Review: Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a true-blue Aussie experience inner banner

Review: Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a true-blue Aussie experience

This cruise up the mighty Brisbane River from the city to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has been a cherished activity for locals and visitors alike for several decades. Climb aboard the Mirimar II for a quintessential Australian day out. Review: Marianne Diaz
Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
5 stars

Brisbane River Cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with Mirimar Cruises

During this great day out from the Queensland capital you’ll cruise along the mighty Brisbane River to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to meet Australia’s most famous native animal. Your cruise includes entry to the renowned wildlife park, and you’ll even have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hold a koala (additional cost applies). In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a return cruise to the Brisbane CBD. Duration: 5 hours (approx.)

Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.

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I close my eyes and tilt my face up to the sun.

John Williamson’s Cootamundra Wattle is playing in the background. I can hear the gentle lapping of the Brisbane River against the hull of our cruise boat — the Mirimar II. About the only thing that could possibly make this moment any more ‘Australian’ would be koalas. Welcome aboard the famous Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary — operated by Mirimar Cruises.

The breeze whips up as we move away from the pontoon at inner-city South Bank and pass under a series of bridges, including the William Jolly, Merivale and Go Between. Each has its  own unique story and significance, as the commentary from our captain confirms.

We also hear stories about the river itself and the role it has played in the lives of Brisbanians over the past century. This Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has been operating for more than 70 years, so it’s as much a part of the river’s heritage as anything else!

We pass a beautiful colonial-era residence with an intriguing past. Nestled between the river and the Wesley Hospital, Moorlands was built by the widow of Patrick Mayne — a butcher and popular public figure who supposedly confessed to a murder on his deathbed!

Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Image courtesy of Mirimar Cruises

We cruise past the iconic Regatta Hotel, where Merle Thornton (the mother of actress Sigrid Thornton) chained herself to the public bar in 1965 — insisting she be served a drink and thus kicking off the women’s liberation movement in Brisbane.

Passing the Indooroopilly Island Conservation Park — home to one of the largest flying fox colonies in Australia — we soon reach the more affluent suburbs of Brisbane. Huge mansions with long jetties line the riverfront. It’s difficult to believe that many were inundated by muddy water in the devastating flood of 2011.

Further along the river we pass under the Walter Taylor Bridge. This unique structure was built complete with accommodation in the abutments for the toll keeper. The builder — Walter Taylor himself — took out a mining license when he discovered gold-bearing quartz on the bridge’s construction site. He had no interest in the gold, mind you. The licence ensured that no one else could meddle with his bridge and mine the site. Today the heritage-listed bridge could literally be sitting on a gold mine!

Pulling up alongside the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary landing, I’m struck again by that sense of ‘Australianness’. As I climb the steps and enter the sanctuary, I finally figure it out. It’s the scent of the eucalyptus trees drifting on the breeze. Not your typical zoo, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of the few places in Australia where it’s legal to hold a koala — and with over 130 of the native animals on site, a lot of eucalyptus trees are needed!

Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Image courtesy of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

After patting a few kangaroos and an extremely docile emu, and visiting the wombats, cassowaries and wallabies, we head over to the koala enclosure to watch a keeper presentation. We also catch the fascinating Free Flight Raptor Show. We see an eagle, barking owls and some falcons, and on the command of their trainer, some of the birds fly directly over our heads. I’m quietly thankful there are no swooping magpies involved! That would be very ‘Australian’!

Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane river cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: Meet the locals. Image: Bigstock

It’s time for lunch and we decide to eat at the Sleepy Koala Café. I find myself sharing our table with a very friendly bush turkey. Once he departs, we tuck into our sandwiches, only to discover that there are other diners nearby. The dining area is encircled by indoor eucalyptus trees — occupied by more koalas!

All too soon it’s time to re-board the Mirimar II for the return trip into town. On the way, passengers get offered the chance to head up front and steer the boat — and several take up the opportunity.

As we approach the city, we’re joined by a flotilla of sail boats and canoes. It’s a colourful end to this quintessential Australian day out.

Marianne travelled as a guest of Mirimar Cruises and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Marianne Diaz is a research scientist by day and a freelance travel writer by night! She has travelled to Sri Lanka to explore her children’s part-heritage, and enjoyed research trips to Japan, and Bloomington, Chicago and Boston in the USA. Marianne’s main travel goal is to get to the Italian Aeolian Islands to check out the other half of her children’s background. She also loves exploring history-laden Australian country towns.


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  1. My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog. He was totally right. This actually made my day. Thank you!

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    P.S. My apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

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