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JOHN ROZENTALS can’t believe his luck in the Mary Valley when he spots seven platypuses in the wild

March 2, 2018 Destination Feature, Headline News No Comments Email Email

I’m no stranger to early starts but I’ll have to admit that it’s the first time I’d been up at first light and in a kayak searching for platypuses — or is it ‘platypi’ or is the plural the same as the singular?

I’d been picked up on the edge of the Queensland town of Imbil by Ian Harling, who runs an adventure touring company called Ride on Mary (www.rideonmary.com), and we’re now kayaking along Yabba Creek, a tributary of the Mary River.

First light is a great time to be out here and apparently the best time to catch a glimpse of a platypus. It’s calm and slightly eerie but it is just so beautiful, though the water level is quite low and Ian has to drag our kayak, with me still happily ensconced in it, through some shallow bits.

We’re surrounded by tall timber and lush undergrowth, and were in luck. We’re suitably quiet and Ian taps me on the shoulder and points to, not one, but seven elusive platypuses in the couple of kilometres of water that we traverse.

Breakfast at Amamoor Lodge … showing just how lucky with premium foods this part of Queensland is.

They’re incredibly shy creatures and all we really see is their arched, fur-covered backs as they dive for cover, but they’re there all right and it’s a genuinely rewarding experience. People can’t believe I’ve spotted seven of the things. To see one in the wild is apparently incredibly rare.

We also see a large turtle and a huge lungfish, not to mention a water dragon, and a couple of other lizards sunning themselves on logs.

I’d been to the Sunshine Coast before, and experienced three distinct sub-regions — the built-up coastal strip around Maroochydore and Caloundra, the hippyish hinterland around Maleny and Montville, and the laid-back, sophisticated Noosa and surrounding villages.

Ian Harling … a passionate ambassador for the Mary Valley and extraordinary spotter of platypuses.

But I’d never been far inland from Noosa, along the Mary River, and it proves to be another charming and distinctive sub-region, with towns such as Imbil, Kenilworth, Kandanga and Amamoor, surrounded by dairies and dense forest.

There’s a good choice of accommodation available, including Melawondi Spring Retreat (www.melawondispringretreat.com.au), which Tony and Tanya Fisher have established as a very classy, secluded retreat set in 30-or-acres of natural bushland.

It’s aimed right at the top the market and comes with a plush king-size bed, free-standing spa, double walk-through shower, and kitchen equipped with gorgeous appliances — and a complimentary bottle of bubbles in the fridge.

Malcolm Buckley … preparing breakfast at Amamoor Lodge.

It’s a bit of a foodie mecca, where Tony and Tanya run cooking classes and love to show off platters of the freshest local ingredients, which I devour on their deck during my evening there.

Tanya also prepares a delicious hamper for me to have for lunch at the delightful Amamoor State Forest picnic area.

The next day it’s off for a night at Amamoor Lodge (www.amamoorlodge.com.au), which was once part of an 800-acre farm that featured fairly basic single men’s quarters.

These days it’s run by Christine and Malcolm Buckley, and those basic quarters have been extended to form a very comfortable main lodge with a charming lounge room and broad veranda overlooking a swimming pool and surrounding countryside.

Dinner at Melawondi Spring Retreat … a selection of the best local produce beautifully presented.

Malcolm’s love for cooking is shown by the dinner he prepares — an entrée of pickled beetroot served with plum jelly, goats cheese and horseradish cheese; main course of roast beef with madeira sauce and crème forestiere, served with puréed sweet potato, spinach and snap peas; and for dessert, coconut and mango tres leche (three different milks) cake with raspberry coulis.

He also prepares breakfast, served on the veranda, the following morning. It’s headlined by a platter of fresh local fruit, which is followed by poached served with bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms — a very satisfying way to start the day.

Up the road is the main settlement in the Mary Valley, Gympie, which is making the most of its railway history by restoring the hundred-year-old Mary Valley Rattler (www.maryvalleyrattler.com.au) and reopening its refurbished station and tea rooms to the public.

Tony and Tanya Fisher … aiming Melawondi Spring Retreat squarely at the top of the market.

The work is a credit to a bunch of volunteers who have put hours of blood, sweat and tears into bringing that railway history back to life.

But driving back to the airport after a refreshing local ale and hearty lunch at Eumundi’s Imperial Hotel (www.imperialhoteleumundi.com.au), it was those seven platypuses the day before that kept springing to mind … seven platypuses … un-bloody-believable, as my late Dad would have said!

Disclosure: John Rozentals was a guest of Visit Sunshine Coast (www.visitsunshinecoast.com).

Written by John Rozentals

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