An adventurous Somerset day trip
Take a day trip to Somerset and get ready to breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors and experience a real country escape. You’ll be inspired by majestic mountains, expansive lakes, sweeping pastures, historic hotels, wonderful wineries and more.
Drive west out of Brisbane via the Centenary Highway and make your way towards the quaint country town of Esk. By heading along the Brisbane Valley Highway, you’ll see expansive views of Lake Wivenhoe as the route takes you along the top of the dam wall. Pop into the Spillway Lookout to admire this engineering feat or drop into the Cormorant Bay or the Hamon Cove recreational reserves to get lakeside.
Once in Esk, take a stroll down the main street, overlooked by the eye-catching backdrop of Mount Glen Rock. Enjoy boutique cafés, gift and antique shops plus country pubs. Suggestions include the historic Esk Grand Hotel or the Nash Cafe and Gallery, where you can enjoy Devonshire tea on the wraparound veranda, sample the tasty house-made sweet treats and survey the artwork on display.
Nearby, the Red Deer Café is renowned for its multitude of milkshake flavours while you can drop into the Highland Trading Co for unusual knick-knacks. Make sure you allocate time to check out some of Esk’s historical buildings, including St Mel’s and St Agnes Churches.
On ya bike
Drive north to Toogoolawah and pop into The Somerset Regional Art Gallery – The Condensery. Formerly home to the Nestle condensed milk factory packing facility, this is now a unique cultural precinct with revolving art exhibitions and a visitor information centre.
While in Toogoolawah, take the opportunity to discover the countryside more closely by hiring a bike from Out There Cycling. Explore part of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, which follows a disused rail line for 161km through rural villages, farming country, plantation forests and native bushland. Out There Cycling offers a shuttle bus service and can organise multi-day self-guided tours along the rail trail, including accommodation.
Feed your belly
Take the Brisbane Valley Highway north and then turn right onto the D’Aguilar Highway, which will lead you to the picturesque town of Kilcoy. Pop into Yowie Park and the adjacent Kilcoy Visitor Information Centre to learn about the mysterious yowies said to inhabit the region. Afterwards, make tracks for the historic Exchange Hotel Kilcoy for lunch, where chef Ryan Fryling is devoted to sourcing local produce to create delectably-honest pub food packed with flavour.
Head further east along the D’Aguilar Highway for a short distance and then turn left into Sandy Creek Road to discover Winya Wines, perched up in the hills. Here, Black Angus cattle roam and you can pop into the cellar door to browse through eight varieties of wine and two of port. Enjoy a Black Angus rib fillet barbeque and cheese platters from Friday to Sunday 10am-4pm or organise a group booking. Wine aficionados can track further east to Woongooroo Estate Winery at the base of Mount Archer where their motto is “fine wine, good food and fond memories are the perfect blend”.
Dive into Lake Somerset
Return a few kilometres back to Kilcoy and keep heading west along the D’Aguilar Highway before turning left onto the Esk Kilcoy Road. Take the winding road south and enjoy wide vistas of the rolling countryside, mountainous horizons and views of Lake Somerset. Stop into the NMRA Lake Somerset Holiday Park day-use area and enjoy boating on the lake, casting in a fishing line or just taking in the picturesque landscape of mountain ranges and forests. Fishers, don’t forget to get your fishing permit beforehand.
Head further south and take a refreshing dip in The Spit swimming area and then visit Somerset Park, just below the dam wall, to experience the village of Somerset Dam. This was created to house the workers who built the dam over a 24-year period. Continue along Esk Kilcoy Road to Oshea’s Crossing, which is the perfect setting for a relaxing break beside the Stanley River in between Lakes Somerset and Wivenhoe.
Return east along Esk Kilcoy Road and then turn right onto Wivenhoe Somerset Road, again taking in expansive countryside views and glimpses of Lake Wivenhoe as you drive south. Rejoin the Brisbane Valley Highway and pop into the legendary Old Fernvale Bakery to pick up pastries and sweet treats for the ride home. They will definitely be gone within the first few kilometres.