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Stay Accommodation/Cliff House on Platypus Gorge

Escape Southern Highlands stays at a secluded riverside retreat and tries to meet its elusive residents

Ornithorynchus anatinus is a curious creature. This iconic Australian monotreme with its duck bill, beaver tail and webbed feet so confounded the first Europeans to examine a specimen they judged it a hoax, believing it several animals sewn together.

Taxonomy aside, the publicity shy platypus (Mulunggang in the local Gundungurra and Ngunnawal dialects) can trace it lineage to prehistoric times and is particular about its habitat. Freshwater rivers throughout Tasmania and along the east and southeast coast, such as the Wollondilly River in our own backyard, are their lifeblood. Roger Fagan totally gets this. 17 years ago when Roger, 76, first laid eyes on his 80 hectare property at Paddy’s River with its three kilometres of pristine river frontage, he also knew this was the perfect home for him.

“I had always dreamed of having river frontage because when there is a drought and the dams run dry and you haven’t got any water, the river keeps on flowing,’ Roger says. “The estate agent drove me down to the river that day and I said ‘where do I sign?”

Owner of a company which manufacturers camping trailers, in 2015 Roger handed control to his son, made the move permanently to Paddy’s Creek and started Platypus Valley Camping.

Today his secluded property has 15 different camp sites scattered along the river. One site has power while others have hot showers and long drop compost loos. All have fire pits and there are BBQ’s. There is a romantic bush hut which sleeps two and a homestead which sleeps more than 14. With pets welcome and motorbikes and quads not, this camping retreat has proved the perfect way to bankroll his and partner Nikki’s retirement.

‘We are so busy at the moment which is fabulous given the past few months we’ve all had. All our camp sites are booking up before long weekends and the Cliff House at Platypus Gorge has gone berserk.’

I’m here with my eldest teenager for a midweek stay. The promise of spotting a platypus did it for me.  The teenager is happy at the promise of WiFi.

These are the traditional lands of the Gundungurra and Ngunnawal peoples. In 1818 Charles Throsby, surveyor James Meehan and Hamilton Hume crossed Paddy’s River from Moss Vale in the hope of finding a road to the coast and Jervis Bay. Our trip is easier. It takes 30 minutes from Moss Vale out across the Hume Highway, past Cayonleigh and onto the rich grazing paddocks of Paddy’s River. The last part of the trip is via dirt road and prone to flooding so leave the Porsche at home and bring the 4WD instead.

Perched high on a cliff, the Cliff House barn conversion is tucked away from all other campers. It is also toasty warm thanks to a wood heater. Inside an open plan kitchen and living atrium opens onto three bedrooms, two with queen beds and fabulous views over the Wollondilly and the other with two singles. There is also a queen sofa bed. Linen and  towels are supplied and pets are welcome. There are basic essentials like tea and coffee provided but you’ll need to ensure you bring everything else foodwise. It’s 20 minutes away to Sutton Forest or Berrima for a great coffee or lunch and Moss Vale is ten five minutes further for all your grocery needs. As darkness falls, I take a glass of red outside onto the house length deck and look at the night sky. The rushing of the Wollondilly River is the only sound for miles.

In the morning I head down early to the river. It is a glorious spot. Fishing, canoeing and of course, swimming are favourite pastimes for Roger’s guests and many repeaters bring the kids’ bikes or play a game of tennis up at the homestead. There are paddocks to run in; wombats, kangaroos and echidnas to spot and endless river bends to explore. I stand looking over the water hoping to see the bullseye pattern of ripples which announce the arrival of a reclusive resident. Today though they are staying quietly out of sight in this lovely corner of their special world.

Cliff House on Platypus Gorge, Paddy’s River

ESH was a guest of Cliff House

If you like the sound of that, try these…

Wollondilly River Station, Goodman’s Ford: family and pet friendly camp sites that straddle both sides of the beautiful Wollondilly River. Still accessible on Wombeyan Caves Road via Taralga

The Humpy, Wildes Meadow: want to cocoon yourself with a beloved and walk, sleep, and just be? This romantic country hideaway was built from old shearing shed materials and is furnished with great character and yummy extras like a fridge full of local breakfast goodies. Five minutes down the road from charming Burrawang and five minutes more onto Robertson. airbnb/TheHumpy

River Island Nature Retreat, Mittagong: If going with the flow, au naturel is your thing than this clothing optional retreat might tickle your fancy. Offering cabin, caravans or camp site accommodation this is one out in nature option with four kilometres of unspoilt Wollondilly river frontage.

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