When you camp at a place with a name like Platypus Flat campground, then there’s a fair chance you might see a platypus. We however, weren’t so lucky.
They’re in the river there somewhere, but they weren’t playing the game this time. Oh well!
Platypus Flat campground is in the Nymboi Binderay National Park, near Dorrigo in northern NSW. Nymboi Binderay… “the mighty river” in the Gumbaynggirr language. And it is.
You drop down off the road into a steep-sided, narrow gully where the Nymboida River makes its way through the landscape. Rugged mountains tower over you from every direction, an ever-present reminder of the extremely steep and wild country you’re in.
A couple of long river pools stretch out in front of the campsites and are easily accessible. Just keep an eye out for snakes. We watched a large red-bellied black swim across the river, then disappear into the water lilies on the other side.
The constant sound of the rapids is like soothing background music, an ideal accompaniment to the river views.
Eighteen campsites are spaced along the narrow Nymboida riverfront, with plenty of shade, and fantastic views of the river. This is the kind of place you can easily spend a few days swimming, fishing and kayaking.
There’s always something happening on or around the river… whether it’s black cockatoos noisily foraging for seeds in the cypress pines, goannas ambling past your campsite, the occasional frog paying a visit or a fisherman trying their luck in the river.
And if you’re like us, you’ll find yourself staring at the deep pools at dawn and dusk, hoping for a glimpse of the elusive platypus.
By the way, if you fish… you must release any eastern freshwater cod. They’re an endangered species.
The campsite is accessible from Dorrigo, high up in the New England plateau of New South Wales. About 14km along the Tyringham Road, turn right into the gravel Moonpar Road and follow it for 7km until you get to Mills Road. Turn left into Mills Road and the campsite is about 8km further on.
Keep a close eye on the weather forecast before you head towards Platypus Flat campground. In the dry, you can get there with a conventional car. But after rain, the steep forest roads become very slippery.
Camping and Facilities
There’s six campsites (1- 6) suitable for camper trailers. The rest are behind bollards and best suited to tents or swags. However, if 1 – 6 are booked out and you have a rooftop tent, then you can fold out over the bollards on sites 7 and 8. We had site 7 and it was great.
Platypus Flat gets busy, so make sure you book online before you get there.
You’ll find drop toilets, shared fire pits, and National Parks provide some firewood. Don’t collect firewood. It strips the place bare and you’re actually removing habitat for all sorts of small creatures.
When we visited, the main toilets were temporary portable toilets because the permanent ones had burnt down in the fires a year prior. We could see where the fire had spotted on the far side of the river, jumped the river then roared up the mountainside.
These fires were unimaginable. A National Park ranger told us they had fires in the region from August to February. In total, he had spent 1,000 hours fighting fires… that’s the equivalent of six months at 40 hours per week!
So when there’s a large red “Total Fire Ban” displayed at the campground, take notice of it… unlike a whole lot of stupid people around us. Not only is it extremely dangerous, the $5,500 fine might make you think twice.
Bring your own drinking water and take all rubbish out with you. There is no mobile reception.
Chillin’ on the River
The weather in this mountain country can change in the blink of an eye. A cool, drizzly morning turned into a scorching hot day and we were spoilt for choices of ideal places to cool off.
After launching the kayak, it was a gentle paddle to the next rapids about 300 metres downstream. After making sure the kayak wouldn’t float away, we jumped out and had a swim in the large pool below the rapids.
And if you have any crazy ideas about kayaking down this river… be careful. There’s a sign warning of Grade 6 rapids further downstream. That’s serious white water, for experienced kayakers only.
We learnt an interesting and slightly unsettling piece of advice from the National Park ranger. Apparently bullrout or freshwater stonefish inhabit the river. Their sting is excruciatingly painful. The ranger said they prefer reedy waters rather than rapids.
If you’re wading, it’s best to wear a pair of water shoes (aqua shoes).
On the way in, you might have seen a sign to the Norman Jolly Memorial Grove. This is a must-see. Walk through magical remnant rainforest and marvel at the massive old-growth trees.
Moonpar Drive continues in a broad clockwise loop. The Red Cedar Walking Trail is a couple of kilometres past Platypus Flat and then you’ll come to the Tramline Walking Track. Platypus Flat is a good base from which to explore these.
There’s another campground, Cod Hole Campground. We didn’t go there, so can’t vouch for it. However, we do know it only has 7 campsites and is only accessible by 4WD. So we imagine it would be quite secluded.
Platypus Flat campground is just perfect if you’re looking for peace and quiet, plus somewhere to swim, kayak or fish. Even though there’s 18 sites, it never feels busy. And the noise of the rapids means you don’t hear the constant chatter of other campers.
Hopefully, you have more luck than us and spot a platypus! Next time…
Platypus Flat Campground is on Gumbaynggirr country.
Get your Traveller’s Guides
… and a whole lot more at our FREE RESOURCES Page!