do you want to actually hold the koala or just get up close for a photo?
In Sydney you can get up close for a photo at Taronga Zoo, Featherdale Wildlife park and the Australian Reptile Park at Gosford The reptile park, despite its name is a lovely day out (an hour north of Sydney) with lots of other animals as well as a wide assortment of reptiles
thmoore... title says cuddle a koala... so i assumed holding..
The Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas (an hour drive north of Cairns) is an excellent experience and you book a personalised tour that allows you one on one time with a koala - not sure if you will actually be able to hold it or not - best check with them direct.
Thank you all!
There is a fair degree of misunderstanding and myths about "cuddling" koalas, especially in States and Territories other than Queensland and South Australia, and some of them have been repeated in replies already made to the OP's question, and indeed in many other replies to similar questions on Australian TA forums.
At the outset, let's be clear about NSW law. It is not illegal to touch, stroke, or pat a koala in this state. Period.
For example, if I see an injured koala by the side of the road, I am allowed to touch it for the purposes of conveying it to a suitable place where it can be attended to.
As for zoos and other registered places for exhibiting animals in NSW, the relevant law is the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 and its associated Standards, not, as many would have assumed, the Biodiversity Protection Act, the National Parks & Wildlife Act, or other legislation dealing with wildlife, such as laws coming within the remit of the RSPCA. The EAPA is administered by the Department of Primary Industries, not the Department of the Environment.
The EAPA is very specific about how certain animals are to be treated in zoos and wildlife parks. There are numerous rules applying specifically to how koalas can be exhibited. For the purposes of the OP's question I quote the relevant rule:
"Each operator exhibiting koalas to the public must ... ensure that koalas are not placed directly on any visitor or directly held by any visitor for any purpose. Interaction of koalas by members of the public must be restricted to patting, stroking and cuddling to the extent of putting an arm around the koala while the animal remains on a fixed perch..."
Many would argue that putting your arm around a koala is hardly "cuddling", but the point is zoos and the like exhibiting koala in NSW rely on that rule to structure experiences with koalas that absolutely involve touching and patting. The operator must also ensure that "the koalas are not repeatedly removed from objects to which they are clinging" and must also ensure "undue stress on the koalas does not occur" (which begs the question: so its ok to stress a koala just so long as its not undue??)
There is a zoo in QLD, which I won't identify, but its website clearly induces overseas visitors to come to QLD instead of NSW and other states to cuddle koalas. But many visitors, including possibly the OP, would be perfectly satisfied to get up close to a koala and touch it and pat it, and that experience can be enjoyed in NSW and probably other states as well.Edited: 18 August 2018, 04:52
Kuranda Koala Gardens near Cairns allows you to hold a koala for a photo ... all you are allowed to do is hold it, there is no "cuddling" and have a photo taken. As most tourists to Cairns have a day up at Kuranda it's an easy place to get to with other things to do and see.
Koala holding is very tightly controlled in Queensland ... the fact you can do it does not automatically make it an uncontrolled free for all ... and the money raised goes into welfare and research.