While it may have started out as a mining town, these days Esk is the commercial centre for the local agricultural industry and the administrative centre of the Somerset Region. While still quite small, it has been growing rapidly ever since the turn of the century. In fact, the population has almost doubled since 2000. Both a retirement destination and a great place to raise kids, Esk offers small-town living within comfortable driving distance of Brisbane.
- Population – 1,698
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander percentage of population – 3.3%
- Closest major town/city – Ipswich (65 km)
- Distance from airport – 113 km (Brisbane)
- Cinemas – 0
- Cafes/restaurants – 6
- Pubs/bars – 2
- Primary schools – 1
- Secondary schools – 0
- Tertiary education providers – 0
- Annual average maximum temperature – 26.9°C
- Annual average minimum temperature – 13.0°C
Nestled in the Brisbane Valley, Esk is just west of Lake Wivenhoe. Set between the valley’s farms and the Great Dividing Range, it is not far from the remnant rainforest of Ravensbourne National Park. Located about 100 km northwest of Brisbane, it is close enough for an easy day trip to the state capital.
Esk is a popular location with retirees. The fact that almost 30 percent of the town’s population is aged 65 or older explains why the median age is 54, well above the state and national figures. It also explains why there is a lower percentage of unmarried people and a higher number of widowed residents and lone person households. With over 60 percent of the townspeople of Australian or English descent and only 3.3 percent identifying as either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you can expect a fairly homogenous ethnic mix.
Esk’s health profile is disadvantaged. The large number of senior residents means there is a high level of chronic illness. Lifestyle factors are also significant; smoking prevalence is well above average and 64 percent of the population are an unhealthy weight. In addition, diet is not good and high blood pressure is prevalent in the town.
Esk is in the Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN and is rated RA2.
The town of Esk has a kindergarten and one school, the Esk State School, which teaches Prep to Year 6. For secondary education, the nearest school is Toogoolawah State High School, around 10 km to the north. There are no local private schools for either primary or secondary levels, the nearest being in Ipswich.
For further education, the University of Southern Queensland campus in Ipswich is the closest to Esk, with other options in Brisbane and Toowoomba.
Career options for partners
Rates of full-time and part-time work amongst Esk’s residents are quite similar to the rest of Queensland, though part-time work is a little more common and full-time work slightly less so. However, the rate of unemployment in the town is 2.5 percent higher than national levels. Local government administration and meat processing employ the greatest numbers of Esk locals, followed by cafes and restaurants and health and aged care services. More than a quarter of the workforce are employed as either labourers or machinery operators.
There seems to be a healthy level of community spirit in Esk, with almost one in four people undertaking some form of unpaid work. Opportunities for volunteering in the town include the tourist information centre, St Vincent de Paul and the local fire station.
Arts and culture
Despite its small size, Esk does offer some local cultural activities. The Somerset Civic Centre hosts regular events and concerts, including some popular cabaret acts and Jam’in In Esk, which features musicians from the local area each Sunday. There is a pottery and art gallery in the town, Nash Gallery and Café, while art retreats are hosted at Twilight 2 Twilight Country Retreats. To watch a movie in an authentic country picture theatre, head to Toogoolawah on a Saturday night.
There is a little something for anyone who loves the outdoors near Esk. There are several challenging bike trails and hiking trails within a short drive of town. The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, which follows the disused railway line from Ipswich to Yarraman, passes through Esk and is suitable for hikers, cyclists and horse riders.
If you love to bushwalk, a short half-hour drive will bring you to an ancient rainforest in Ravensbourne National Park or a eucalypt forest in Crows Nest National Park, complete with waterfall. Camping is allowed at Crows Nest as well as at Lake Wivenhoe, just 10 km east of town. The lake also features opportunities for fishing, swimming and boating, as does Lake Somerset, another half hour east.
For those who want their outdoors a bit tamer, the town has an 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, tennis courts, bowls club and a rugby pitch, and the local racecourse hosts a number of meetings each year.
Food and drink
For a place the size of Esk, the options for eating out are good. In addition to the town’s two pubs, meals are also available from the local bakery and six cafes and restaurants, all of which have great reviews. There are even French and Thai options on offer for those who’d like a change from a typical Australian menu.
With rapid growth since 2000, there are plenty of new houses in Esk’s housing stock. The demand for housing is low, so prices remain affordable. Houses tend to be large with big yards. A three-bedroom house sells for a median price of $240,000. Rentals for a similar-sized home are around $260 a week.
While Esk is no longer on a train line, nearby Ipswich is a major transport hub with trains running regularly to Brisbane. There is a bus service between Ipswich and Toogoolawah six days a week that stops at Esk, with a morning journey to Ipswich and an evening return service.
When it comes to driving, Esk is well situated. The Brisbane Valley Highway (A17) runs through Esk, giving the town excellent access to the state highway system.
Broadband – Currently broadband is via ADSL2+, with speeds of up to 15Mbps. NBN high-speed fibre rollout is scheduled for 2018.
Notable residents – Musical comedy trio The Kransky Sisters claim to hail from Esk.