Rolling green hills, pristine waterholes and the best place in the world to view platypus in the wild; it’s here that Austrian-born chef Oskar Krobath has found his ‘home away from home’.
Driving up the range towards Eungella National Park (approximately 85 kilometres west of Mackay), the air becomes cooler, the trees become thicker and the views of the Pioneer Valley are simply breathtaking. It’s no wonder why visitors from all over the world seek out Mackay’s hinterland region as a must-see destination.
Owner and chef at the Platypus Lodge Restaurant and Café at Broken River, Oskar Krobath says it was the same natural beauty that attracted his family to settle here almost 14 years ago.
“We came here in 2004 and we just loved the area. The weather was pleasant and it reminded me of where I grew up with the hills and dairy farms,” Oskar said.
Like many others in The Mackay Region, the pull of the mining industry saw Oskar driving dump trucks at the mines for four years, before being retrenched.
An opportunity to work in his trade as a chef arose in 2014 and Oskar took over the Platypus Lodge Restaurant and Café and the Visitor Information Centre, at Broken River, within Eungella National Park.
“There was no hot food at the café at the time, just sandwiches and cakes and when I took over we started hot meals and I started to put my feelers out and see what people were looking for.”
A few interesting creations have been added to the menu since that time to produce a clever blended Aussie-Austrian menu, including the famous Swiss Yodel Burger, and the Crocodile and Kangaroo Burgers.
With every Yodel burger comes a personalised yodel from the chef, which adds to the experience for customers.
“I would say now the Yodel Burger [is our most popular item] and second is our Steak Eggs Benedict,” Oskar said.
The area itself is an attraction for visitors and locals. Broken River offers specialised platypus viewing platforms, plenty of parking space, picnic areas and some great bushwalks, as well as accommodation and food.
Oskar says it’s also the tight-knit Eungella community that contributes to the visitor experience.
“Whenever you need something, they are always there. The Visitor Information Centre is run by volunteers and they sell locally made art and craft by the people who live in this community.”
Oskar says the perfect day in the Pioneer Valley would start with a drive up the range and into the rainforest.
“Come up to Broken River, see the platypus, do a few bushwalks, including the Sky Window lookout, and then head back down and visit Finch Hatton Gorge on the way back.”
With some exciting projects for the area, including a proposed Tree Top Walk which would link the Broken River area through to an art gallery, Eungella National Park is set to become even more popular with travellers and locals in the future.
To find Platypus Lodge Restaurant Café or the Broken River Visitor Information Centre, travel along the Peak Downs Highway from Mackay, and turn right on to the Mackay-Eungella Road until you reach the top of the Eungella Range. Follow the road through to Broken River.