Guide To Visiting Eungella National Park & seeing wild platypus!

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Eungella National Park is a hidden gem nestled high above the plains of Queensland, Australia.

Backed by the Mackay Highlands, this is the longest continual stretch of sub-tropical rainforest in Australia.

trail through the rainforest

With its mist-shrouded mountains and dense rainforests, this ecological paradise is not only a biodiversity for over 860 plant species, but famously home to a colony of platypus.

It’s these allusive and rare creatures that bring people to Eungella NP, who have made a home for themselves in the Broken River that runs through the park.

But that’s not all there is to see and do in Eungella National Park, there are also an array of walking trails, catering to various levels of difficulty, as well as lookouts with scenic vistas not to miss.

If you’re thinking of visiting Eungella National Park to encounter Australia’s rich wildlife and escape the city, then keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this extraordinary place.

Is Eungella National Park Worth Visiting?

river running through jungle

This trip up to Eungella National Park was special to us because we were on the hunt for wild platypus.

Every person I’d spoken to said it was pretty much a given we’d see one. But, I’ve heard that at many different places in Australia before and had never come up lucky.

It’s been a childhood dream of mine to see a platypus. Every time my parents took me to our local Australian Reptile Park, I’d press my nose against the glass silently begging one to swim out just so I could have one glimpse at this unusual elusive Australian animal.

Eungella National Park was one of the only places in Australia where we saw platypus in the wild, and for that reason, it’s absolutely worth visiting.

How To Get To Eungella National Park

road going through mountains
On the road from Mackay

To get to Eungella National Park, you will first need to head to the town of Mackay, located just 86km outside the park. This is considered the gateway to Eungella and is where most visitors base themselves before entering the park.

From here, you need to drive along State Route 64 until you reach the town of Eungella. From here, turn off onto Mackay Eungella Rd and follow it to the end to reach the national park.

Most of the roads into Eungella are suitable for a normal vehicle, but if you want to drive to Moonlight Dam, then you will need a 4WD vehicle.

Things To Do In Eungella National Park

1. Wake Up Early To Platypus in Eungella NP at Broken River

Broken River surrounded by lush rainforest

The best time to see platypus is in the early mornings and evenings, or dawn and dusk, so that’s when I headed out.

I stole away back down to the river at sunrise to take some more pictures and see what I could find.

I went to the furthest platform from Broken River Resort, where we were staying on the edge of Broken River, which I did not explore the evening before and was blown away by how pretty and serene it was.

A deep green lagoon sat at the end of the river, surrounded by ferns and intense greenery. A couple were leaving and pointed out to me the spot where they’d seen a platypus.

There in the morning light, on my own, I sat by the lagoon and watched a platypus swimming and playing oblivious to me standing there!

wild platypus in the water

It was better than I’d ever dreamed as a child it could be.

The elusive platypus is elusive no more. As it turns out, you’d be unlucky if you came to Eungella National Park and did not see a platypus.

As I walked back from the lagoon, I passed a Japanese man I’d spoke to earlier coming from the other viewing platforms with a spring in my step

“Did you see any?” I asked him. “Oh yes,” he grinned and sprang right on by, “many many platypus.”

Bucket list experience, check!

2. Take a Guided Spotlight Tour at Night

Every Tuesday and Thursday evenings, The Broken River Resort has guided spotlight tours with the resident environmentalist at 8pm.

I bundled the girls up in the warmest clothes I could find – they sure weren’t lying about the cold and we stepped out into the rainforest.

Wisps of cloud circled overhead and our guide told us Eungella has cloud cover for most of the year and is really not a rainforest but a cloud forest.

Eungella actually means “Land of the clouds” or “where the cloud lies over the mountain” to the aboriginal peoples.

We were lucky to have clear skies and good weather. But, it meant the full moon was out and harder to see the animals.

We still saw plenty: geckos, pademelons, wallabies and kangaroos, leeches, and bats and we learned a lot about the different flora making up the park.

There are supposed to be plenty of bird species in the park, including kookaburras, pied currawongs, blue-faced honeyeaters and Eungella honeyeater, rainbow lorikeets, kingfishers, and tawny frogmouths.

Some other notable animals in the park are sugar gliders, orange-sided skink, and brushtail possums.

Our guide was quite well trained at spotting platypus and assured me, if we were patient and waited on the bridge, we’d see the resident platypus hunting for food down below.

After a few minutes of moving his torch around, he picked up a darting shadow in the water – sure enough, it was a platypus. I think I squealed. We watched it foraging and popping up out of the water to take a breath.

We wandered down to the other viewing platform and saw another one popping up and diving underneath the water for more food – no face pressing against the glass needed.

This was the real deal in the dark of night out in the wild, just us and the platypus.

3. Hike to Lookouts

sky window Eungella National Park

On the way into the park, we pulled over the side of the road to a viewpoint called Sky Window.

This is an easy track to the lookout to do with kids, since it’s located on a short 0.2 mile loop walk through the lush rainforests and opens up to a natural window through the trees, looking out over the valley.

Another popular lookout is Goodes Lookout, which offers amazing views of the Pioneer Valley. This lookout doesn’t require much walking and has a toilet and rest area.

4. Visit Cedar Gallery

Cedar Gallery is an art gallery that opens in the winter. It was built by Owen and Kerry – Owen is an engineer and single-handedly built the unique wooden structure the gallery is housed in.

Kerry on the other hand has always loved fine art.

The pair opened the gallery to encourage others to appreciate the unique environment if Eungella and to admire the work of local artists.

5. Go Kayaking In Eungella Dam

If you’re visiting during a hot summer’s day and have your own boat or kayak, you may want to cool off and get out on the water.

You can go swimming, kayaking and even sailing on the waters by Eungella Dam (though look out for signs that signal the no-go zones). There are buoys set up near the Dam Wall to indicate where you cannot pass, and it’s recommended not to get too close to the wall.

There is a boat ramp you can use or you can launch from the campsite, Eungella Dam Camping Ground.

6. Visit Finch Hatton Gorge

two girls on a trail Finch Hatton Gorge walk Mackay
Hiking at Finch Hatton

One of the best places to see the unique plants and fauna of the park is from Finch Hatton Gorge, where leaf litter scatters the floor and moss covered boulders rise out of the ground.

It’s one of the most rugged gorges in Queensland, and is most famous for its volcanic boulders and lush waterfalls.

It’s this gorge that gives Eungella the reputation for being one of Australia’s most diverse parks.

Be sure to visit Wheel of Fire Falls, a popular waterfall for swimming in the large pool beneath the falls. To get there, you must walk along a 1.4km hike with some steep uphill segments and stairs.

If you prefer a longer walk, take the 1 hour walk to Araluen Falls, also sometimes called Araluen Waterfall or Araluen Cascades.

7. Hike the Granite Bend Circuit

This 2.6km hike is a nice, easy loop trail that takes you along the Broken River.

This is a popular trail because it provides ample opportunities to stop and look for platypus in the creeks.

Where to Stay in Eungella National Park

We were staying at Broken River Resort, on the edge of Broken River in the rainforest.

It’s the perfect cool mountain retreat to escape from the North Queensland tropical heat. We checked in and headed straight down to the river for platypus viewing.

There’s a short boardwalk through the forest with several viewing platforms. It was quiet and serene until a group of school children arrived.

They swore they saw a platypus, but I was pretty sure it was a turtle, of which there were many. There’s no way a platypus would have appeared with all that noise.

turtle in water

After some time spent looking, and Kalyra’s complaints of a sore belly, we decided to head back to the cabin to rest before dinner.

Our lodge had some incredible views overlooking the valley and the serene sunset beyond. Broken River Mountain Resort offers spaciousness one or two bedroom lodges, or for budget travelers, a motel-style room.

Each room comes with a living area and small kitchen area, so they are self-contained and make you feel comfortable.

orange sky with rolling green hills

Eungella National Park Mackay

We had a lovely dinner together at Possums Table Restaurant in the lodge and then Kalyra schooled me in chess in the games section of the lodge after it.

What Is The Climate Of Eungella National Park?

rolling green hills in soft light with cows

“It can get cold around here,” Nicole, our guide, was telling me. She told me stories of frost on windows and the odd snowflake drops up in the mist-topped mountains.

“Really?” I just couldn’t believe it. We’re in the tropics, I’m sitting under the shade of a tree to pause the sweat from trickling down my face.

“Oh yeah. There are many nights I put the heater on. It’s starting to move into those cold months,” Nicole informed us.

I regretted my decision to pack just my light cardigan. Gulp.

Broken River banked by green forest
Broken River in Eungella National Park

We were headed up to the mountain top. Now when I say mountain in Australia, I don’t mean mountain like most of you probably know mountains. I’m talking 700 metres high.

Laughable right – if all the mountains in the world got together for a class photo, Australian mountains would be sitting on the chairs in the front row.

But, 700 metres is still high enough to get colder in the sub-tropical heat of North Queensland.

Just in case you’re still not sure of the tropical vibe of this area, we’re only one hours drive from the Whitsunday Islands. So, Queensland continues to surprise me.

If you’re planning on visiting Eungella, pack warm clothes for the evenings, just in case.

Final Thoughts

Cane fields Mackay

I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect of Eungella National Park. It’s quiet and unassuming, but slowly starting to speak up as a tourist destination that offers many treasures.

On the way in, we drove through endless fields of sugar cane, not something I’d have thought I’d ever find beautiful, but it was.

Cane fields Mackay

Tall canes rose above us on either side of the car, the mountains rising behind it and the landscape so lush and green.

We then drove through lush farmlands and rolling hills into the Broken River. It was stunning and reminded me in parts of the Daintree Valley.

Yes, Eungella is beautiful alright, and definitely worth checking out if you’re driving through Queensland.

We hope this guide helped you decide what to do in Eungella and gave you some insight into how to visit and why it’s special.

I travelled to Mackay in partnership with Mackay Tourism. To find more information on travel in Mackay click here. 

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