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Esk - "A country drive"
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 27 October 2005

Esk is A pretty and historic town within easy reach of Brisbane.   Located 110 km north-west of Brisbane and 70 km from Ipswich, Esk is one of those pleasant, green, leafy and historic towns which, although gracious and stylish, appears to be little more than a main street and a few houses.   It nestles under Glen Rock and Mt Esk on the Brisbane Valley Highway.

In fact Esk is the gateway to a region full of hidden delights.  The town has a number of interesting historic buildings in an area which boasts the remarkable and elegant Bellevue and Caboonbah Homesteads.

There are many ways to access the Brisbane Valley.   The northern side of Brisbane, via Caboolture to Kilcoy, then an option of entry via the townships of Somerset Dam or Toogoolawah.

Alternatively from the Gold Coast or Brisbane, via the Warrego Highway turnoff, west of Ipswich.   Other options include, from the west via Gatton to Esk, or from Toowoomba to Esk via the scenic Hampton Road.   From Maleny it is a quick trip through Kilcoy ? past the Somerset Dam and into Esk.   A trip to Kirkleigh and the Somerset dam will have to wait for another day.   They are locations in their own right.

The area around Esk was settled by European pastoralists in the 1840s after the New South Wales Government had opened up the land around the penal colony at Moreton Bay.   One of the first settlers established the huge Wivenhoe run in the 1840s.   It was here that the remarkable Bellevue Homestead was built in 1893 after the original residence had been destroyed by floods.

Free settlers moved in during the 1850s and 1860s.

Today Esk boasts a number of interesting National Trust buildings.   The Club Hotel at 225 Ipswich Street, with its cast-iron balustrades and gracious verandahs, is considered a typical example of a Queensland country hotel.

Esk - Visitors Information Centre

Nearby is a delightful timber house at 212 Ipswich Street which stands out against the other buildings on the street.   Constructed by brothers who owned the Esk sawmill it has a superb corrugated iron hipped roof with a verandah that is a showpiece for the joinery skills of the time.

Further down the road at 160 Ipswich Street is the old Esk Record building.   With its distinctive gabled roof and overhanging verandah it is listed as a fine example of small commercial premises in a Queensland country town.   It is now a real estate office and second-hand shop.

At the southern end of the main street are the unusually named St Mel's Roman Catholic Church, the beautiful old Staging Post Inn, which is both a guest-house and a restaurant, St Agnes' Church of England (1920), and the Anglican Rectory (1884) which has been recently restored.

North of Esk, at MS 336 Somerset Dam Road (i.e., the Esk-Kilcoy Road), in Toogoolawah, is Caboonbah Homestead, once owned by the politician Henry Plantagenet Somerset.   The homestead was built in 1890, operated as a guest-house from 1935-1962, was a private residence from 1962 until 1973 when it was resumed by the Queensland Premier's Department as part of the Wivenhoe Dam project.   It was later transferred to the Brisbane and Area Water Board and is now the headquarters of the Brisbane Valley Historical Society.   Situated on top of a hill it enjoys superb views which, since the building of the Wivenhoe Dam, have included the lake created by the flooded valley below.

The Historical Society are developing the area around the homestead, and have established an important local folk museum collection, including the recently acquired McGrath Cottage.   The museum is open every day except Thursday. For details tel: (07) 5423 1553.

The area supports activities to suit every taste.   For the moderately adventurous, take a horse ride overlooking Lake Wivenhoe and spend the night under the stars at a stockman's camp.   Join a camel safari at Balara Homestead near Coominya, utilise off-road vehicle parks.

Fishing is a popular recreational activity with the shire boasting three well stocked freshwater lakes (fishing licence required).   Lake Somerset, Wivenhoe and Atkinson also provide picnic and camping facilities for visitors to enjoy a short break in peaceful surroundings.   For the passive visitor, bird watching is a popular pastime or for the skiing enthusiasts Lake Somerset and Lake Atkinson have powerboat access.

To unwind, visit ostrich and deer farms, craft and antique shops and country markets.   Take a break from the city and spend a night in one of the many B&B's, farmstays, motels, hotels, caravan/cabin/tourist parks or camping areas.  Enjoy a beautiful meal in one of the Valley's many restaurants, cafes, hotels, hot bread kitchens, coffee shops, kiosks or roadhouses.

If real adventure is what you're after, abseiling, white-water kayaking, mountain bike riding or tandem sky diving 12,500 feet above the valley, are just the start. Take a camel to dinner, or a camel safari, or enjoy sailing on Lake Wivenhoe, water skiing on Lake Somerset and Lake Atkinson.

Last Updated ( Friday, 01 September 2006 )
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