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When we entered the small township of Esk, in the Brisbane Valley approximately 100 kms north west of Brisbane, we noticed the sign that welcomed us into the town. It read “Picture Esk”! Yes, I guess you could call it that with it’s main street lined with some grandiose old historic buildings, a pretty park, glorious Jacaranda trees in full bloom and with it’s location nestled beneath the magnificent Glen Rock.
Esk was established as a town with the construction of a hotel as far back as 1872 and became a significant settlement during the construction of the Brisbane Valley Railway. As a centre of commercial life the town boasted several large hotels, sawmill, butter factory, saddler and assorted buildings that remain today. This legacy of heritage buildings now houses modern businesses, cafes, antique shops, curio shops and galleries.
The main reason for our visit to Esk was for the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail and a 40 km bike ride that explored the disused rail corridor via the towns of Coominya and Toogoolawah. The course for the scenic bike ride wound its way up the Brisbane Valley, traversing farmland, forests, picturesque rural settings and country towns.
The bike ride commenced at the old Esk Railway Station at 7.30am on an extremely hot day where temperatures soared into the mid 30s. Upon reaching Toogoolawah, our half way mark, we were able to stop and rest for a while and take in some refreshments and food that was provided.
If you take a stroll down the main street of Esk you will discover the many unique gift and antique stores.Plus there are a number of locally owned cafes and restaurants that offer real country hospitality and delicious food.
The beautifully restored Guest House – Esk Antique Centre takes pride of place in the town, as does the ornate Lars Andersen House that lives on as Nash Gallery and Cafe. Other historical buildings of note are The Rectory, Esk Post Office and two charming old pubs: Esk Club Hotel and Esk Grand Hotel.
The old Esk Railway Station is also worth a visit. It was built in 1886 and today it’s a popular meeting place for groups using the trail, as well as history buffs who like to reminisce about the days when the old steam trains used to pull into the station.
For art lovers drop into the Glen Rock Gallery at the Visitor Information Centre, The Australian Bowl Company studio, Julies at The Rectory or visit the Pillars of Strength in Pipeliner Park. You will also find art, crafts and local produce each Saturday at the markets in the park.
Interesting fact about Esk: Deer roam in the grazing country north of town, progeny of a small herd presented to the state by Queen Victoria in 1873.
Esk, being ideally located halfway between, is the gateway to large expanses of water of Lake Wivenhoe and Lake Somerset. We decided to drive the loop around both of the lakes, a distance of approximately 80 kms. From Esk you head north on the Brisbane Valley Highway and take a right into the Esk Kilcoy Road until you reach Somerset Village.
A popular water activity playground, Lake Somerset is a mass concrete gravity dam with a gated spillway across the Stanley River which supplies water to households across Brisbane, Logan and the Gold Coast. Day visitors flock to this waterway at The Spit for sailing, fishing, water skiing and jet skiing.
The Spit at Lake Somerset has great facilities including boat ramps, children’s playgrounds, grassy areas, picnic tables, shelters, free BBQs and a kiosk.
Lake Somerset provides camping at Lake Somerset Holiday Park with direct access to the water for boating and fishing or at the pretty Somerset Park Campground on the shores of the Stanley River in Somerset Village.
An added option for driving the loop around both lakes is a diversion up the steep windy road to Mt Glorious. Once you depart Lake Somerset on the Wivenhoe Somerset Road you take a left into Mt Glorious Road winding your way up for 27 kms to the village at the summit. Near the summit there is a lookout where you can stop to capture panoramic views back over Brisbane Valley and Lake Wivenhoe.
Mt Glorious, situated in the D’Aguilar Range north west of Brisbane, features some absolutely breathtaking rainforest, some spectacular forest walks as well as several BBQ areas set in rolling parkland. There are four small cafes and accommodation options of B&B’s and the Mount Glorious Get Away Cottages.
We stopped for a sumptuous BLT sandwich and a cappuccino at the very retro Mount Glorious Cafe, prior to taking the hair-raising descent back down the mountain to Wivenhoe Road.
As we drove closer to Lake Wivenhoe the skies were getting darker and darker and there was the sound of thunder in the distance. We stopped quickly at the SEQWater Education Centre (on the Esk side of the dam wall) that offers many facilities including toilets, shelter sheds, barbecues, interpretive displays, an information trail and lookout.
Built in 1984, Wivenhoe Dam’s primary function is to supply water for the region but it has also become a much-loved destination for campers, kayakers and nature lovers. The Wivenhoe Dam is a rock and earth-fill embankment dam with a concrete spillway across the Brisbane River.
The Brisbane Valley and Somerset region offers a rich and diverse heritage to enjoy and explore. You can follow the paths of early pioneers who set up supply routes in the Brisbane Valley and visit the heritage buildings and sites throughout the region. More information on the Brisbane Valley Heritage Trail is available here.
The Somerset Valley’s wine region extends across Somerset from Kilcoy in the north to Coolana in the south with several cellar doors offering wine tastings. The region also boasts a thriving culinary industry where foodies can ramble throughout the villages sampling local specialities such as olives, preserves, pastries, beef, red claw and venison.
Weekend markets are also huge at many of the villages such as Esk, Fernvale, Moore Hall, Coominya, Kilcoy and Toogoolawah Cattle Sales.
How to get to Esk: From Brisbane or the Gold Coast take the Ipswich Motorway past Ipswich and take a right onto the Brisbane Valley Highway. The trip took us approximately two hours from the Gold Coast.
Where We Stayed in Esk: Esk Caravan Park at 26 Hassall Street, Esk with the backdrop of Glen Rock and only a short walking distance from the main street of Esk.
It was a wonderful adventure-filled escape to the country for us both to this remarkable region that was only a two hour drive from our home on the Gold Coast. The Somerset Region’s slogan is “Real Country, Real Adventure” and I don’t doubt for a minute that this is true. Esk, being centrally located on the Brisbane Valley Heritage Trail, is the perfect town to use as a base with plenty on offer with great accommodation choices, places to eat and lots of interesting historical buildings, antiques and art galleries to explore. Picture Esk indeed!
This post is part of the Lovin’ Life Linky with a Lovin’ Life Team of the “ageing positively” kind who are as keen as I am to promote the Lovin’ Life mindset. The Lovin’ Life Team includes:
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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