The Road Ahead : June July 2010
ESSENTIAL INFO: Join Jillian Whiting from Channel 7's Queensland Weekender on Saturday, June 26, at 5.30pm as she explores the Valley of the Lakes. PLAN: Prepare a trip to this Queensland region by visiting RACQ's trip planner, at www.racq.com.au. QUEENSLAND GREAT ESCAPE TRAVEL Take the Warrego Highway and Esk turn-off for an easy day drive from Brisbane. STORY | PHOTOS CAROLE HORNE valley of the lakes visit www.roadahead.com.au/travel MORE INFO MAKES YOUR DAY JUN/JLY 2010 THE ROAD AHEAD 33 PHOTOS, FROM LEFT: JILLIAN WHITING AT LAKE SOMERSET'S THE SPIT PICNIC AREA. BELLEVUE HOMESTEAD, COOMINYA. CAMPIRE AT THE RANGE VIEW OUTBACK HUT. THEY WERE DRAMATICALLY reduced by drought to the status of giant puddles but with the return of rain, lakes Somerset and Wivenhoe north-west of Brisbane have been restored to their beautiful best. It is a great time to visit the Valley of the Lakes. If you plan to spread your exploring over several days, accommodation in the area includes motels and farmstays but for something different, bunk down at the Range View Outback Hut near Fernvale. Looking more like drovers' digs than guest quarters, the hut is all rough-hewn charm on the outside and self-contained convenience on the inside. There's a queen size bed, airconditioning, old- fashioned kitchen and verandahs chock-a-block with country antiques and pioneering memorabilia. Say hello to your neighbours -- they include pigs, sheep and an alpaca. The menagerie is much beloved by hosts, Norie and Tom Pitkin, who live on the same property. Norie also cares for injured wildlife, so you may become acquainted with a baby possum being nursed. Not far away from Range View is a residence that's equally full of old-world charm but at the other end of the social scale. Drive along the Brisbane Valley Highway past the western shores of Lake Wivenhoe, take the Coominya turn-off and you'll come to Bellevue Homestead -- one of the area's grandest historic homes and a reminder of the lavish life led by the 'squattocracy' in the late 1800s. The homestead was once the hub of a mighty pastoral holding called Wivenhoe Run but construction of the Wivenhoe Dam forced its relocation to Coominya in 1974. Take a guided tour of Bellevue Homestead and discover the parlour, nursery, drawing room and a bedroom built especially to accommodate the Prince of Wales when he visited in the 1920s. Pressed metal ceilings, hand-painted wallpaper and ornately carved fireplaces impress. Lunches and afternoon teas are available, as well as catered functions including elegant silver service dinners in the Edwardian dining room. For more informal dining, head towards the town of Esk and 'Our Place' -- a café and restaurant housed in a lovely, old Queenslander. The building is the historic home of Esk pioneer Lars Andersen who owned the town sawmill in the late 1800s. After lunch, stroll Esk's main street to browse antique, collectibles and country craft stores. Just north of Esk is the turn-off to Lake Somerset. At the lake's southern end is the pretty village bearing the same name.