters in Queensland include:
- Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast – 8:30am, 11am & 1:45pm Cuddly Koala Encounter
- Billabong Sanctuary, Townsville – 11:15am Koala Experience
- Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary, Cooberrie – Koala Encounter
- Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast – Koala Experience
- Kuranda Koala Gardens, Cairns – Koala Photos
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane – Everything Koala
- Paradise Country Aussie Farm, Gold Coast – Backstage Koala Experience
- Rainforestation Nature Park, Kuranda – 8am to 5pm Koala & Wildlife Park
- Wildlife Habitat, Port Douglas – 10:45am & 2:40pm Koala Presentation & Feeding
- WILD LIFE Hamilton Island, Whitsundays – 8:45am & 3:15pm Koala Breakfast
From my experience, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in The Gold Coast and Kuranda Koala Gardens in Cairns both offer fantastic experiences, allowing you to take photos on your own devices in addition to the professional photo.
They’ll also take photos on your own device for you so the whole family can be in the photo! Let’s be honest, the printed photo is almost always in terrible lighting, on a bad angle, too zoomed in and embarrassing to be quite honest (is it just me?!) so it’s always good to have a couple of extra shots on your own camera or phone.
Although a more limited selection of parks and sanctuary’s in South Australia, there are a few different places where you can still have the infamous wildlife encounter down south.
- Cleland Wildlife Park, Adelaide Hills – Koala Close Up
- Gorge Wildlife Park, Cudlee Creek – 11:30am, 1:30pm & 3:30pm Koala Holding
- Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, Kangaroo Island – 10:30am, 1pm, 3pm & 4:30pm Koala Interaction
At Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park there are a couple of encounter options. At all of the listed times above you will be able to enter the koala enclosures, pat the koalas and take photos next to them while they are in their trees.
If you would like a chance to cuddle with a koala you can book a time for after the interaction sessions for an additional charge.
The last state where you are able to cuddle a koala is also the most limited, offering only one option at Cohunu Koala Park in Perth. Photo opportunities with the Koalas in Perth are available from 10am to 4pm everyday at Cohunu Koala Photos.
As with any time you have the opportunity to have an animal encounter always remember that you are cuddling up to an animal that is sensitive and delicate, and probably doesn’t understand what’s going on.
The laid back easygoing nature of koalas makes it seem like they are quite happy to be taking photos with visitors, and they have some beautiful relationships with their handlers, but please always remember to be careful and respectful when taking part in any animal encounter.
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