Fern Glade Reserve is a perfect example of the extremes in environment found in Tasmania. Drive barely 4kms from the centre of Burnie, a city on the north west coast with an industrial port no less, and you arrive at this peaceful, natural oasis. The Emu River runs through the valley, and promises an opportunity to see a Tasmanian platypus… if you’re lucky!

Fern Glade - Emu River

Emu River: Fern Glade Reserve

Fern Glade Reserve: Platypus Mission

During our recent stay in Burnie, we went to Fern Glade Reserve knowing it offered the best chance to see a platypus. And we REALLY wanted to see one. Desperately! So we timed our visit for early evening; apparently this would give us the best chance to see the elusive, semi-aquatic mammal.

The level path that runs along the edge of the Emu River is dotted with interpretive signs about the platypus. The mammal is endemic to eastern Australia, but the Tasmanian platypus is larger than its mainland counterpart, and spends more time on land. With the entrance to their burrows often built above the water-line, your chances of a successful search should be higher in Tasmania than in other parts of the country.

Fern Glade - Walking Tracks

Walking track: Fern Glade

There’s a sculpture not far from the entrance, showing what to look for. We knew the key was searching in silence, so we cajoled the kids into toning down their enthusiasm for the mission. And we were at Fern Glade at the optimum time. Surely we’d see one? We looked, and looked, and looked… but nothing.

Fern Glade - Platypus Sculpture

Platypus sculpture: Fern Glade Reserve

Walking Tracks, Tree Ferns & Native Orchids

Thankfully, there’s other reasons to enjoy Fern Glade. A young couple quietly ate their take-away dinner at the water’s edge, with their Auto Hertz rental car parked a few metres away. While the tourists ate their burgers, we ventured along the walking track, lined by massive tree ferns.

You can drive into the reserve via the main entrance off Fernglade Road, or from a second entrance 500m up-river. Visitors have access to barbecue and picnic facilities; and strategically-placed viewing platforms have been built out over the water’s edge.

Fern Glade - Walking & Picnics

Fern Glade: picnic tables and barbecue facilities

But Fern Glade Reserve does have another major attraction for flora (rather than fauna) enthusiasts. Native orchids grow along the trail… more than a dozen species, apparently. Probably much easier to find than a platypus.

Fern Glade - Native Orchids

Fern Glade Reserve: native orchids

Lynn to the Platypus Rescue

When Lynn Gorman read about our failed attempt at platypus-spotting, as we compared it to our earlier strike-out in Deloraine, she wrote…

Deloraine definitely has platypus in the river. We stayed in the caravan park on the river bank, took an evening walk and spent at least 30mins on the footbridge watching a platypus swimming around. Managed to get lots of photos and even some video! It’s just a matter of knowing where to go and being in the right place at the right time; sundown is best.

Lynn is also the reader who sent us photos of novelty mailboxes taken during her Tasmanian holiday to share. This time, she’s provided a photo of the platypus she watched during her visit to Deloraine.

Fern Glade - Deloraine Platypus Sighting

Platypus: Deloraine Tasmania (photo by Lynn Gorman)

The real thing actually looks very similar to what’s represented in the sculpture, and gives us hope that one day, we will spot one. Whether it happens in Fern Glade Reserve; Deloraine, or maybe even Geeveston or Latrobe (the town is promoted as the Platypus Capital of the World, after all)… time will tell.

Fern Glade - Platypus

Latrobe: Platypus Capital of the World (photo by Dan Fellow)

Map: Fern Glade Reserve, Tasmania…

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