Koalas and Kangaroos in Brisbane
The Whitsundays had proved that the Levinson's would never be sailors, but we decided to not let our experience deter us from enjoying the rest of Australia. An early morning flight took us from Airlie Beach to the city of Brisbane, a bustling metropolis of two million people. Besides our arrival in Auckland a month prior we hadn’t experienced a large city since we left Chicago and were looking forward to some good sightseeing and food.
We had heard from fellow travelers that the CBD of Brisbane was a bit like the loop in Chicago in that it tends to shut down a bit after business hours and that it would be better to stay in a nearby suburb or neighborhood. Staying outside the city would also help us stay within our budget so we settled on Norman Park, just about 3 miles outside the city center yet still very accessible via train and even ferry! The city of Brisbane sits on the aptly named, Brisbane River and there is an awesome ferry network within the city that you can take to different sights and neighborhoods free of cost!
After dropping off our bags and grabbing lunch at a nearby restaurant we took the train to the Southbank neighborhood. Southbank ended up being a really cool area within the city with a ton of good looking restaurants, a man-made beach/pool area, Griffith University, and an information center that could help us decide how to make the most of our short two-day visit. We’d heard from some girls on our Whitsunday’s sailing trip that the Steve Irwin Zoo is supposed to be amazing, but it really required a whole day to explore everything and get the most out of the pricey ticket cost. So instead with some help from an I-Center assistant we decided instead on the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a smaller zoo that allowed you to really interact with all the Australian animals. Even better was that it was less expensive than the zoo and you were able to take public transportation all the way there. The rest of the afternoon we spent exploring the city’s botanic gardens and taking the ferry up and down the river.
Anyone who knows me is aware that my love of animals rivals my love of food so I was practically wiggling with excitement with the thought of holding a koala and feeding kangaroos. Our journey to Lone Pine took about an hour and we arrived just in time for a presentation on the koalas at the sanctuary. We learned that these picky eaters only eat the eucalyptus tree, and only 10 different kinds of leaves out of over the 100 different kinds species of eucalyptus tree are. We also learned that because eucalyptus trees don't have a lot of nutrients that provide energy, so koalas have to sleep up to 16-18 hours a day! At the end of the presentation we got to pet a koala and if you waited in line you could also have the furry little marsupial cling to you for a few seconds.
The Lone Pine sanctuary also had a ton of indigenous birds to look at, flying foxes (giant fruit bats) to observe, platypus (an egg laying mammal), echidna, lizards, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, dingos and my favorite, sheep herding dogs!
After the koala presentation we went over to see the sheep herding and sheering show where we saw real working border collies. These super intelligent dogs learn both verbal and whistle commands to communicate with the handler/shepherd and can even work without commands as they are smart enough to make complex decisions without their handlers in sight if necessary. After the dogs herded all the sheep into a little pen it was time to see a sheep be sheared! These sheep aren’t’ raised for their meat, but instead their precious merino wool. There are only a couple of thousand professional sheep shearers in Australia and many, many more sheep so they are in quite high demand. It was pretty funny to watch the shearer give the sheep a nice summer haircut and it was also interesting to observe that the sheep didn’t seem to mind so much, nor did it ever seem to be in pain during its shearing.
Our visit to the Lone Pine sanctuary concluded with getting to hand feed the kangaroos in residence. I think both Jeremy and I were a little bit nervous at first, but the kangaroos were actually very gentle eaters, I assume they’ve had lots of practice living there and getting hand fed daily.
After visit the koala sanctuary we made our way back downtown to explore some more of Brisbane’s neighborhoods in the downtown area discovering the posh James Street, and the hipster area of Fortitude Valley near Chinatown. Since it was a Friday we learned that the Southbank area was having a weekly market so we wandered that way to check it out and grab a snack. We tried out a potato twister for the first time, an awesome street food type of a skewered potato deep fried so it became super crispy and sprinkled with salt and vinegar flavoring. After a failed attempt to pick groceries up to cook that evening we settled on a popular looking and reasonably priced Italian restaurant. It was the first time we’d eaten out at a nicer spot in a while and ended up getting really lucky as we loved the amazing spicy garlic and crab spaghetti we chose. Even Jeremy, who spent a semester in Florence while in college was impressed with this dish!
Overall we really enjoyed our visit to Brisbane. It seems to have gotten a bad rap amongst travelers, probably because it’s up against the lofty comparisons of Sydney and Melbourne, but it seemed perfect for our two-day visit. It was nice to be in a larger city for a few days, and I loved being able to visit with the koalas and kangaroos and Jeremy even got a nice pasta fix.