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This post is part of our Australia/New Zealand Series. You can find the rest of the series here.
This was a special day, but not for the obvious reasons. It wasn’t special because we got to hang out with kangaroos. It wasn’t special because we got to explore a new city. It wasn’t even special because we got to hold a Koala. The day was special because we got to visit with great friends, who we met in two separate, chance encounters during our travels!
- Airfare/Transportation – How we got there and how we got around.
- Adventures – Write-ups of the activities we enjoyed during our visit.
- Hotel Spotlight – Where we stayed and our review of the accommodations.
The day started VERY early, with a 5:50am flight on Virgin Australia from Cairns to Brisbane. We booked this flight using 6,900 Etihad Guest miles each, which we earned from our $250 mistake fare trip to Dubai!
The flight was an obvious step down from our luxurious business class seats on the outbound flight, but we had no complaints. The economy cabin featured a standard 3/3 layout. We both slept a bit on the flight, and we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast. Before we knew it, we were touching down in Brisbane.
We owe the next two days of fantastic adventures to our friends Paul and Kate, and their son Jake. You may remember Paul and Kate from our post about New Orleans. I met them at the Cochon Butcher, where we chatted about my nightmarish AirBNB experience. They joined me on a trip down to the nearby Brewery, and then we had dinner together. Before we parted, they said, “If you’re ever in Brisbane, be sure to give us a call!” Sooo… we did, and they graciously offered to host us in their home and show us their city!
When we walked off the jet bridge, Kate was waiting to meet us with a huge smile and some little souvenirs. We walked outside to meet Paul and Jake, and we all piled into their outback-equipped Land Rover.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Our first stop in Brisbane was the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This wildlife center on the edge of the city is home to kangaroos, wallabies, platypi, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, snakes, lizards, flying foxes, lots of birds, and of course, koalas. So.many.koalas!
At the entrance to the park, we stopped while Kate talked with some birds. The birds “talked” back and made gestures with their heads. We walked through the reptile exhibit, and then saw a little duck-billed platypus swimming around. Outside of that exhibit, we saw the dingo and Tasmanian devil habitats. The little devils were interesting to watch, and not at all like the Looney Toon character!
My wife was VERY excited to see and hold a koala. The Lone Pine Sanctuary features a few different kinds of koalas, all of which were as cute as we imagined. We had the opportunity to hold one, and we were surprised by the bristly feel of its fur. The koala was definitely not as soft as we anticipated, but we really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with it!
After we held the koala and snapped a couple pictures, we moved over to the kangaroo enclosure. Here we were able to walk among a huge group of kangaroos! These ‘roos were of the Eastern Gray variety, one of the larger breeds in Australia. We brought in some feed, so they all wanted to be our friends. We grabbed a few great pics with them!
Finally, we wandered down to the cassowary enclosure. We learned about the cassowary on the Daintree Rainforest tour. This is an enormous, dinosaur-like bird, with a horn on the top of its head and HUGE talons on its feet! These birds can literally kill you with a single kick from their long claw.
Exploring the City
When we finally finished playing with the animals, we headed over to the Mount Coot-tha lookout point. Here we could see all of Brisbane from above. It was a relatively hazy day, so the city was a bit shrouded.
Next, we drove down to the Regatta Hotel for lunch and some local beers. In Australia, you may notice that many bars have “Hotel” in the name. We learned that this comes from an old law requiring an establishment to offer lodging if they wanted to sell alcohol. Conveniently, buying food at many of these “hotels” will trigger the $300 travel credit on the Chase Sapphire Reserve!
After lunch, we took a water taxi on the Brisbane river into the Southbank area of downtown. Southbank was developed along the river for the 1988 World Fair. It has evolved over time into its current state, which includes a man-made beach, ornate archways, flower gardens, and some beautiful public swimming pools.
By this point in the day, we were all quite tired from the heat. We decided to head back to Paul & Kate’s home for a dip in the swimming pool and a barbecue dinner. While Paul was grilling, I texted some other friends we met in New York. They live in Brisbane as well, and they joined us for dinner! What a crazy dinner party to have, with friends in a city halfway around the world, all of whom we met during our other travels!
Hotel Spotlight Awesome Friends!
Paul & Kate, who I met in New Orleans, graciously let us stay in their lovely home! They live in a neighborhood that backs up to a protected forest. The views from their deck and pool were fantastic. Traveling allows you to have friends all over the world, and some may be kind enough to let you stay with them. Thanks Paul & Kate!!
What a great day! We got to spend time with great friends, and we got to hang out with koalas and kangaroos. Hard to ask for more than that. Cheers!