This is the best place in Australia to cuddle a koala—and one of the few places where koala cuddling is actually still allowed. Banned in New South Wales and Victoria, holding a koala is legal in Queensland under strict conditions that ensure that each animal is handled for less than 30 minutes a day—and gets every third day off! When it opened in 1927, Lone Pine had only two koalas, Jack and Jill; it is now home to more than 130. You can cuddle them any time and have a photo taken holding one (for a fee); after you’ve paid, you can have some photos taken using your own camera, too. Lone Pine isn’t just koalas—you can also hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies and get up close with emus, snakes, baby crocs, parrots, wombats, Tasmanian devils, skinks, lace monitors, frogs, bats, turtles, possums, and other native wildlife. There is a currency exchange, a gift shop, and a restaurant and cafe. You can also take advantage of the picnic and barbecue facilities.
The nicest way to get to Lone Pine is a cruise down the Brisbane River aboard the MV Mirimar ([tel] 0412/749 426; www.mirimar.com), which leaves the Cultural Centre at South Bank Parklands at 10am. The 19 km (12-mile) trip to Lone Pine takes 75 minutes and includes commentary. You have 2 1/2 hours to explore before returning, arriving in the city at 3pm. The round-trip fare is A$68 for adults, A$38 for children ages 3 to 13, and A$195 for families of five, including entry to Lone Pine. Cruises run daily except Anzac Day (Apr 25) and Christmas Day.