Eungella (pronounced 'young galah') and Broken River are about an hour inland from MacKay...we highly recommend a visit...
We made a long (seven hour) drive from Carnarvon Gorge through Blackwater, Dingo and Nebo, finally turning towards Eungella National Park – a charming area in the mountains about an hour inland from Mackay. Eden Hills Farmstay was our snug little home among the cows for three nights. Our accommodation was a little quirky and warm and very good value – a lodging on the top of the hill with almost 360 degree views. Our first foray after settling in was to go and explore the area - we rejoined the main road, and visited the Sky Window, a viewing platform that gives 180 degree access to the Pioneer Valley, through which we had travelled to get here. Breathtaking!
Then on a few kilometres to Broken River where there is an Information Centre (closed the day we visited) and the Platypus Lodge Café (delightful, and apparently the weekend waffles are worth a visit). As soon as we arrived in the carpark, and with camera clearly visible, a fellow bird photographer approached to give us the benefit of his experience as to where to look and for what. Unfortunately we didn’t ask his name, but his advice was terrific. Thank you sir! Accordingly, we walked into the Fern Flat camping area (about 500 metres) and then had a good look around the trees and leaf litter near the five campsites near the river. A scrub wren and an eastern yellow robin were our first ‘catches’.
We ambled through the bush alongside the river, hoping for a noisy pitta (nup!) and then we came across enthusiastic photographers beside the river – platypi were on show! We had great fun watching and photographing, enjoying all the oohs and aahs from the appreciative visitors.
We paused for lunch and chatted to the four brush turkeys who wanted to share our wraps, then ambled to the bridge again. We then went to the other side of the bridge and walked both the Rainforest Discovery walk and the Granite Belt. The rainforest was lush and the water crystal and flowing well. We heard but could not see whipbirds, but we did manage to see and photograph a golden whistler. The sun had come out and the light was better.
That’s when the bird action started: “Whomp!” That was the azure kingfisher spearing its fish beneath us, and then gorging on his lunch before flying up to our height and perching right in front of us in a sun-drenched tree. Bird photographer’s dream! Then a second kingfisher appeared, and disappeared just as quickly. But all of a sudden, there was action in the trees around us: Mr and Mrs Australasian figbird (such beautiful birds), Lewin’s honeyeaters, a Jacky Winter, and – how splendid – a Wompoo Fruit Pigeon – what a bird!
Next day we decided to visit Eungella Dam so we headed down the unsealed Diggings Road – it was lumpy but okay. We got as far as the Diggings campsite alongside another part of the Broken River, only to be (literally) cut off at the pass: the ‘bridge’ across the river was non existent, we needed a snorkel to drive over the rapidly flowing water over river stones, and we would have struggled to cross in our AWD, so we retreated. We walked briefly around the camping area, and enjoyed the ubiquitous camp kookaburra (there’s always a kookaburra wherever we go – maybe it’s the same one and it follows us or maybe they hone in on carparks looking for easy prey, easy prey being picnickers not concentrating on their meals!). Not to be deterred, we headed back down the mountain towards the gorge at Finch Hatton. En route, around Cattle Creek, two raptors – kites – were perching high in the dead trees and circling the sugar cane paddocks for snacks. We enjoyed watching and photographing them.
Then on to the gorge we went. It was easy to find, and quite popular, being a Saturday on a long weekend. We walked the 1.3km into Araluen Cascades and back. It was a delightful walk, but no birds visible, except again, one lovely eastern yellow robin. We decided that Broken River had been so lovely the day before, it was worth another visit – so off we went. Not much in the bird department – except that kookaburra again…and more platipi but it was a great day.
And that was our visit to Eungella – we saw some new birds and the playpi, the landscape was breathtaking, and our accommodation was tops. We highly recommend Eden Hills Farmstay– Matt and Jemma were excellent hosts and the farm animals were a delight.