Some items on the bucket list are more laborious 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 make it happen. Finally!
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!
And I almost skipped this opportunity. As we were driving around NSW for our Xmas holiday road trip, we had the option to make a detour on our way from the coast to Mount Kosciuszko to try to spot a platypus at the Bombala Reserve. We first decided it wasn’t worth it as, many times, we wasted hours trying to see the shy creature. But closer to the intersection, we hesitated. We stuck to the plan for a few hundred metres before turning around to follow the sign to head towards the Platypus country. One of those days when our hearts speak in unison louder than our reasonable minds.
Half an hour later, we arrived in Bombala. It looked promising: all the signs in town had an image of a platypus. It 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, check out the Blue Lake at Jenolan Caves.
We also tried our luck at Platypus Hole, in Boonoo Boonoo National Park, about three hour 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 Northern Queensland (Mackay Region, not too far from the Whitsundays), make a detour to Eungella.
How to find a platypus in the wild
We could see a platypus in the middle of the afternoon at Bombala Reserve, with light rain and a bit of wind. However, the best time to see a platypus is at dawn or dusk and when there is no movement in the water.
That’s the time when they leave their look for food. Platypus dive in to catch invertebrates like shrimps and go back to the surface to breathe. When they’re at the surface, they make a V shape in the water. And that’s when you can spot the elusive animal.
Don’t get your expectations too high: platypus scare easy, and they’ll 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 platform, so we were far away. However, the height was great to see the shapes in the water better. Without binoculars, you’ll only see shapes moving.
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, platypus are as fascinating as bizarre. If you want to learn more about this very special animal, read this page from the NSW Government.
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?
I created this map from what I have heard from other travellers I met who also tried to spot platypus in the wild and succeeded.
So far, the only place where I found a platypus in the wild myself was Bombala. Bombala is approximately five hours away from Sydney and six hours away from Melbourne. It doesn’t make a weekend destination itself, but it’s a detour worth doing if you are visiting more popular places nearby.
Bombala was a one-hour detour when we were on our way from NSW East Coast to Mount Kosciuszko. It made a great stop after two-hour driving from Narooma. It also takes two hours to drive to Kosciuszko National Park from Bombala.
Save this for later, add it to your Pinterest board: