Some items on the Australian bucket list are harder to tick than others, and it can particularly be true for spotting native wild animals. You can find a wild kangaroo only a few minutes out of a major Australian city (or even less… did you hear the story about the one on Sydney Harbour Bridge?!). But finding a platypus in the wild is a whole other story.
It took me more than six years and hours of patience to finally see a platypus in the wild. But when you know where and when to go, it’s no that hard.
Learn from my experience and read on for my tips on where to find a platypus to finally tick off all the boxes on your Australian wildlife bucket list.
Responsible travel tip: Like many native Australian animals, platypuses face conservation threats. Droughts, clearing vegetations, polluted waterways, predators… They struggle in some places. But if you like spotting platypuses, you can help! Have you ever heard of citizen science? During your travels, you can help researchers by providing data. Check this out: platypusSPOT
Where to find a platypus in the wild
Platypuses need permanent and clean water with banks where they can construct dirt burrows.
Bombala Reserve seems to be the best place to find a platypus in the wild if you’re travelling between Sydney and Melbourne.
If you’re near Sydney, head to the Blue Mountains and check out the Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves.
If you’re headed towards Brisbane, check out this Platypus Walk near Byron Bay* or try your luck at the Rocky Creek Dam viewing platform in Byron Bay Hinterland. We weren’t lucky the day we went there.
We also tried our luck at Platypus Hole, in Boonoo Boonoo National Park, about three hours south of Brisbane. A couple arrived there before us and said they spotted one. We waited until dark but didn’t see any.
In Victoria, you can try your luck with a detour to the Otways during your drive on the Great Ocean Road.
In North Queensland, near Mackay, not too far from the Whitsundays, you can make a detour to Broken River, in Eungella National Park. You’ll even have the opportunity to scuba dive in platypus waters to learn more about the world they live in. If you’re closer to Cairns, Yungaburra has a platypus platform.
Seeing platypus in the wild in Broken River (QLD)
We got extremely lucky when we visited Broken River. Most of the time, platypus go out at dusk and dawn to hunt. But when we visited, they ended up being extremely active in the middle of the day. We didn’t even need to wait to see one. We spotted two of them when we crossed the bridge that led to the platypus-viewing platform. We saw about a dozen different platypus that day from the few platforms along Broken River.
Among all the places we visited in Australia to spot a platypus, Broken River was the best one. There are plenty of them in the river, and we could also spot turtles when the platypuses were busy hunting. The platforms are near the bank of the river, and the platypuses sometimes come very close. I never imagined it could get that good.
Not far from Broken River, we scuba dived in platypus waters. Seeing a platypus while scuba diving is more than rare. Still, we found the experience interesting. We
Seeing platypus in the wild in Bombala (NSW)
And I almost skipped this opportunity. As we were on a road trip on the NSW Coast for our Xmas holiday, we had the option to make a detour on our way from the coast (Narooma)
Half an hour later, we arrived in Bombala. It looked promising: all the signs in town had an image of a platypus. Although we weren’t there at the best time to see a platypus, we finally got lucky!
Not only did I see one platypus in the wild that day, but I saw at least four of these one-of-a-kind animals!
Seeing a platypus in the wild in the Blue Mountains (NSW)
The best place to see a platypus in the wild near Sydney is at the Blue Lake near Jenolan Caves, in the Blue Mountains. But it’s on another side of the park than the famous Three Sisters in Katoomba. Be ready to drive for at least one hour on a winding road.
We hesitated. We already spent the day exploring the best lookouts of the Blue Mountains, and we had to wake up early for canyoning the next day. Driving one hour at the end of the day to potentially see a platypus was a bet. If you have time to visit Jenolan Caves that day, it would make a lot more sense to go there.
I’m glad we decided to give Blue Lake a chance. First of all, the lake is actually very blue, so it was lovely to walk around it. And we did see a platypus. Apparently, the chances of seeing it are quite high, if you go there at the right time.
We were really close to the shore and could see the platypus very well in the transparent water.
How to find a platypus in the wild
Platypuses are wild and shy animals, so always keep your expectations low when you plan to see one. However, there are a few things to know that will increase your chances to see a platypus in the wild.
Platypuses are nocturnal.
We could see a platypus in the middle of the afternoon at Bombala Reserve, with light rain and a bit of wind. And they were super active late in the morning at Broken River.
However, the best time to see a platypus is at dawn or dusk and when there is no movement in the water. At Jenolan Caves, we saw it a few minutes after sunset.
That’s the time when the elusive animals get out of their burrow to look for food. Platypuses dive in to catch invertebrates like shrimps and go back to the surface to breathe. Just before they go back up, you may spot big bubbles at the surface. When they’re swimming at the surface, they make a V shape in the water. That’s my best tip to spot a platypus.
Platypuses scare easy.
Remember not to get your expectations too high: platypuses keep their distance. You’ll increase your chances by staying quiet and not moving much. It felt like bird watching.
At Bombala, we were on a high platform, quite far away from the river banks. However, the height was great to see the shapes in the water better. Without binoculars, you’d only see shapes moving. At Jenolan Caves and Broken River, we were really close to the shore and the platypus didn’t seem too shy – it felt exceptional.
Did you know the first time British scientists saw a platypus, they thought it was a hoax?
I found this info too funny not to share it. For their defence, platypuses areas fascinating as bizarre. If you want to learn more about this very special animal, read this page from the NSW Government.
Responsible Tip: Platypus can drown if they get entangled in litter. Picking up rubbish left by others during your walks can save animals. Plus, it is one more step towards keeping pristine waterways.
Have you ever seen a platypus? Where was that? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where can you find a platypus in the wild in Australia?
I created this map from what I have heard from other travellers I met who also tried to spot a platypus in the wild and succeeded. If you know other great places where to find a platypus, please share it in the comment below so I can add it to the map!
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