The small town of Esk is surrounded by national parks with easy access to Lake Wivenhoe.
Esk’s main street is lined with 19th-century heritage homes and shopfronts, plus cafes and pubs with shady timber verandahs, some of which are on the Register of the National Estate. Drive up the steep incline of Highland Street to be rewarded with views across Wivenhoe Lake and the dam wall, areas popular for camping. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail connects Esk with the towns of Coominya and Toogoolawah, and is suitable for gravel or mountain bikes. Esk camping is all about pitching your tent or parking the caravan for convenience, then heading out into area national parks.
On the Brisbane River, Lake Wivenhoe is the main water supply for Brisbane and Ipswich, with a 2.3-kilometre-long dam wall. It’s a popular recreational area—just one hour from Brisbane's outer suburbs—with an extensive shoreline home to parklands with picnic tables, BBQs, and boat launching facilities. Fishing is permitted at specified locations, while some motorised boats, kayaks, and paddleboards make for popular ways to enjoy the water.
In the rolling foothills of the Great Dividing Range, a half-hour drive west of Esk, Ravensbourne National Park’s lush rainforest-clad hills and mountain streams make it a haven for wildlife-spotters. Walking trails branch out from day-use areas where picnic tables and BBQs are free to use. Camping is available via advance booking through QLD Parks and Forests, and additional campsites can also be found at Crows Nest National Park, 30 minutes’ drive to the north.
Visit the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre near the D’Aguilar Range National Park entrance to get the lowdown on all of the park’s hot spots. Take in the panoramic views (all the way to the coast on a clear day) from Jolly’s Lookout, Camp Mountain Lookout, or the boardwalk at Westridge Outlook. Then, take the 4WD track to Broadwater swimming hole, hike the network of trails that pass through lush subtropical rainforest, or ascend upwards for sweeping views over Lake Wivenhoe.
The Somerset Region, which includes Lake Wivenhoe, is a significant water catchment and flood mitigation area for Brisbane. Keep an eye on weather reports, and exercise caution during rain events and the summer storm season. The Esk region is very popular during Christmas and Easter holidays, when it's best to book campsites well in advance. Avoid holiday periods if you’re looking for tranquility.