Nestled amidst the pristine landscapes and untamed wilderness of Tasmania lies an extraordinary creature that seems to have stepped straight out of mythology and into reality, the elusive, the magnificent, platypus. With its duck-like bill, beaver-like tail and ability to lay eggs, the platypus is an incredible creature that continues to captivate the hearts of wildlife enthusiasts and adventurers alike. If you’re eager to catch a glimpse of the elusive platypus in Tasmania, look no further.
We’ve put together this guide to cover everything you need to know about platypus in Tasmania, such as: where you can see platypus in Tasmania, when you can see a platypus in Tasmania, how much it costs to see platypus in Tasmania, whether platypus are dangerous and so much more. So pack your camera and get ready for a once in a lifetime encounter with these beautiful creatures.
Where is the Best Place to See Platypus in Tasmania?
There are many great spots to see platypus in Tasmania, from wild rivers and tranquil lakes to indoor enclosures. Below we’ve listed the details of various locations to spot platypus in Tasmania, each of which offer a unique opportunity to witness the remarkable platypus.
Warrawee Forest Reserve: Our Recommendation
Our recommendation as the best place to see platypus in Tasmania is Warrawee Forest Reserve in Latrobe. Latrobe is known as ‘the platypus capital of the world’ and for good reason. With a large population of platypus who call this spot home, the Warrawee Forest Reserve stands as a haven for those seeking an up-close encounter with the elusive platypus in the wild.
On our first visit we were hesitant that we’d even see one platypus but we saw over 5! After our first visit we completely fell in love with the platypus and returned to Warrawee Forest Reserve 5 more times. Even though we visited Warrawee Forest Reserve on completely different days and different times (between 6:30am-1pm) we saw 5+ platypus every single visit. Speaking to locals, it seems that as long as you rock up at the right time, platypus sightings are guaranteed at Warrawee Forest Reserve.
Warrawee Forest Reserve is an outdoor enthusiasts paradise with an array of diverse walking and mountain biking trails. Most important for spotting platypus is the riverside trail that walks alongside the picturesque banks of the Mersey River. The trail runs for approximately 1.6km. Not only a haven for platypus seekers, the trail is a visual masterpiece that is absolutely stunning, with tranquil waters and breathtaking nature. The trail starts around 10 metres away from the car park, follow the gravel road that branches off from the car park and you’ll immediately spot a small dirt path to the right that takes you right on the river bank.
Be careful after rainfall as sections of the trail can get muddy and wet. They were only short sections and we were fine navigating through them but we’d definitely recommend wearing hiking boots that you don’t mind getting dirty! Alternatively you can loop back to the main gravel road to avoid these sections, the gravel road and riverside trail intersect multiple times so you can flip between them.
Cost: There are no fees for visiting Warrawee Forest Reserve. Making this the perfect way to see platypus in the wild for free.
Another super popular spot for seeing platypus in Tasmania and according to the Australian Platypus Monitoring Network, the best place in Australia to see platypus in the wild, is the Tasmanian Arboretum. Platypus can be seen reliably on most days in the Founder’s Lake at the Tasmanian Arboretum.
A haven for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a peaceful retreat, the arboretum is 66ha of diverse scenery with a remarkable array of tree and plant species and an abundance of wildlife. The arboretum has a number of well-maintained walking trails that wind their way through this sanctuary. Each trail is unique, transporting you to your own little oasis of native flora and tranquility. In the heart of the arboretum is Founders Lake which is where you’ll need to be for spotting platypus.
Sit on the water’s edge patiently waiting for a platypus to appear or enjoy a slow walk around the lake while keeping your eyes peeled. From what we’ve seen online, with a bit of patience sightings are almost guaranteed.
Cost: At the time of writing this (September 2023) admission to the Tasmanian Arboretum is $5 per adult. Making this a low cost way to see platypus in the wild. The Arboretum is a not for profit community organisation ran by a dedicated team of volunteers, so the admission fee goes towards upkeep of the beautiful grounds so is money well spent.
Images taken from the Tasmanian Arboretum website.
Adding to the list of great places to see platypus in Tasmania is Deloraine, a charming historic town just 30 minutes west of Launceston. Wander along the banks of the Meander River at the right time and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a platypus.
Deloraine actually have a free guided tour to see platypus in the wild which is a ‘must-add’ to your itinerary if you’re in the area. An incredible opportunity to see platypus, the tour runs for approximately 1 hour and involves a gentle walk along the river foreshore with a knowledgable guide who teaches you how to spot platypus. Most tours will include a platypus sighting but even if you don’t spot a platypus you will walk away with the knowledge on how to continue the search and look for platypus on your own.
If you’re not interested in joining the guided tour you can walk along the Meander River foreshore in your own time. There’s a 1.9km loop trail along the river in the heart of town that’s not only the perfect way to look for platypus but is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of Deloraine. The trail passes a suspension bridge and local art dotted around the trail, making it a varied and enjoyable short walk.
Cost: There are no fees for both the guided tour and walking along the Meander River yourself, making Deloraine a free spot for seeing platypus in the wild. If you’d like to book the free guided tour you can by phoning 03 6362 1029.
Continuing our journey of seeing platypus in Tasmania, next on our list is the coastal, industrial port town of Burnie (1.5 hours north west of Launceston). In Burnie you get the best of both worlds; coastal charm and platypus sightings. Platypus sightings in Burnie are situated inland within the tranquil Fern Glade Reserve, amidst lush greenery and the calm waters of Emu River.
The Fern Glade Reserve offers a dedicated walking trail that follows the banks of Emu River. It also features amenities such as; toilets, barbecues and picnic facilities, making this the perfect spot for a leisurely day by the river, having a picnic and looking for platypus. The return walk spans just 1km and is an easy, flat track that is also wheelchair accessible, making it suitable for everyone. The trail also features lots of informational signs with facts on the local flora, fauna and region, enriching your experience with a touch of education amid the natural beauty.
From what we’ve seen online sightings seem to be less frequent in Burnie than in some of the other spots we listed but it’s still a beautiful spot to try your luck if you’re in the area. Make sure to visit at the right time to increase your chances of seeing a platypus.
Cost: There are no fees for entering Fern Glade Reserve so this is another free way to see platypus in Tasmania.
Images taken from the Discover Tasmania Tourism website.
Adding to the list of platypus spotting locations in Tasmania is the unexpected gem of the Hobart Rivulet. Flowing from the base of Mount Wellington and through the heart of Hobart, this urban waterway is surprisingly home to the elusive and incredible platypus.
There’s a 2.7km trail that follows the Hobart Rivulet upstream from the city to the foot of Mount Wellington, with a watchful eye, patience and a little luck you might be rewarded with a platypus sighting following the rivulet in this urban oasis. A unique juxtaposition of wildlife and cityscape, the trail offers a blend of nature and city life.
Seeing as most of the spots we’ve listed as great spots to see platypus in Tasmania are towards the Northern end of Tasmania this is perfect for anyone who’s South and close to Hobart.
The platypus who call the Hobart Rivulet home have made quite the name for themselves, so much so that an organisation has been setup specifically for them. The ‘Hobart Rivulet Platypus’ is an organisation setup by Pete Walsh specifically for the protection and conservation of Hobart’s urban platypus population. A documentary ‘The Platypus Guardian’ was put together on these platypus, the challenges they face and Pete’s story. The documentary really moved us and we’d recommend watching it if you’re interested.
Cost: There are no fees for visiting and walking along the Hobart Rivulet. Making this a free way to see platypus in the wild.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, the Platypus House in Beauty Point (45 minutes north of Launceston) offers a unique opportunity to witness platypus up close. Setup specifically to increase public awareness and understanding about monotremes, Platypus House is a guaranteed location to see platypus (and echidnas!).
In their 45 minute tour you’ll learn all about platypus and echidnas from a knowledgeable guide who’ll give you a comprehensive run down on these incredible monotremes. Following this insightful introduction, you’ll proceed to the platypus room where you’ll be able to observe these fascinating creatures up-close as they’re swimming in a tank. After seeing the platypus, the tour continues to an echidna room where the adorable echidnas are provided with food bowls to enjoy a snack right in front of you. There are 5 platypus and 3 echidnas who call Platypus House home, each of which are rescues.
While the experience is curated, it’s still an incredible opportunity to see platypus in Tasmania, particularly for those who may not have the chance to encounter them in the wild. It’s also a great way to see them no matter the weather conditions since the Platypus House is indoor.
Cost: At the time of writing this (September 2023) tours at the Platypus House cost $29.50 per adult, $14 per child (4-16 years) and children under 4 are free. Making this a more expensive way to see platypus but a guaranteed way to see them as they’re in enclosures.
Images taken from the Platypus House website.
Other Locations We’ve Seen Platypus in Tasmania
Having spent 6 months travelling Tasmania and visiting the many hidden gems and waterways throughout, we’ve spotted platypus in a number of other locations beyond the popular platypus-sighting spots already mentioned. Below we’ve listed a number of other locations where we saw platypus in Tasmania.
1. Northeast Park (Scottsdale) – A popular campsite that backs onto a stunning park in Scottsdale, we spent 6 nights camping at Northeast Park and saw a platypus every single day. We went for a morning walk (around 6am) throughout the park and early afternoon (around 2pm) every day. We never saw a platypus on our afternoon walk but always saw one on our morning walk in the large lake that sits next to the day use car park and links up to Tuckers Creek or the small lake (with no connecting creeks) that sits in the middle of the park.
2. Lake Rosebery Foreshore Campsite (Tullah) – A breathtakingly beautiful campsite. We camped right on the tip of the foreshore overlooking the lake for a few days. On our first night, after packing up our kayak (around 6pm), we saw a platypus pop up out of the water right in front of us. The platypus quickly moved on and swam around the camping area and towards the town centre.
3. Wilmot River (Kindred)– Not quite an attraction or a spot to seek out but in passing when driving to a wildlife rehabilitator we saw a platypus in the Wilmot River near Alma Bridge. This river splits off from River Forth so if you’re camping, kayaking or visiting a spot near either river make sure to keep your eyes out for platypus.
4. Lilydale Falls (Lilydale) – An amazing attraction (and another great free campsite) that is home to platypus. Unfortunately we didn’t see the resident platypus ourselves but heard from another camper in the morning that he had seen the platypus the night before (around sunset). We’ve also heard from a few other sources that they saw the platypus too. Sightings are sporadic but possible, either way Lilydale Falls is worth a visit seeing a platypus there would just be a bonus.
Frequently Asked Questions on Seeing Platypus in Tasmania at Warrawee Forest Reserve
Below we’ll delve deeper into seeing platypus in Tasmania at Warrawee Forest Reserve, covering frequently asked questions and everything you need to know. From the best time to see platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve and what facilities Warrawee Forest Reserve have, to an in-depth step by step list on the best way to spot a platypus.
When is the Best Time to See Platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
Platypus can be seen at Warrawee Forest Reserve anytime throughout the day. The best time to see them however is early in the morning or late in the afternoon (around dusk or dawn).
While typically regarded as nocturnal as this is when they’re most active, platypus can also be active during the day, particularly during Winter or on overcast days. During Summer (more broadly from mid spring to mid autumn) platypus are mostly nocturnal, hunting primarily during the night, early morning and early afternoon. Therefore, we’d definitely recommend heading to Warrawee Forest Reserve at dawn or dusk (particularly during these months) if you want the best possible chance to see a platypus.
We visited Warrawee Forest Reserve 5 times on completely different days and different times (between 6:30am-1pm) during Winter and still saw multiple platypus every single visit.
How Much does it Cost to See the Platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
Seeing platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve is completely free! Entry to the reserve is free and parking at the reserve is also free.
Are Platypus Always at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
No, platypus are wild animals so there is no guarantee they will definitely be there when you visit. However, there’s a huge population of platypus who call the Mersey River and Warrawee Forest Reserve home all year round.
We visited Warrawee Forest Reserve 5 times on completely different days and different times during Winter and we saw 5+ platypus every single visit.
Are the Platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve Hard to Spot?
No not at all, the extensive platypus population, prime vantage points and calm waters of Warrawee Forest Reserve make it the perfect location to spot platypus easily. Once you know what to look for it’s extremely easy to spot a platypus in the Mersey River. We’ve gone into detail in the question below on the best way to spot a platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve and exactly what to lookout for.
What’s the Best Way to Spot a Platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
We’ve given some tips on the best way to spot a platypus at Warrawee Forest Reserve below:
1. Visit at the Right Time – As mentioned previously, platypus are typically most active during the early morning and late afternoon making dawn and dusk prime viewing times. Arrive at Warrawee Forest Reserve before sunrise or as the sun starts to set to increase your chances of seeing them.
2. Choose the Right Spot – Prior to visiting Warrawee Forest Reserve we saw online that the best way to see platypus is at the end of the trail at ‘platypus pool’. We actually didn’t spot any platypus there during our visits but saw multiple consistently within 500m of the car park. We’d recommend checking the river from the car park when you first arrive and if you don’t see a platypus within a couple of minutes we’d recommend slowly walking along the trail while looking out for them in the river.
3. Stay Quiet and Move Slowly – Platypus aren’t known as elusive without reason, they are cautious creatures who stay alert to any potential threats, if they notice you they will swiftly retreat. Therefore it’s important to maintain a low profile, don’t make any noises and move slowly. As you’re walking along the trail looking for a platypus do so quietly and slowly. Once you spot a platypus stay as still and as quiet as possible, if you need to move we’d only recommend moving when the platypus dives underwater. Platypus dive for 30-60 seconds giving you a short window of time to move into a better position.
4. Look For Movement – The best way to spot a platypus is by noticing movement in the water. The river at Warrawee Forest Reserve has very calm water, making it really easy to spot movement that could be from a platypus. Once you know what to look for it becomes easy to spot platypus off in the distance. The first thing to keep an eye out for is a ‘bullseye’ pattern of circular ripples in the water, this pattern is quite strong and appears immediately when a platypus dives before gradually fading away over the next 5-10 seconds. While the platypus is underwater you may spot a few small air bubbles rising to the surface but it’s hard to first detect a platypus from these bubbles as bubbles can appear from other creatures or movement in the water.
On the left is a recent and well defined bullseye pattern while the right is a more faded bullseye patten a few seconds after a platypus has emerged from the water.
Besides the bullseye pattern, keep an eye out for a strong narrow v-shaped wake in the water, these are created when a platypus is swimming on the water’s surface. Look carefully and you should also be able to see the top of the platypus’s head and back at the front of that v-shape wake.
5. Check Direction and Recognise Their Patterns – Platypus follow consistent patterns while foraging or swimming. Once you’ve spotted a platypus pay attention to these; which direction are they heading and how long do they typically dive for. This will help you anticipate how long they’ll stay underwater for and where they’ll next surface after a dive. Knowing this can help you get in the best spot to see the platypus as clear and close as possible.
6. Get a Clear View – Once you’ve spotted a platypus you’ll want to position yourself to have the best view possible without any obstructions. Find a spot in the direction the platypus is heading that is clear of any trees or bushes that may block your view of the river. Also keep an eye out for any spots along the trail that take you close to the river bank, some sections of the trail take you low to the water anyway but some of the more elevated sections have side paths that you can head down to be right on the bank. If you head down one of these side paths just be careful not to slip as they can get muddy during wet weather.
7. Stay Respectful – Seeing these creatures in the wild is an incredible opportunity but keep in mind that these platypus are wild and they deserve their space. Keep a respectful distance from them and don’t try to touch or disrupt them. If you want to capture photos do so discreetly and make sure not to use flash. Also make sure to be respectful of your surroundings, leave no trace.
Is there Parking at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
Yes, Warrawee Forest Reserve has a large sealed car park that is free of charge. At the main car park there is 1 accessible parking spot, 1 oversized vehicle parking spot and 30+ standard parking spots, some of these standard spots are positioned inline with each other so oversized vehicles can park over 2 spots if they need.
In addition to the main car park there is street parking available along Shale Road further back from the main car park.
If you’re visiting during peak season (school holidays) we’d recommend getting to Warrawee Forest Reserve early to secure a spot so you can see the platypus. The spot is popular with local and visiting mountain bikers, fishers, walkers and platypus spotters so it can get busy. We visited during ‘off season’ (in winter) and always managed to get a parking spot, no matter what time of day we visited.
Is the Road to Warrawee Forest Reserve Sealed?
Yes, Shale Road (the road that leads to the Warrawee Forest Reserve car park) is sealed, making it suitable for all vehicles to drive on. The car park is also sealed.
Is there Phone Reception at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
Yes, there is phone reception at Warrawee Forest Reserve. We had great Telstra signal the entire way along the walking track.
Are there Toilets at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
Yes, Warrawee Forest Reserve has 1 unisex ambulant toilet and 3 standard unisex toilets. They are clean flushing toilets with toilet paper, hand soap, a sink and paper towel. Every time we visited Warrawee Forest Reserve the toilets were in fantastic condition.
What Facilities are at Warrawee Forest Reserve?
In addition to the toilets available at Warrawee Forest Reserve they also have; a bike wash station, 2 water fountains, bins, multiple picnic benches, 1 unisex ambulant shower and 1 standard unisex shower. The showers are free to use with cold water and require a gold coin for hot water.
Frequently Asked Questions About Platypus
As you embark on this adventure to see platypus in Tasmania you’re bound to have some questions about their biology and habits that make them truly one-of-a-kind. In this section we’ve decided to answer frequently asked questions about platypus, from what they eat and where they sleep to whether they’re dangerous and how long they can hold their breath.
What do Platypus Eat?
Platypus eat worms, insect larvae, yabbies, freshwater shrimp and small fish. They forage with their bill amongst the rocks and leaf litter at the bottom of the water. Electroreceptors in the skin of their bill help them locate their prey as they detect tiny electrical currents generated by the prey’s movements. When they find food they store it within large pouches in their cheeks and chew it (with grinding plates in their mouths) when they reach the water’s surface.
When are Platypus Most Active?
Platypus are mostly nocturnal and usually sleep majority of the day. They are most active late in the evening, at night and early in the morning. With that being said, they can be active in the middle of the day, more so in winter when the weather is cooler.
Where do Platypus Sleep?
Platypus sleep in underground burrows in the bank along a body of water. These burrows are typically hard to spot as they can be located underwater and are often hidden by overhanging vegetation, long grass or an undercut bank.
There are two types of burrows; nesting burrows (for mothers to raise their offspring) and camping burrows (all other burrows). While a mother with offspring will stick to one nesting burrow, adult platypus will occupy multiple different camping burrows. These burrows are typically just large enough to accommodate the occupants, if it’s a nesting burrow it will be large enough to fit the mother platypus and her offspring and if it’s a camping burrow it will just be large enough to fit a single platypus.
Are Platypus Dangerous or Aggressive?
Platypus are not aggressive, they are typically quite shy animals who will dive underwater and swim away to protect themselves and avoid confrontation. However, a male platypus has venom containing spurs on each of it’s hind legs, these spurs are about 12mm long and look like a large, sharp claw. If a male platypus is unable to escape it will use these spurs to stab the ‘attacker’. The venom injected from the spur causes extreme pain and swelling in humans and could be fatal to small animals.
If you see a platypus in Tasmania treat it with respect; give it space and don’t try to touch or handle it. If you see an injured platypus contact a relevant rescue service, in Tasmania this is Bonorong Wildlife Rescue who are Tasmania’s largest 24-hour wildlife rescue service. You can contact them on 0447 264 625.
It was hard to capture but if you look carefully at these photos you’ll see a large spur on the back of the hind leg of this male platypus. We didn’t notice it in person but noticed it later when we reviewed our footage.
How Big are Platypus?
Platypus are quite small and are often smaller than what people expect. They also vary in size significantly. Males average a length of 40-63cm and a weight of 800-3000g and females average a length of 37-55cm long and a weight of 600-1700g. Interestingly, Tasmanian platypus are actually much larger than platypus found on the mainland.
When we saw a platypus in Tasmania for the first time we were surprised at how small it was. We had only ever seen platypus in pictures and videos online where it’s difficult to tell how big they are so we had this expectation of them being much bigger. It was surprising seeing how little they were especially compared to the massive river that they were swimming in.
What does a Platypus Look Like?
Platypus have a paddle shaped tail, a flat rounded bill, short limbs with webbed feet and strong claws and thick dark brown fur that is lighter on their underside. Platypus are often referred to as looking like a mix of multiple different animals with the tail of a beaver, the bill of a duck, the body and fur of an otter and the short stubby limbs of a mole.
How Long do Platypus Live?
While the lifespan of a platypus will depend on various factors such as habitat conditions, predation and access to food, it is said that platypus can live up to 20 years old. In captivity, where they are protected from many of the threats they face in the wild they typically live longer, in the wild they are said to average around 12 years.
Why are Platypus Endangered?
Platypus are listed as ‘near threatened’ by the IUCN with the greatest threats being; habitat loss (due to vegetation clearing, urbanisation, river regulation, pollution and natural disasters), private and illegal netting and traps (causing trapped platypus to drown), predation (from wild and domestic animals such as foxes and dogs), disease (such as the fungal infection Mucor Amphibiorum) and vehicle collisions.
How Long Can Platypus Hold Their Breath?
At most a platypus can hold their breath and remain underwater for as long as 11 minutes before it needs to resurface. This is only when a platypus feels threatened and is not a common occurrence. In this situation the platypus will hide under an object to stay immobile and will drop their heart rate to as low as 1.2 beats per minute which allows them to stay underwater longer.
Typically, when hunting, each dive a platypus makes lasts between 20-60 seconds. While we were spotting platypus in Tasmania at Warrawee Forest Reserve we timed multiple platypus dives, the longest we recorded was 53 seconds and the shortest we recorded was 33 seconds.
Enjoy Your Trip to See Platypus in Tasmania!
That’s the end of our guide on everything you need to know about where to see platypus in Tasmania. We hope this post has helped you prepare for your own incredible wildlife encounter with platypus in Tasmania.
Watch Our Experience Where we See Platypus in Tasmania!
If you’d like to watch our video where we see platypus in Tasmania you can in our YouTube video below.