Spatial planning at the local government level has a widely recognized role and responsibility to address the impacts of climate change. However, there are significant barriers to climate change adaptation and planning institutions and professionals are at the forefront of confronting these obstacles. This research documents how planners have responded to barriers to climate change adaptation at a professional level. The focus of this research is on the conditions of uncertainty and volatility of institutional policy frameworks for climate change adaptation; and the low prioritization of climate change adaptation among competing institutional objectives. The paper investigates how planners respond to these conditions and the resulting impact of their decisions on local level climate change adaptation. We report on a case study of the experiences and perspectives of local planners across Queensland, Australia. The contribution of this research is to document how planners respond to conflicts between institutional constraints and professional responsibilities for climate change adaptation. The case study identifies strategies that were employed by planning professionals to overcome common institutional barriers to climate change adaptation. Planners responded to problematic conditions by engaging alternative authorities, identifying substitute rationales, employing existing mechanisms, altering the framing of terminology and establishing regional coordination forums. These strategies provide options for professionals to overcome the barriers to climate change adaptation within their work and political environments.