Koalas are an iconic image of Australia with many tourists hoping to get up close and personal with these cute furry creatures!

Australian wildlife is legendary, ranging from the utterly chilling creatures to some of the cutest on the planet. Yet, no animal is as popular than the teddy bear looking koala, known for its fluffy grey fur and their love for naps! Holding these amazing creatures is listed at the top of every traveller’s bucket list, but despite this being a popular photo opt among tourists, it isn’t as easy as other adventurers have you believing.

Rules for Holding Koalas in Australia

A typical koala-hugging experience is a rare experience, with the majority of Australian states banning any holding of popular animals. It is only legal in three Australian states, including Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The rest of the country only allows photo opportunities where you can either pat the koalas or simply stand next to them. It is the only country in the entire world which offers guests such up-close opportunities with these fuzzy marsupials, as they are only native to Australia. For the states which allow ‘koala cuddling’, there are strict guidelines all individuals must follow. Including that an individual koala may only be handled 30 minutes maximum a day, or 180 minutes a week. Only captive-bred koalas can be handled, and no joeys or female koala with young can be handled.

Why you shouldn’t do it

In most states of Australia, it is illegal for any zoo or sanctuary to allow a visitor to hold a koala. Many scientists and rangers have noted the irreversible damaged of being held frequently and by strangers has on a koala. Despite their cute and cuddling appearance, koalas are wild creatures and are quite shy animals that do not naturally see humans as their friends. Hugging a koala maybe your highlight in Australia, but it is a stressful situation for the animals, and as low-energy animals, any increased stress levels can be damaging.

Where you can see Koalas sustainably

  • Kennett River, the Great Ocean Road

    One of the best spots to see a wild koala is along the Great Ocean Road. Kennett River is a small hamlet near the Otway Coast and off Grey River Road and is home to hundreds of koalas amidst their eucalyptus trees! Head along with the koala walking trail and lift your head to see the dense bushland’s cluster of high branches. Amidst these, you can see the furry balls of grey fur, with the koalas either snoozing the day or munching on a bunch of leaves. There is also a bird sanctuary nearby where the birds happily sit on your arms and head to be feed by hand, so you don’t even miss out on an animal holding photo opportunity!

  • Featherdale Wildlife Park, Blue Mountains

    One of the focus’ of this wildlife park is their koala centre, aiming to achieve a completely self-sustaining food plantation for its koalas. You can book in a close encounter with these creatures, standing by the koalas and having your photo taken to show off to all of your friends and family at home!

  • Koala Conservation Centre, Phillip Island

    Maru Koala and Animal Park supply the perfect opportunity to see these cute critters! Featuring a range of raised boardwalks that have your eye level with the koalas in the high branches. Getting you closer to these wild animals than anywhere else in Victoria!

Related article: How Long Would It Take to Do a Trip Around Australia?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward began with a passion for travel and turned it into a thriving tourism business. He co-founded Sightseeing Tours Australia after starting out as a tour guide in Melbourne. Cameron delights in helping visitors get the most from their trip to Australia. Whether he's leading tours or writing about his favourite places, Cameron loves sharing his local insight with fellow travellers.

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