Eungella National Park is a 90-minute drive west of Mackay, Queensland through the picturesque Pioneer Valley. The road winds up the mountain range to the little township of Eungella, which is Aboriginal for Land in the Clouds. Let me take you through our time at the park and our ultimate experience with the wildlife.
About Eungella National Park
In the mountains made up of tropical rainforest the Eungella National Park is one of Australia’s most ecologically diverse parks. The gem of natural beauty and serenity boasts lush rainforests, mist-topped mountains and rugged gorges that provide a nirvana for adventurers and nature enthusiasts. Eungella National Park is home to an abundance of native wildlife, many endemic to the area. Over 800 plant species and over 220 bird species make it ideal for bird lovers. It’s home for the Orange-sided skink, gliders and possums including the glorious Yellow-bellied glider.
The Eungella honeyeater (endemic to Eungella), kookaburras, kingfishers, Crimson rosellas, Regent bowerbirds, Noisy Pitta, Wompoo pigeons, and the opportunistic Brush turkey to name but a few are great sightings for bird watchers. Secret and rare frogs such as the Eungella Tinker frog, Northern gastric brooding frog and Eungella day frog are all exclusive to here. With the elusive platypus added to the list, this lush rainforest is a destination worth your time and effort.
Our time at the park was a mixture of walking, bird watching, spotting the platypus and other wildlife. We spent time trying to photograph the Azure kingfisher. We are amazed when every time the kingfisher dives underwater the platypus is close by. The resourceful and cheeky bird has learnt he can take a share of the platypus food if he dives underwater at the same time!
The location, the bush camping, platypus and other wildlife make Eungella one of our favourite national parks in Queensland. We recommend for anyone with an interest in nature and wildlife to stay here. Whether camping or staying in accommodation, it’s a unique and special place. Here are some of the things that made our stay at the park special.
Our Encounter with the Platypus
On our first morning, we are on the viewing platform by 6 am and the only ones here. It’s freezing and mist dances on the river’s surface. The platform overlooks the platypus pool. Towering palms, fern trees, and flourishing tropical rainforest surround us. The musical singing of the honeyeaters and laughing kookaburras welcome the first light and turtles bop on the surface. The still tranquil water that runs into sparkling cascading pools and meanders through the rainforest is the platypus’s hunting ground.
After 15 minutes bubbles appear on the surface and then our first platypus! We are in awe of this little critter with his duck-like beak and little brown eyes that make direct eye contact. He is so close that he hears the camera shutter and darts back underwater. About 5 minutes later he reappears and stays on the surface for about 30 seconds before diving back under and repeating this several times. Platypus chew and swallow their food on the surface, so we think he has found a food source. Once he disappears another two platypuses show up so definitely a good food supply here.
The platypus is notorious for being nearly impossible to spot in the wild because of its shyness and almost illusory behavior. He is easily frightened and will only come out in the open mostly at dawn and dusk. The platypus shelters in burrows and you are only likely to see them when they are hunting for shrimp, yabbies, worms and other little invertebrates. Fortunately, sightings of a platypus at Eungella are more of a possibility here than anywhere else.
The window for spotting a platypus is quite short. They dive for food and only resurface to breathe and digest their food and this is the only opportunity to photograph them. To make it even harder, they are small, only about 40-50 cm long and they blend in with the water. They are watchful and nervous. When they surface, they see us no matter how good we hide. We need to be quick to photograph them!
A Possum Mecca
We love possums and are so excited to see the Brushtails, Ringtails, and Sugar gliders. Not only them but babies too! Like kangaroos, possum and glider babies are born extremely undeveloped and remain in mum’s pouch for about six months until developed. Once the baby is old enough, he will emerge from the pouch and cling and ride mum’s back. The baby will stay with mum for another few months. With their pink nose, long whiskers, big ears, and dark soulful eyes Brushtail possums have so much rascally character. Here they are famous and have a restaurant named after them! In other areas like campgrounds, they become humanised and friendly too.
Ringtail possums are fascinating and generally shy. Identified easily by their coiled tail with a white tip which they use to balance and jump between trees. They live together as pairs and also in groups of up to ten including their offspring.
Ringtail possums build their nest (dreys) from leaves, flowers and twigs in the branches of trees. They are monogamous and the male takes his turn to care for and carry the babies too. Unlike the Brushtail possum, Ringtails are fussy eaters and prefer eucalyptus leaves.
Sugar gliders are incredible for the fact they have a gliding membrane which allows them to glide from tree to tree. They have a thick bushy tail, and soft grey fur with a dark stripe going through the middle of their body and head. This teeny tiny glider only grows to about 20 cm.
They make a nest of leaves in tree hollows. Like the Ringtails they are social and can live in groups and monogamous. Both parents care for the young who are often twins. They are a nectar lover and have a sweet tooth. They do eat bugs and fruits, but their favourite is the nectar they get from sweet sap and pollen from native plants such as the acacia and eucalyptus.
The Tricks of the Tawny Frogmouth
The Tawny Frogmouth is a cool-looking bird with the most beautiful orange saucer eyes. Its large frog-like beak helps it to catch insects at night. A master of disguise due to its black and white plumage that provides great camouflage against tree trunks and branches. At the slightest hint of danger, they stand still, close their eyes and mimic a broken branch. They are monogamous and stay together for life.
The male makes a rough and flimsy nest by scattering a few leaves and twigs on a branch. Both parents incubate the eggs and look after the chicks. The chicks stay with their parents for several months. Tawnys cry and whimper when they are frightened or suffer a loss. The parents and fledglings both cry when the chicks have to leave the nest and adults will make this call for several days after losing a mate.
We stayed at Broken River Mountain Resort situated on the bank of Broken River. It’s the place to stay for ultimate access to the platypus. It’s only a few minutes’ walk to the platypus viewing platforms. The cool rainforest is a different world compared to the tropical heat left behind hundreds of metres below on the coast. During winter it gets down to freezing. We love the log fire burner in our cosy self-contained room. The accommodation is simple but sparkly clean and fresh. It has a bedroom with a queen-size bed, bathroom, kitchen and utensils, and a little lounge room with TV and a log fire burner. There are different styles of accommodation to choose from at the resort.
Enjoy Dinner at Possums Table Restaurant
Though the rooms are self-contained we recommend eating at the resort’s Possums Table Restaurant for at least one night. The food is expensive but nice and the ambience is gorgeous with the log fire burning. The stars of the show are the possums who the restaurant is named after. At night they show up to the restaurant’s outside deck that overlooks the rainforest hoping for a treat from the chef.
Things to Do at the Eungella National Park
Great walking tracks meander through the pristine rainforest ranging from 1–8 km long. Most are in the shelter of the rainforest, so they are not too hot at any time of the day. For some of the longer one-way walks, the staff at the resort will drop guests off at the start of the walking track so they can walk back. Eungella is also the start of the 56 km Mackay Highlands Great Walk.
2. Platypus Spotting
Seeing a platypus in the wild will leave you in awe and wonder. Eungella is one of the best places in Australia to spot them.
3. Spotlighting Tours
Spotlighting tours for nocturnal wildlife in the rainforest can be booked at the resort. The guides have immense knowledge of the area and the wildlife. Personalised tours can also be arranged. Possums, gliders, owls, bats, frogs and snakes are some of the possible sightings.
Cockatoos, kingfishers, Rainbow lorikeets, galahs, Tawny frogmouths, Powerful owls, Sooty owls, Rose-crowned fruit dove and the rare Eungella honeyeater are some of the birds to see while birdwatching.
There are two camping sites in Eungella National Park, which have close access to viewing the Platypus.
Fern Flats Camp – A beautiful bush camp on the banks of Broken River about 600 metres in the rainforest.
Broken River Bush Camp – Across the road from Broken River Resort, on the river’s edge and close to the platypus viewing platforms. You may spot the platypus from your camp!
6. Explore the Lower Eungella National Park
About 30 km down the mountain, in the lowlands of Pioneer Valley is the little town of Finch Hatton. From here Finch Hatton Gorge is about another 20 km. Still a part of the Eungella National Park the area is also home to many birds, wildlife, and the platypus live in the creeks here too.
The gorge has swimming holes, waterfalls, volcanic boulders, crystal clear swimming holes and lush rainforest. Tropical rainforest trails lead to pretty swimming holes and waterfalls. Araluen Falls is 1.6 km one way and further on the Wheels of Fire Falls is 2.1 km one way.
Camping is available in the Finch Hatton Gorge at Platypus Bushcamp
At Rainforest Dive, there is an opportunity to dive in the freshwater of the rainforest with turtles, fish and eels. There is a chance of seeing the platypus while diving.
Glide over the trees in the rainforest of Finch Hatton Gorge with Forest Flying
7. Enjoy a Famous Pie and Cold Drink at the Pinnacle Pub
About 10 km from Finch Hatton enjoy a cold drink and a meal on the deck of the Pinnacle Pub. Made famous by their scrumptious home-made pies, this great little Aussie pub serves them all day. There is every filling imaginable including vegetable ones and the apple pies are delectable!
We suggest a stay of a minimum of two days in Eungella to give you the best chance of spotting the platypus and seeing the other local sites.
Whether it’s for a quiet and relaxing time in the fresh cool mountain air, a romantic getaway, spotting the wildlife, or taking advantage of the beautiful walks in the rainforest, Eungella is a unique getaway in the Whitsunday hinterlands. The Eungella Platypus would have to be one of the most used to people platypus in Australia and one of the best places to see them in the wild.
Download the “Welcome to Eungella” visitor guide.
Because of the altitude, it can get down to 0°C in winter. Our trip in early September was freezing! In summer the temperature is still considerably cooler than the coast, especially the nights.