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Griffith University EcoCentre: Visit the Toohey Forest Koalas

If you are looking for a place to take your kids to spot koalas in the wild around Brisbane, look no further than the Griffith University EcoCentre also known as the Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre! Set in the Toohey Forest, just 12kms for the Brisbane CBD it is a fantastic day out for families with kids of all ages. We visited on Sunday and participated in their ‘Open House’ event including a FREE guided koala spotting walk and wanted to share our experience with you!

Where is the Griffith University EcoCentre

Located just a short 15 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD, you can find the EcoCentre located inside the grounds of Griffith University, Nathan campus.

What is the EcoCentre for?

The aim of the centre is to promote and encourage environmental education in partnership with the Toohey Forest Environmental Education Centre to provide interesting events and experiences to share with the community. Whilst the Education Centre has primarily promoted itself to schools, the EcoCentre now welcomes the public to visit and use the centre’s facilities. #winning

What is at the EcoCentre for families?

The EcoCentre provides an opportunity for locals and those from further afield to learn more about Brisbane’s native wildlife and plants.

Inside the EcoCentre

The EcoCentre showcases the sustainability aspects of the building as well as a variety of live animal displays starring the local fauna found throughout Toohey Forest. We saw a scorpions, carpet python, lizards, turtles, crickets, frogs, stick insects and more inside on display in their cages and tanks.

One of the staff even brought out ‘Prickles’ the bearded dragon for the kids to ‘pat’ today.

Patting Prickles the bearded dragon
Patting Prickles the bearded dragon

Outside the EcoCentre

Outside the EcoCentre, visitors have access to an extensive network of paved and unpaved walking tracks. The walking tracks meander through predominantly open eucalypt forest, with rainforest species growing along the creeks and in moist gullies. There is also some vine forest and closed scrub along the creeks and gullies.

Toohey Forest is 640 hectares in size and provides a vital habitat for over 400 species of wildlife and plants. It is home to koalas, short-beaked echidnas, lace monitors, more than 75 species of birds and a diverse range of reptiles, butterflies and frogs. This is unique for an area in such close proximity to the city. Further afield, the forest features sandstone formations.

Walks around the Eco Centre’s plant trail

There are many walks open to the public around the EcoCentre and throughout the Griffith University campus at Nathan.

Directly around the outside of the centre is the short walk where you can engage in many of the displays and see the native wildlife and native plants. I have added the map above to show you what it looks like. It took us about 15 minutes to walk around the perimetre of the EcoCentre on this walk. This gave everyone time to stop and read some of the many signs and look for animals and at the plants. You can even have a sit down in the yarning circle.

You can pick up a copy of this map from the centre, or click on the map above to be taken to a downloadable version.

Families Tip: This walk is NOT pram friendly! See the photos above to note the rocks and uneven surfaces.

Longer walks and koalas spotting

Today we signed up for the FREE guided ‘koala spotting’ walk and we are so glad we did!

Can you spot the koala in the tree above? I took this photo today when we were on our walk with the staff from the centre. It woke up and looked right at us! After this koala we saw three more in other trees! All pointed out by our guides. The staff told us they had done a reconnaissance earlier to spot them so they knew where to have us look! The kids were chuffed! (So were the adults, to be fair!)

When we visited today, we also saw out in the wild:

tawny frogmouths
Tawny Frogmouths
  • 2 Tawny frogmouths
  • Scrub turkeys
  • Kookaburras
  • Lots of other birds (currawongs, butcher birds, fairy wrens)
  • Lizards
  • and learnt a lot about the forest and its inhabitants

Families Tip: The path on the guided walk was even and paved.

What’s on at the EcoCentre?

Whilst the centre has an engaged school following, and they provide talks to school groups, they also welcome families to visit at select times during the school holidays and on weekends. They are keen to have more people from the community visit.

These school holidays you should definitely check out this event below!

Family Koala Fair
Family Koala Fair poster

Find out more & grab your tickets here.

Fantastic free day out at the EcoCentre, Griffith University!

You don’t have to wait for a special event to go to the centre! The Open House is open at the same time as EcoTours are running. Although they aren’t open every weekend or every day of the school holidays, they do their best to open as much as possible so the local community can come and enjoy the fantastic experience.

You can follow their Facebook page for updates on their events and openings.

The plant trail we mentioned is available to walk at any time of the day, all year long and there are maps located outside to guide you, so you can still go along even if the EcoTours and Open House are closed.

We think this is a wonderful activity to add to your ‘free school holiday ideas‘ list. I am sure we will head back soon to see how the koala population is going!

We have more free school holiday ideas here:

Watch our video to see more about the EcoCentre

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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