Eungella National Park – the Best Place to See Platypus in Australia

Before you plan your visit to Eungella National Park, check out this guide to spotting platypus at the Broken River.

Australia is renowned for its incredible wildlife. Visitors come from all over the world, eager to see iconic animals like kangaroos and koalas. However, a hidden gem that not many people get to see is one of the world’s most unique animals – the platypus.

In fact, the platypus is so elusive that many Australians have never seen one of these fascinating creatures.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about spotting platypuses in the wild, in what many consider the best location to see them in all of Australia – Broken River within Eungella National Park, Queensland.

Eungella National Park

Wheel of Fire Falls in Eungella National Park
Wheel of Fire Falls. Image – Depositphotos

Eungella National Park is a slice of paradise nestled in the heart of Queensland, roughly midway between Brisbane and Cairns, Australia. The name “Eungella” (pronounced Yung-ga-lah) comes from the local aboriginal language and means “Land of clouds.” When you approach the towering mountains covered with rainforests, the name will make sense.

Eungella is home to the largest stretch of subtropical rainforest in Australia, and it is one of Queensland’s most ecologically diverse national parks. You will find lots of panoramic viewpoints in the park, like the Sky Window Lookout, various rainforest walking trails including the (in)famous Finch Hatton Gorge, stunning waterfalls, and most importantly, the Broken River area where you can encounter wild platypus.

What is a Platypus?

where to see platypus in Tasmania - Australian animals
Platypus. Image – The Wildlife Diaries

If you are unsure what a platypus looks like, imagine if a beaver and a duck had a baby – that’s pretty much what a platypus looks like! Let me explain more about this very interesting appearance that makes this mammal so unique.

The most remarkable feature of a platypus is its head, in particular its bill, which looks just like a duck’s beak. Equipped with thousands of sensors, this bill helps it locate prey underwater.

The other standout feature is their tail, which looks just like that of a beaver’s tail. This flat, paddle-shaped tail is what makes them such strong swimmers.

Situated between these remarkable features is a small, furry body with webbed paws. And despite their incredible characteristics, a platypus is actually quite small, measuring only 30 to 45 centimetres in total length. Sounds like one strange-looking animal, right?!

platypus Tasmania - the creek at tasmanian arboretum
Platypus. Image – The Wildlife Diaries

Get ready to be even more amazed because this peculiar-looking animal is one of only two mammals that lay eggs! The other one is the echidna, a hedgehog-like creature that is also only found in Australia.

Lastly, just to blow your mind altogether, the platypus is also one of the few mammals that is venomous. All male platypuses possess a venomous spur on their hind paws. It is Australia, after all, where everything tries to kill you!

While not fatal to humans, a platypus’s venomous sting can be extremely painful if you happen to be stung, although such incidents are very rare. Male platypuses only tend to use these spurs to defend themselves against predators or to compete with other males during mating season.

Now that you know just how fascinating this rarely spotted animal is, let’s find out where we can catch a glimpse of them in Eungella National Park.

Visiting Eungella National Park

One way to visit Eungella for platypus spotting is on an organised tour from Mackay. The tour includes a hike to Finch Hatton Gorge, a swim, and a visit to the Broken River in the late afternoon for platypus spotting.

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However, if you have your own transport you can spend more time waiting for the platypus and increase your chances of spotting this elusive creature. Getting to Eungella National Park is pretty straightforward.

The two nearest towns are Mackay and Airlie Beach, which is the gateway to what was voted one of the world’s best beaches, Whitehaven Beach, located within the Whitsunday Islands.

The journey from Mackay to Broken River is 85 kilometres and will take one hour and 15 minutes. It is possible to take a day trip from Airlie Beach, but the distance is nearly 175 kilometres, and it will take over two hours to get there. Trust us, it will be worth it!

Spotting Platypus in Eungella

Once you reach the Broken River carpark in Eungella National Park, you’re just a few minutes away from spotting a platypus. You’ll notice a walking trail that goes along the river in different directions from the carpark.

When facing the river, turn left and follow the trail downwards, passing by the cafe (though it may not always be open). Follow this path until you reach a large platform by the creek, this is only a few hundred meters and all flat terrain.

Eungella National Park platypus viewing platform
Platypus viewing platform. Image – Happy Irish Wanderers

Once you get to the platform, you don’t have to remain there, as you’ll see the path continuing along the left side of the creek. All you have to do now is to find a quiet spot, sit down remain still and wait for the magic to happen.

While there are several platforms along the river, we suggest starting with this area first as there are many platypus in this part of the river. Once you’ve witnessed one, you can retrace your steps and proceed under the bridge to explore additional platforms along the river.

In addition to seeing platypus, you will also see turtles swimming or even chilling on a fallen log in the water. It is also important to keep in mind that you are in a rainforest in tropical Queensland so make sure to keep an eye out for snakes!

Platypus Viewing Tips

platypus
Platypus. Image – The Wildlife Diaries

Platypus inhabit both land and water and while they do spend time on land, mostly when resting in their burrows, it’s highly unlikely to spot one wandering through wooded areas. They are mainly aquatic creatures and spend the majority of their time in the water, where they hunt for food, which includes water insects, insect larvae, and crayfish.

The best times to catch a glimpse of platypuses are during the early morning and late afternoon when they’re most active. That being said, we visited the Broken River in the afternoon, and although there was not much activity, we still had sightings of these fascinating creatures swimming around.

When you are trying to locate a platypus in the wild, the best advice we want to share is to bring a big bag of patience!

Choose a comfortable spot to sit and stay quiet. Try to minimize movement as much as possible to avoid startling the platypus or disrupting its natural behaviour, and simply wait patiently.

A promising sign is when you can see bubbles in the water, as they often indicate the presence of a platypus. Soon enough, the platypus will surface for air.

Remember, platypuses are naturally shy creatures, so remaining still and observant increases the likelihood of spotting them.

Where to Stay in Eungella National Park

It is possible to camp overnight at Eungella Campground. This is a basic campsite with drop toilets but no shower facilities. However, the great thing about staying here is that it’s just a short stroll away from the main viewing platform at Broken River.

This also means you have the opportunity to witness the platypuses come out at both sunrise and sunset, offering excellent chances to sight them in abundance.

Another great factor is that during the night, you may encounter other Australian wildlife that inhabits the area, such as possums, bandicoots, and even echidnas.

Carpet python in Eungella National Park
Carpet Python digesting it’s meal. Image – Happy Irish Wanderers

We once even came across a carpet python that had consumed one of these creatures during the night and was now digesting its meal on the path leading to the main platform. So, once more, it’s important to remain cautious of snakes in the area!

If camping isn’t your thing, especially after the snake story, there’s good news. There is accommodation available in the nearby town of Eungella, just a 10-minute drive away. However, options are limited here, so book in advance if you are planning an overnight stay.

More Things to Do in Eungella

Azure kingfisher
Azure Kingfisher. Image – The Wildlife Diaries

Besides seeing platypus in the wild, there are some other great attractions in the area that we would highly recommend visiting.

Only a short drive from Broken River and within Eungella National Park lies the Finch Hatton Gorge Trail. This stunning hike leads to the Ring of Fire Waterhole, perfect for a refreshing swim after your trek up!

The hike typically takes around 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your fitness level, and along the trail, you will come across several swimming holes, so don’t limit yourself to the first one where everyone else tends to stop.

Another must-visit that you must do when in the Mackay area is a visit to Cape Hillsborough. Here, you can see Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Agile Wallabies on the beach at sunrise and afterwards, take a stunning hike with fantastic views overlooking the ocean.

Agile Wallaby on the beach at Cape Hillsborough
Agile Wallaby on the beach at Cape Hillsborough. Image – Depositphotos

Situated between Mackay and Airlie Beach, Cape Hillsborough is about an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Broken River, similar to the journey from Mackay to Broken River.

Additionally, you’ll also find excellent camping grounds that are right on the beach, like the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, which offers fantastic amenities.

Or, another option is the more budget-friendly Smalleys Beach Campground, with equally stunning views but basic amenities making Cape Hillsborough another great place to base yourself for exploring the area.

Know Before You Go

As you plan your visit toEungella National Park, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Due to the altitude, it can get quite cold at night when you are visiting Eungella National Park in the winter months, so make sure to bring warm clothing.
  • Remain patient, still, and quiet when trying to locate the platypus.
  • The best times are at sunrise and sunset, but you can still see the platypus during the day.
  • There is no swimming in Broken River, but there are other nearby swimming options.
  • Be aware of snakes, leeches, and ticks.
  • Respect the space and natural habitat of all wildlife.
  • Lastly, Eungella National Park and Cape Hillsborough are FREE to visit!

Witnessing platypuses in their natural habitat is an extraordinary experience that not many people can say they have done, yet this can easily be achieved in Eungella National Park.

We hope you enjoy the unforgettable experience of witnessing one of the world’s most elusive and unique animals.

About the Author

Kevin and Kate, also known as the “Happy Irish Wanderers,” are an adventurous Irish couple who left Ireland in 2016 for three months but ended up in Mackay for seven years! Now they have been traveling the world full-time since 2022, sharing the realities of travel, both good and bad of their global journey.

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